Many people following hip hop today don’t realize how feared and how much of a imporlorizing figure Marion “Suge” Knight truly was. Today people remember Suge Knight as a bully whom got beat up way too many times and no longer a threat. Since his release in 2001 Suge Knight has played the role of victim: He’s been shot, knocked out twice, lost his record company, filed for bankruptcy and been in and out of jail on trump charges. Suge’s boogy man image has takened a major hit but for this entry. I’m gonna explain why Suge Knight was so feared in the 90’s
Suge Knight was deeply connected with the Piru’ and was also financially backed up by drug kingpin Michael Harry-O Harris and David Kenner who was a powerful attorney with obvious leverage pull and rumored mob connections. Mix all of that with Suge Knight’s intimidating size and you have a very good reason to have been either afraid or cautious of Suge Knight at the time.
Suge really started getting his reputation marked when he hung Vanilla Ice off a balcony because Ice refused to pay one of Suge’s Clients for royalties and song writing credits for Ice Ice Baby. Suge used alot of the knowledge he soaked up as a bodyguard to get his foot into the industry game as well. He learned from the late Dick Griffy on how to organize contracts, sign artists and negotiate with the big leagues without getting punked by the labels.
Another one of Suge Knight’s aggressive pull within the game was how he along with many of his henchmen FORCED Eazy E to release Dr Dre, D.O.C. Michel’le off their contracts and sign with Death Row. According to Eazy, Suges’ henchmen had pipes, bats, and went as far as to threatened Eazy’s family along with Jerry Heller.
The stories involving Suge Knight have revolved to Suge forcing an affiliate of Bad Boy to drink his own piss, Suge sending people to Warren G’s house with guns, the endless beatdowns and artists feeling for their safety. Suge Knight ran Death Row records like the Mafia and proceeded to use mafia tactics to keep that intimidation factor going, Which obviously worked for years.
One thing you can say about Suge Knight, Suge Knight has always been very unapologetic and never been the type to censor his artist or tell them what to say or what not to say. Suge has always been vocal about his feelings about his peers and wasn’t afraid of calling them out. When Death Row was peaking in the early 90s, The content from albums the Chronic and Doggystyle were so brash and abrasive that it forced many activists and women right groups to attempt to shut Death Row down. Despite all of the pressure, Suge REFUSED to cater and censor his artists telling them to stick it. Even though Time Warner dropped Death Row and sold the label’s stock back to Interscope, Suge nevertheless took a stance which made the Row even stronger as the hits kept coming.
Suge Knight and Dr Dre broke numerous records with smash hits The Chronic, Doggystyle, Murder Was the Case, Above the Rim along with other b sides and records. But really showcased Suge’s real power move was how he bailed Tupac Shakur out of prison and signed him to Death Row. The power move of bailing Pac out and the release of Double Disc album All Eyez on Me helped Death Row reach its peak. Selling close to a whopping 8 million records and made Suge Knight the most powerful CEO in the record industry. Suge had the artists clocking out hits, He had A&R’s, label executives, and artists trembling in fear everywhere he walked and had the bloods street gang on payroll. It looked as if Death Row could go nowhere but up.
It seemed as if however Suge Knight was too powerful and he HAD to be stopped. Suge has to take some account for alot of the foolishness that he brought upon himself. When he started running Death Row like a gang instead of a label, Thats where some of the artists started to feel uncomfortable and started to either leave(Dr Dre) or refuse to sign(Fredro Starr)
Suge also used alot of that intimidation to punk artists out of their publishing and keep their masters knowing his size and most likely they would be afraid to negotiate with him out of fear of either being killed or beaten up.
But from the mainstream point of view, Suge Knight had to be stopped. Not only was he too outspoken but he represented a concept of a black man finally coming in and not taking no shit from alot of these labels that been cheating black artists out of their money and taking away their hard earn worked.Suge started out with great intentions but as the money and success came in, he started to become more corrupt and sinister which was bad for business for black artists and represented as a threat to white established label so they found ways to blackball Suge and the West Coast for a while.
Perhaps they were fearful of another black man like Suge Knight with more intelligence and more street smarts to come in and really take over the game. Love him or hate him, Suge knocked down alot of doors and gave alot of artists their first big breaks when the white labels executives wouldn’t even negotiate with them. Without a Suge Knight, Dr Dre would have been Eazy E’s slave, Snoop, Daz, Kurupt, Nate , Rage and many others would have possibly struggled longer and Pac maybe would have been a free man with a different mindset. All of these what ifs are always gonna be in for questioned but nobody can never deny Suge Knight’s impact with hip hop.