LIFE AFTER DEATH ROW RECORDS
April 4th 2006 as the day Death Row was officially bought out and sold from under Suge Knight. Many claim that this was the “REAL” death of the label but all of it really traces back to September 13th 1996 where not only it marked the death of possibly the biggest rapper of all time but also the end of a dynasty as well. Death Row started to somewhat crumble in spring 1996 when Dr Dre made the very shockingly decision to leave the label he helped build. Whenever people want to admit or not, Dre leaving left a huge void into the Death Row Camp.
Dre’s departure took the heart out of the label, Tupac’s death took the soul out of the label and Suge’s incarcerated permanently put the label in the coffin with a tombstone on top of it. Life after Death Row has been well to some of the artist and a harsh reality to many others so within this 4 page series, I’m gonna give y’all the lowdown on whats been happening with the artists after leaving Death Row starting with Suge Knight:
Knight’s incarnation following Tupac’s death sealed Death Row’s fate as a dynasty. With no one around to really run the company, Everything seemed to somewhat crumble from there. The Company would release Soundtracks from Tupac’s movies such as Gang Related and GridLocked along with release material from Pac to keep their revenue flowing. But the overall bigger picture is that everybody on the label seen a sinking ship and wanted out. Its gotten to a level where there were rarely any music being released aside from Tupac material and soundtracks so many of the artists jumped ship and that left Suge Knight salty for a very long time.
Surprisingly Suge would be released from prison in summer 2001. Instead of serving the actual 9 year bid, He actually served 5 and he was back to not only reclaim his label but to show that he was the real street bully of the industry. Knight’s return to the streets left a lot of rappers scared for their lives and people knew that it was gonna be ugly soon as he touched ground. There was already the infamous 2000 Source Awards incident that looked like an all out battle royal between Snoop Dogg’s camp and Death Row. It was only expected to get much uglier.
The negative impact of Suge Knight was already felt within the West Coast as there would have been more incidents of violence, beatdowns, shootings, along with Suge getting in the public eye disrespecting Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Daz, Nate Dogg and many others who he felt betrayed him. While Dre decided not to throw any fuel to the fire, Snoop Dogg further threw more gasoline on it by addressing Suge and many others on his label on the song Pimp Slap.By 2003 the fued between Snoop Dogg and Suge gotten even uglier as they would take verbal shots at each other through interviews, records, and in magazine articles.
Knight would spend years trying to rebuild the label that he once lost. Even changing it briefly from Death Row to Tha Row and signed artists such as Crooked I, Eastwood, Left Eye, and shockingly Dogg Pound member Kurupt. The problem with the label and mainly Suge himself is that instead of focusing on releasing music, He was too busy taking shots at Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and many others while in the process not focusing on his artists.Even some of the artists he signed such as Topp Dogg and Tha Realest were basic cheap rip offs of Snoop Dogg and Tupac.
There were also talks of Suge forming a all black distribution company with Prince J(CEO of Rap A Lot) and Irv Gotti.This would have been a major move in the Industry and could have possibly opened up a lot of doors for street rappers. The idea unfortunately wouldn’t come to pass as Murder Inc would be raided for possible involvement in organized crime and for their ties with incarcerated former Queens drug king pin Kenneth ‘Supreme” McGriff who’s mainly responsible for investing in the label.
Between the feds investigation on Death Row activity, incidents involving Snoop’s camp along with going in and out of prison. It seemed to have takened its toll on Suge In the latter years. Suge’s impact on the industry as not only dwindled but also his reputation as a the “Industry bully” was so fading away as well. There was a time period where Knight was practically the most feared CEO in the Music Industry. He used his size, his muscle and his intimidation to get where he needed to be over the years and it seemed that these new up and comers weren’t impressed. Knight was already shot at a Kanye West party years back but it was this incident that pretty much destroyed Knight’s intimidating aura forever. It was the night that the bully of the rap game caught a mean left hook and was laid out in front of the club for the world to see.
Suge would be caught up in another incident again. This time with Akon’s camp and would catch another beat down once again.Its safe to say the bully has finally got checked and is no longer a threat anymore. He is currently trying to get his Television show off the ground which for now has no said date:
Dre leaving left a huge void on the label. It was really surprising considering that he was the one that helped build it. But as there were more street activity and less music being produced. Dre wanted to leave and him leaving sparked a very ugly smear campaign from Suge, Tupac, and many others who were apart of the label at the time. Tupac and Suge along with many who werent down with Dre to the core were attacking Dre’s character, calling him a traitor and even going as far to have insulted his manhood insulating he was a homosexual. Dre understood that Death Row was becoming a danger zone and he was willing to sacrifice whatever he had to get free.
After leaving Death Row, Dre started his own company called Aftermath Records. He wanted to take a break from the Gangsta Rap scene and produce something different.His first single Been There Done That had Dre reflecting on his career and being the face of Gangsta Rap music and wanting to put that behind him to focus on a more mature side. He released the first album from his Aftermath label which wasn’t really a Dr Dre album but more like a compilation showcasing new talent. Critics and fans panned the album as it wasn’t what the people expected or wanted to hear from Dre.
He would struggle for years trying to adjust his sound from his normal gangsta rap routine. He has basically made a career spanning of 12 years doing it so he found it hard adjusting to a new world where he was not only the main producer but also a CEO of a company as well. His beats were still hard-hitting but they didn’t stick like the ones he did for Doggystyle or The Chronic. It was obvious that Dre wasn’t really living the gangsta lifestyle that he has often boasted about in the past and he was afraid that if he went back to that realm that people would then call him a fake. His Aftermath album flopping along with the highly anticipated Firm album which featured East Coast heavyweights Nas, AZ, Foxxy and Cormega being labeled as a disappointment hurt Dre’s ego even worst.
Life after Death Row was hitting Dre hard until he lucked up one day and discovered a very controversal and then gifted emcee Eminem. Eminem was making a lot of noise in the Detroit underground rap scene and was ripping about many competitors in the battle scene. Eminem’s wicked sense of humor and very smash mouth in your face lyricism is what Dre needed to help him rediscover his sound and the rest was history. Eminem obviously lit a fire under Dre’s ass and it helped motivate him to get him back on the top of his game. He went on to release his sophomore album titled Chronic 2001 where he re entered the West Coast Gangsta Rap market and people welcomed him back with open arms.
Chronic 2001 would be labeled as the perfect followup to his debut classic and further solidify him as one of the greatest producers of all time. Despite hitting some rough years and some very rocky bumps. Dre today is probably one of the richest producers in the rap game and probably the most respected from his peers. He’s currently working on his 3rd album titled Detox which is set for release on February 2011.
If you’re a dedicated hip hop fan going back to the late 80s. You would know that D.O.C. could have probably been one of the greatest rappers of all time. He’s already had a brilliant mind when it comes to penning lyrics and even assisting artists with their sound. His debut album titled No One Can Do It Better is probably in my top 10 for greatest albums because he brought lyricism to the table in a group that was focusing mainly on Sex, Drugs, Violence, and street commentary during that period(NWA)
But unfortunately for him, He was involved in a major car crash that crushed his tremendous voice into a very raspy one and it shortened his once bright career. D.O.C. was one of the artists that gotten jerked around at Ruthless for his money(Even citing that he sold his publishing to Eazy for a gold chain and a watch) so he signed to Death Row along with Dre, and Michel’le. D.O.C.’s role as a rapper was minimum but he knew how to identify with the streets and knew what the people wanted to hear. He helped write and produced The Chronic, Doggystyle, albums. He was one of the few artists that got off Death Row without any serious legal problems or a beat down.
D.O.C. today is currently seeking a voice therapist that can help surgically repair his voice and currently working with his artists on his independent label.