Early to mid-2000s led to an explosion of a platform that would forever change online media. We all remember the moment where everyone had some form of a blog. Of course, there had to be several that stood above the rest. The Smoking Section, HipHopWired, Nah Right and even HipHopDX evolved from a time where the web was a Wild-Wild-West of rap opinions. One oddball of the group was Passion Of The Wiess. Started by acclaimed music journalist and author Jeff Weiss, the blog serves as home base to his most interpersonal thoughts a variety of topics and handful of editorials. When the Los Angeles native isn’t posting daily to POW or talking shit alongside Nocando on the Shots Fired podcast, he’s also lending his contributor hand to Vice, LA Weekly, and Pitchfork among others. Celebrating the ten year anniversary of his popular blog, he’s curated a concert Sunday, September 6 at The Echo in Los Angeles. Slated to perform includes Boogie, Open Mike Eagle, Nocando and Chester Watson among others.
Speaking with DX, Weiss explains his time working with Russell Poole for an update on Tupac and Biggie’s murders before his death and the tenth anniversary of POW.
Weiss Discusses His Relationship With Russell Poole
DX: I remember you mentioning your relationship with Russell Poole following the announcement of his death on Twitter a while back.
Jeff Weiss: I’m very upset about it. I mean of course you should be upset about anyone dying, but it was weird. I was doing a story for Vice earlier this year in regards to new findings of Tupac and Biggie’s murder. Really since the movie Biggie and Tupac there haven’t many investigative stories. At first I was going to fuck around and make a bunch of jokes about people who spotted Tupac in the National Inquirer just to goof off. I was like fuck it, why don’t you be a responsible human being and try to make a few phone calls. I made a few phone calls and got in contact with the guy who wrote Labyrinth which was the famous book that was responsible for unraveling the Rampart Scandal. Russell Poole was the lead detective in the main case. Basically, he was a vigilant and honest detective who was a little obsessed. Then again, when you’re a detective or investigative journalist, you have to be a little obsessed, right? I basically started talking to him because Randall Sullivan who wrote Labyrinth was like you should talk to Poole because he’s been obsessed with the Tupac case and he thinks he knows the murderer. I call him up on the phone and he starts talking. It was almost like Zoolander; pull the sweater. So, he basically starts telling me about getting a tip two years before from a man named Chris Blatchford who was a former Fox journalist and had a bunch of awards covering the Mexican Mafia. He was telling me how in the late 90s, he got a tip from two brothers, one who was worried that a hit was placed on him. Then there were arrangements to have a testimony. The whole thing is murky. Apparently, there was a videotape and the murder weapon that was brought to Fox which didn’t get to Blatchford. Long story short, Russell Poole had become convinced it was Lil Half-Dead from Death Row Records and these two brothers responsible for killing him. I have no idea if it was true or not. He was also convinced it was orchestrated by the head of Death Row security and Suge Knight’s wife who he was getting a divorce from. Again, no clue if it’s true or not but it was a compelling theory. Poole was convinced it was true and he had reasons why. When he died, he was with the police trying to get them to reopen the Tupac case. He had been telling me and once I did the story, we had planned it around Tupac’s death. At the very end, it would have made a great documentary. I got word he died and I was getting information from his co-writer. It was weird. Most people think it was Orlando Anderson. I’d probably bet on Anderson. But who knows? Now we’ll probably never know. When Russell Poole died, that was the last reasonable hope. You have to be obsessed and he was a good man. At the end of his life, it was sad. His dad was sick and he was driving back and forth to the desert to help him out. His conspirators all think he was murdered. It was a weird thing to find out because you’re talking to this guy, thinking about traveling and getting around to it in the fall and now.
DX: Do you think it’s a wrap on actually finding Tupac’s murderer?
Jeff Weiss: The problem is that everyone is dead. Everyone involved. Like Yaki Kadafi was murdered pretty early on and he was the only one who could eyewitness the body. Now Poole’s dead and he was the best investigator. I’ve talked to a bunch of people. I talked to Biggie’s attorney for the civil rights case and he called it a conspiracy at the highest level to suppress the truth. When you think about it, it makes sense because obviously with the Biggie thing, there was so much connection to the LAPD. Russell Poole had become thoroughly convinced that an off-duty sheriff who was responsible for a hit on Suge in 1996 at this place called One Oak. I think it’s one of those situations where I think we’ll never get clarity. A lot of people have been like if this was Elvis or John Lennon, they’d find out who it was. Rap is different. I guess some things never change. I guess that was the subtext of the N.W.A. movie. You can make this movie 25 years later and it still feels relevant.
DX: Did you get a chance to see Straight Outta Compton?
Jeff Weiss: I liked it actually. I was really surprised because I don’t like biopics. But, it’s one of those things where I would pay like $100 just to see the scene where N.W.A. is hearing “No Vaseline.” I thought Cube’s kid was great and the guy that did Eazy E was great. It’s like look, it’s an authorized biopic, it’s sanctioned by Dre and Ice Cube. This is why there are so many scenes where it’s like look at how tough Dre´ is, he’s beating everybody up or how Cube is like a crazy superhero. I was writing about it and honestly, they felt like those superheroes. I was a little too young for N.W.A. when they came out but I definitely remember my first experiences with Hip Hop through the Dr. Dre and Eazy-E feud. You had “Dre Day” and then “Real Muthafuken G’s.” Shit was real.
DX: How’d you feel about the controversy regarding things that were left out including the Dee Barnes Gawker piece?
Jeff Weiss: I think it’s important that things like that get highlighted. I think it got swept under the rug and Dre has had a few horrible things he can’t defend. Then it’s one of those things to where you have to understand that it did happen years ago. He didn’t go to jail or anything, but it’s more than his Wikipedia page. He did apologize for it, though. At a certain point, I don’t think she was blacklisted. I don’t think it was an organized conspiracy. It’s side and I think that sort of stuff has to be highlighted.
Weiss Explains Passion Of The Weiss
DX: Let’s talk about the Passion Of The Weiss 10 Year Anniversary show.
Jeff Weiss: It’s going to be awesome like lions and tigers. Rapping lions and tigers. It’s going to be cool. There’s a secret guest that I can’t say is coming. Hopefully, it’s going to happen but there’s going to be at least one special guest. It’s going to be a well known Los Angeles rapper. Boogie is one of the biggest playing it and he got a deal with Interscope. I don’t know if you’ve seen him live, but he’s amazing. We have Delroy Edwards coming. He’s super dope as a DJ and has an awesome label called LA Club Resource. It’s one of my favorite labels. He reminds me if Madlib did dance music. He’s the younger version of that. We have Chester Watson who I’m a fan of. He’s 18-years-old and he’s kind of like a baby Earl Sweatshirt. He’s in Georgia but originally from St. Louis and makes his own beats. We’re having Open Mike Eagle. Watching him get famous and celebrated is the most validating thing ever. It’s like sometimes if you’re really good, you’ll cut through without the big machine behind you and the comedians have embraced him. He’s a genius and one of the most talented people ever. It’s the type of Hip Hop that’s off the grid. You know how it is? If you’re not Big Sean or whatever, you don’t get that kind of attention. These musicians are really dope and I think they need that. I’m not trying to be a promoter or anything, but I just want to do cool stuff. Plus, it’s labor day weekend. I’m proud of the line-up and I think there’ll be some dope acts.
DX: Of course, it’s in celebration of your ultra-popular blog.
Jeff Weiss: I feel like it’s a sick joke. It’s been cool man. When I started this website, it was the end of 2005. There were a few blogs that I read. There were Hip Hop blogs and no disrespect to them but, I wasn’t reading them. I read a few indie-rock blogs and Blogspot blogs, but I didn’t like the way Hip Hop was getting covered at the time. Either it was some former backpack kids saying that they only listened to coke rap or I only listen to backpack rap, fuck everything else. I was like I grew up listening to Ghostface so where do I fit in. It’s never going to be a department store. I’m not going against Bloomingdales or Macy’s. I’m not going against Complex or The Fader. I don’t have any full-time employees. It’s like that episode of Seinfeld when Kramer gets an intern and it’s just him with a bunch of chickens. That’s basically the POW headquarters. It does mean something in a way when you support an artist before everyone else does. Like I remember when his manager hit me up and told me he was working with this kid who was talented. Then you see the video and realize he has an amazing voice and sense of humor. Or Open Mike Eagle, I remember when Nocando gave me his CD five years ago. I heard “I Rock” which is about trying to make money and survive. You know sometimes I feel like Last Of The Mohicans. There aren’t blogs anymore. We had a redesign and I went through the blogroll. It was like a graveyard of souls. Just a bunch of dead links and URLs. It’s awesome that anyone cares. At the end of the day, it’s still cool that anyone reads your writing. They don’t care who you are. I started it ten years ago and I was working at a day job. I fucking hated it. I was doing journalism, but I was doing business journalism. I just wanted to write for a living and I just started this thing. Ten years later, I’m still complaining.