The veteran Hip-Hop photographer shares a rare picture of Tupac & Biggie in New York circa 1993, revealing that he overlooked the photo for two decades.
T. Eric Monroe, a veteran photographer who captured some of the biggest Hip-Hop stars throughout the 1990s for publications such as Thrasher and The Source, has been revisiting his work in a new video series posted to his Instagram, titled Rare & Unseen Moments of 90s HipHop. Named after his photography book that published in 2019, the video series finds Monroe telling stories and giving insights into some of the most iconic shots that he has captured throughout his career, and one of the more interesting moments that he has recently reflected on involves none other than Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.
During his first year working as a photographer in New York, Monroe took a picture of a group of artists following an Onyx and Public Enemy concert in 1993, and since the photo featured egregious shadows as well as someone throwing up their middle finger, he considered it useless at the time. According to Monroe, it took him about 20 years to realize that the photo that had been sitting in his archives featured friends-turned-rivals Tupac and Biggie. In the video below, the photographer talks about unearthing the rare Hip-Hop artifact.
"I shot maybe six frames of Onyx as a group, just the four main guys. After the last frame, I knew I got the shot I needed. I let them know we were good and they could go back to the dressing room," Monroe says in a statement on his website. "The group left the stage area, I packed up my camera bag and as I left the stage and started heading back towards the dressing rooms, I heard someone yell at me, 'Yo, why don’t you take our picture?'"
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"I turned around and looked, it was a group of seven guys. I didn’t know who they were but I also had enough respect to not blow them off because I didn’t know who they were," Monroe continued. "For years, I didn’t think about that one frame I’d shot of those guys who yelled to have the picture taken, I would casually look at and only noticed a guy giving me the finger and a strong shadow cast on half of his face. That type of shot is not commercially usable in a magazine’s for their ‘who’s who’ celebrity picture page."
Around 2011, Monroe finally realized his insane oversight, saying, "It wasn’t until 2011 when I was sorting through slide photographs and beginning to catalog my images that I seriously took a look at that one slide of a dude giving me the finger with a strong shadow on his face…”No f’n way!” I was shocked I didn’t know the guy with the shadow in his face was Tupac."
"As I pan around the image, I looked deeper and yelled to myself, “You’re f’n kidding me!” Biggie, Lil Ceaser are in this shot?!" he continued. "I start laughing at myself because as I stared deeper into the picture, I noticed all the guys, including Tupac, were wearing,”I’m a Bad Boy” t-shirts."
The rare picture, like several other of Monroe's gems, can be found in his three-volume photography book series Rare & Unseen Moments of 90s HipHop.