The 1995 Source Awards: The Peak of the East Coast/West Coast Feud and the birth of Southern Rap


History of The Source Awards:


For the readers that do not know, The Source was started by two Harvard University students (Johnathan Shecter and David Mays) in 1988. Beginning with newsletters, eventually The source began a monthly magazine series catered to urban music. The 1-5 mic rating system was something that was coveted and till this day still is, there’s never an argument.

The awards portion started in 1991 with a small segment on Yo! MTV Raps. Here they gave out original awards that were catered to the hip-hop community as a whole. This was something that was never done before and it set them as the high standard of the rapidly growing hip-hop culture. Also, this gave the ability for real hip-hop artists a chance to get notoriety other than the mainstream Grammy winners (ex. Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff)


West Coast Rap, The Come Up

In the beginning, every MC wanted to mimic the sounds of the East coast. It was until 1986 that Ice-T gave us a taste of the west coast feel/nature with “6 in the Morning.” To most, this is where gangsta rap started and exploded. Within a year, you would have N.W.A. and then gangsta rap in the mainstream. In the next few years, you had the G-funk era that gave birth to west all-stars like Snoop, Tupac, Warren G, Nate Dog, and the infamous Suge Knight as the label head of Death Row records. These artists gave the West Coast a distinct sound and vibe. It also catapulted the Coast into dominance and ahead of the “Rap Motherland” that was the East in the early to mid 1990’s.


Return of the East Coast

With the West having half  of a decade of dominance, it was paramount that someone had to try to battle for the East. In comes Wu-Tang Clan (1993) with the now classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). This brought New York back on the map and started the resurgence. That next year (1994) we got Illmatic by Nas and a few months later we received Ready to Die, by The Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die put Bad Boy records on the map. These were all commercially and critically acclaimed projects. This time frame is generally referred to as the East Coast Renaissance.


1993-1995, Blossoming of the East Coast/ West Coast Beef

The beef begins. initially, we have Tim Dog (Bronx, New York) and his infamous 1991 anti-Compton track aptly titled “Fuck Compton”. It is basically a bombardment of the LA rap scene with threats against Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and others. The beef didn’t really take off until 1993 when the track garnered many responses, with the biggest being “Fuck wit Dre Day (1993).” Though, Dre Day takes shots at more than just the east coast.


Quad Recording Studios

Continuing through 1993, Puff Daddy founded Bad Boy Records and had 2 megastars on his label, Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack. Within all of this came a mutual respect from Tupac, Biggie, and Bad Boy. This all changed on Nov 30, 1994 in Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan.

While entering the studio, 3 gunmen approached Tupac and demanded money and jewelry from the rapper. Of course, Tupac declined and was shot 5 times before being dragged into the elevator. “It is said,” that Lil’ Cease, Puffy, and Biggie all knew about the robbery attempt and may have been the culprits of the setup. Tupac publically accused aforementioned three, along with Andre Harrell in the hit attempt. Though, this has been disputed many times. Regardless, the post shooting environment would never be the same for the East or West Coast.


Who Shot Ya?

“Who Shot Ya?” The rap world knew that Tupac’s accusations would not go unheard or unanswered. Though Biggie and Puffy denied any involvement in the hit and that the record had been recorded before the shooting, it was released with “impeccable” timing and it seemed to throw oblivious shots at Tupac. It could be seen as a way of Biggie provoking Tupac due to the nature of the lyrics.


1995 Source Awards, The Boil Over

“Any artist out there that want to be an artist and stay a star, and don’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos … All on the records … dancing, come to Death Row!”

Finally, we made it to the 1995 Source awards. The second annual awards event was held at Madison Square garden in New York City. Being the only hip-hop awards show at the time, anyone who is anyone had to attend. Sadly, none of the issues that had transpired were resolved before the awards show. That alone made it a very hostile environment. Of course, we can couple the environment with the fact that you have all of Death Row coming to the east coast. With that being said, lets go through a timeline of the events that transpired that night.

Before the Awards- Tupac was still injured due to the 1994 shooting. Tupac was also in jail and facing charges for sexual assault



Suge Knight accepts motion picture soundtrack of the year for “Above the Rim”

“Come to Death Row!”

With Bad Boy in the audience, Suge throws verbal shots at Puffy.


“Yall don’t love us, Yall don’t love us? Well let it be known then.” Snoop Dogg’s Rant

Dr. Dre wins Producer of Year award and we get the classic rant. Being in New York, the crows collectively boos.


Puffy Responds to Suge

“I’m that executive producer the comment was made about.”

Puffy takes the high road and demands that the feud between east and west needs to stop. This speech was given while he was presenting an award.

Skip to 1:06 in the video below:


Puffy slightly rescinds his peace offering during the Bad Boy Performance.

“I live in the east and I’m going to die in the east.”

Taking the high road is not always as easy as it sounds. During the Bad Boy performance Puffy said the words that gave a bold underline of the night and backtracks on all of the progress he “made.” Until this performance the crowd had died down from the chaos that was occurring at the begging.



Aftermath of the Source Awards

The aftermath of the 1995 Source Awards will forever live in infamy within the entire music industry.

The timeline is below:

October 1995 – Suge Knight Bails Tupac out of jail and signs him to Death Row records


December 1995 – Shots were fired at Tha Dogg Pound’s trailer during the recording of the video for the east coast diss track  “New York, New York.”


January 1996 – Capone-N-Noreaga release the song “L.A., L.A.,” featuring some west coast lookalikes being gagged and thrown off the Queensboro Bridge.


March 1996 – Dr. Dre leaves Death Row after conflict with Suge Knight


June 4, 1996 – 2Pac releases Hit ‘Em Up, direct diss to Biggie and Bad Boy


September 7, 1996 – Tupac murdered in Las Vegas, Nevada



March 9, 1997 – Notorious B.I.G. murdered in Los Angeles, California.



The South Rises

“The South Got Something to Say”


After all this feud talk, you may be asking what does the south have to do with any of this? To simply put it, Outkast. This was the first achievement from the barely known group we have all come to admire.

Until then, the south really did not get much respect in the hip-hop world. It was East or West coast and nothing in between. Also, many of the aspiring rappers from the south wanted to mimic the sound of the elites on the popular coasts. With the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by Outkast came a new sound that reached well beyond the walls of the southern regions of the US and it was awarded at The 1995 Source Awards

While the artists for new Artist of the year was being announced, there was not many people that gave the southern newcomers a chance to win against some of the new coastal heavyweights. When the winner was announced, Outkast, the crowd actually booed the duo. After Andre’s speech it seems that the audience opened their ears to what he was saying. He garnered applause from the crowd, even if they were still skeptical of the artists Big Boi and Andre 3000. Eventually, Outkast would go on to be one of the best selling musical groups and hip-hop acts to date and pave the way for all of the artists coming out of the south


So why is this Important?

There may have been some other points left out of the timeline, but this article is to inform those of the direct correlations between major events that The 1995 Source Awards tie together.

So, for those who were too young to know some of these focal point in rap history, this is for you. For those who just didn’t have an idea of the timeline, this is for you too. If you are wondering how we got to the eclectic climate that we have today, you can thank most of this particular awards show. The musical landscape was permanently altered pre/intra/post The Source Awards.


“RIP Tupac and Biggie”


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