The Notorious B.I.G. was a beloved figure when he was murdered; his death was mourned by many in Brooklyn and beyond, with tribute songs by Diddy and The LOX topping the charts.

Tupac Shakur, on the other hand, was much more controversial; he was blamed for igniting the East Coast/West Coast feud, among other allegations. When Shakur was shot multiple times on the Las Vegas strip in 1996, a traditional vigil was held but it took time before, in true hip-hop style, he was honored in song.

In comes Naughty by Nature's Treach, who delivered “Mourn You Till I Join You,” a stirring tribute worthy of the iconic rapper. Since then, for 15 years, every year Treach celebrates his fallen friend.

“Wherever I’m at, Naughty, we travel year-round, when June 16 comes around, no matter where I’m at, whether it’s a party, a cookout, a get together, if I’m in the hood with the homies, if nothing going on, we make something go on,” Treach told “We play his music all day, watch his movies, get in and just vibe and kick it, talk about it and keep his name on the street. Just to let him know, just cause he’s not here don’t mean we’re not gonna rep for him.”

The pair met in the early ‘90s, when Treach was touring with Queen Latifah and ‘Pac was on the road with Digital Underground. The two were far from headliners, but Treach says the Thug Life star was already wise beyond his years, even if he didn’t always act like it.

“We were roadies, we made runs, carried bags,” the Naughty frontman remembers. “So I met him when we were both dead broke. We were just out there happy to be on stage with superstars; he was doing the "Humpty Dance" and I was backing up Latifah doing freestyles. Each night we become a superstar for like five minutes and after that carrying bags and being happy. That was us paying our dues, setting up ourselves for what we were gonna be doing. There was so much stuff we shared with each other and he shared with me that you can live life by, but a lot of times when you're young the best thing you can do is listen to your own advice. He had so much good advice, but at times he just didn't listen to himself.

Recalling ‘Pac’s fate, Treach pauses during the conversation.

“It’s a touchy thing for me doing this interview, ‘cause I’m in the last place I wanted to do an interview like this,” he explains over the phone. “I’m in Las Vegas right now.”

Still, despite the dark reminder, the New Jersey rhymer remembers the brighter side of life with Shakur.

“He was a comedian, whether it was Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor, Scarface — he could impersonate them,” Treach says. “And you'd be like, ‘Yo, this dude has talent, he's crazy.’ He'd keep you in stitches. Have you cracking up all the time.

“He was a baby Black Panther, he had his thug side and a funny side,” Treach continues. “He wasn’t so thugged out that he was scared to smile or crack a joke. The majority of the time he had a big smile on his face. No matter what he was going through, he kept that face on cause he didn’t want to put that pain on anyone else.”—Jayson Rodriguez

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