Marion Hugh Knight Jr., popularly known as Suge Knight, is a widely acclaimed record producer and music executive. Knight is recognized for the role he played in commercializing gangsta rap. The business mogul, alongside Dr. Dre, Dick Griffey and The D.O.C, founded Death Row Records.
Under Knight’s leadership as Chief Executive Officer of Death Row Records, the label was churning out multi-platinum hip-hop albums and millions of dollars in revenue. More so, in the 1990s, Death Row Records had some of America’s finest artists on its payroll with Tupac Shakur, Tha Dogg Pound, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre on the list. This remains quite a remarkable achievement for Suge who had experienced a hard time pursuing a career in the NFL.
Suge Knight Actually Dabbled Into Entertainment After A Failed Attempt At Building An NFL Career
Prior to venturing into music, Knight showed some promise in becoming a professional footballer. He played college football while at El Camino College in Los Angeles, California. Upon transferring to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Suge continued playing football and displayed a lot of potential for greatness. However, during the 1987 NFL Draft, Knight was not picked by any NFL football club. Fortunately for him, he was later selected to feature as a replacement player for the Los Angeles Rams following the advent of the 1987 NFL players strike.
After his unsuccessful NFL run, Knight began working as a bodyguard for celebrities, including the likes of Bobby Brown. He later ventured into working as a concert promoter. Suge eventually formed his first music publishing company in 1989. The record producer later went on to establish an artist management company through which he represented prominent West Coast artists like The D.O.C and DJ Quik.
He Recorded Tremendous Success Via Death Row Records
Being born in the hip-hop loving city of Compton in California actually had a positive impact on Knight who registered quite a lot of success as a record producer and music executive. Following a career of well over two decades, Suge’s impressive feats and accomplishments during his time at Death Row Records remain a much talked about topic in present times.
It was gathered that Suge Knight, alongside the trio, Dr. Dre, Dick Griffey and The D.O.C, founded Death Row Records in 1991. Knight was reported to have negotiated the release of The D.O.C and Dr. Dre from their contract with Ruthless Records in a controversial manner. Afterwards, the former music executive lived up to the expectations placed on him by turning the label into one of the biggest labels in the 90s.
Artists on Death Row Records made their mark in the music industry in the 1990s with several hit singles and albums. Dr. Dre’s, ‘The Chronic’ album was certified Triple Platinum in 1993 while Snoop Dogg’s, ‘Doggystyle’ album was given the Quadruple Platinum status in the United States in 1994. Death Row Records, under the leadership of Suge Knight, also sold more than 150 million albums globally and had net annual revenue of over $100million during its peak years.
Suge Knight’s Friendship With Tupac Shakur Saved The Rapper From Going To Jail
Suge Knight had a somewhat close relationship with the late Tupac Shakur. In fact, it was the music executive who facilitated Shakur’s release from prison. Knight opted to post a bail of $1.4 million for the popular artist who was to spend over four years in prison. The catch was that the rapper would sign a record label deal with Death Row Records. Suge’s bet paid off as Shakur’s debut solo album for the label titled, ‘All Eyez on Me’, became an instant hit across America. The album which was released on February 13, 1996, received critical acclaim and widespread praise. Tupac also recorded and released, ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’. The album also did well critically with some of its singles reaching platinum status.
Accusing Fingers Pointed At Suge Knight For The Murder Of Tupac
Knight and Shakur continue to maintain a very close relationship throughout the lifetime of the rapper. They were often seen hanging out together in night clubs and at parties. In September 1996, both men, alongside their compatriots, reportedly accosted and assaulted Orlando Anderson. Barely 3 hours after the incident, an unidentified man in a drive-by shooting fired gunshots into the car that both men were in and fatally wounded Tupac which led to his death on September 13, 1996.
After Tupac’s death, former police detective, Russell Poole came up with a theory that Suge Knight had Shakur killed in a bid to stop him from leaving Death Row Records. Poole also indicated that Knight was also involved in the killing of Biggie Smalls. Biggie was killed in a similar fashion as Tupac the next year on March 9, 1997.
However, Knight denied the allegations and has asserted that his ex-wife, Sharitha Golden had a hand in Tupac’s death. Knight said he was the actual target of the drive-by shooting which claimed Tupac’s life. Reggie White Jr, former Death Row Records security chief was also not left out in the allegations as Knight mentioned him as an accomplice in the murder.
Suge Knight’s Unending Legal Woes Rendered Him Bankrupt
Knight, who officially filed for bankruptcy on April 6, 2007, was forced to do so after a series of legal troubles. Prior to the filing, Knight was ordered to pay Lydia Harris the sum of $107 million. This was part of a settlement to Harris who claimed that Suge cheated her out of a 50% stake in Death Row Records.
The bankruptcy documents filed by Knight indicated that his bank account had just $12 in it. In December 2008, Suge’s Malibu mansion was sold in bankruptcy court for a fee of $4.56 million. Finally, Death Row Records was later sold off to Wideawake Entertainment for $18 million in 2009.
Where Is Suge Knight Now?
Even after being declared bankrupt, Knight maintained quite a notorious reputation as he had a series of altercations with law enforcement agents. He has been involved in cases ranging from assault, probation violation, traffic violations, robbery and voluntary manslaughter.
The most recent happened on January 29, 2015, when he reportedly ran his car into Terry Carter and Cle Sloan. Sloan sustained head injuries and a mangled foot. Carter, the co-founder of Heavyweight Records, wasn’t so fortunate as he didn’t survive the crash.
Suge claimed his actions were in self-defense but that did not deter the prosecutors. The court went forward to set his bail at a whopping $25 million. The judge later reduced the bail sum to $10 million on April 16, 2015, but Knight was subsequently handed a 28-year sentence for the hit-and-run incident. He is currently serving his time at a prison facility and will be eligible for parole in October 2037.