American businessman, music executive, and producer Suge Knight. Famous for its work with hip-hop stars like Tupac, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg in the ’90s, Death Row Records was co-founded by Suge Knight.
Suge Knight’s real name is Marion Knight, Jr., and he was born in Compton, California on April 19, 1965. When he was a kid, everyone called him “Sugar Bear,” which eventually evolved into his current title. Marion Knight Jr. is the son of Maxine and Sr. Lynwood High School, where Suge was a star on both the football and track teams, and he graduated in 1983. He spent two years playing football at El Camino College before transferring to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1985.
During the 1987 NFL Strike, Knight filled in for the Los Angeles Rams. He used them in two different games.
When his stint in the NFL was over, Knight went on to promote concerts and act as a bodyguard for stars like Bobby Brown. When Vanilla Ice agreed to sign over the rights for “Ice Ice Baby” to Knight’s music publishing company in 1989, Knight struck it big. But there was some contention surrounding it. Knight and his bodyguards allegedly accosted Vanilla Ice multiple times to coerce him into handing up the music rights, going so far as to enter his hotel room and dangle him by his ankles from the balcony.
Next, Knight established an agency to represent musicians, eventually bringing on board DJ Quik and The D.O.C. from the hip hop genre. This is how he connected with several of N.W.A.’s gangsta rap group members.
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Death Row Records
Former Death Row Records CEO and co-founder Suge Knight is well known for his role in popularising gangsta rap in the 1990s.
Death Row was created by Suge, Dr. Dre, The D.O.C., and an anonymous partner named Michael “Harry-O” Harris. Harry-O was detained back then because he was convicted of running a major drug trafficking operation for the Cali Cartel. With $1.5 million from Harry-O, Death Row was able to get its footing in the music industry. David Kenner, who had previously represented Harry-O in criminal matters, now works for the record label and manages his investment there. Suge guaranteed Harry-wife O’s Lydia would become a superstar in exchange for the money.
Artists like Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, and Snoop Dogg were some of the first to sign with Suge and Death Row. Dr. Dre’s 1993 solo album, “The Chronic,” went triple platinum in the United States by year’s end. Snoop Dogg, one of Dr. Dre’s proteges, had his first album certified platinum because of it. Doggystyle was certified quadruple platinum in the United States in the same year.
Knight’s feuds with 2 Live Crew and Sean Combs were well-publicized (“Puff Daddy”). Knight’s on-air insults of Combs at the 1995 Source Awards escalated their feud. In the fall of that year, Suge Knight proposed bailing out Tupac Shakur to the tune of $1.4 million, but only on the condition that he sign with Death Row. Eventually, he gave in and dropped the two-disc set All Eyez on Me/The Don Killuminati: The 7-Day Theory in 1996. M.C. Hammer signed with Death Row in 1995, but he soon afterward disbanded.
The label Mr. Knight founded, Death Row Records, began to disintegrate after he was arrested for parole violations. Artists with the most clout on Death Row, like Dr. Dre, gradually began to go.
During its peak, Death Row made an estimated $750,000,000 from the worldwide sale of 150,000,000 albums.
Murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls
Though he was never formally accused, Suge Knight has been linked to the murders of both Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. In a drive-by shooting on September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was killed. Tupac and Suge Knight were riding together in a car. Shakur was shot four times at 11:15 p.m. when a white Cadillac drew up to Knight’s right side. A gunshot splinter struck Knight in the head.
As paramedics were called, Knight drove the car a mile away from where they were stopped by police. Six days after they arrived at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, Shakur was pronounced dead. It has been speculated that members of a rival gang in Compton were responsible for the shooting death of Tupac Shakur, however the LA Times has suggested that this is unlikely to be the case.
Biggie Smalls, an East Coast competitor of Shakur’s, was killed on March 9, 1997. There was speculation amongst former Death Row artists like Snoop Dog that Knight was involved in both murders, and that Biggie’s death was a revenge killing. The Crips street gang is widely held to be responsible for his death, although no one has ever been brought to justice for the crime. Snoop Dogg’s latest album, Tha Doggfather, is a scathing attack on Suge Knight for his role in the death of Tupac Shakur. Snoop renewed his verbal assault on Knight in 2006 over Biggie Smalls’ murder.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, Suge had $6.5 million in unpaid taxes as of 2002. Suge filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006. His wealth, he said, was between between zero and fifty thousand dollars at the moment. The ex-wife of his business partner was awarded a $107 million judgement, which accounted for the vast majority of his stated $100 million in obligations. As a result of their financial woes, Death Row had to declare bankruptcy later that year.
Death Row’s contents were auctioned off for $18 million back in 2009. WIDEawake Entertainment Group was the successful bidder. New Solutions Financial Corp. of Canada acquired WIDEawake in the end. Bankruptcy papers for New Solutions Financial Corp. were filed that year. Entertainment One, popularly known as eOne, purchased Death Row’s assets in 2013. Hasbro, the popular toy company, bought eOne in 2019.
Hasbro sold its music division, which included Death Row’s assets, to private equity firm The Blackstone Group in 2021. Blackstone sold Snoop Dogg the “Death Row Records” trademark and intellectual property rights in February 2022 for an undisclosed sum. The master recordings, which are the company’s most valuable assets, remained in Blackstone’s possession.
Suge has had multiple legal encounters in the two decades since his release from Death Row. From 1997 to 2001, he spent four years in prison due to parole violations. In 2003, he went back to prison for breaking his parole.
Between 2008 and 2009, Suge was involved in a number of fights. On February 8, 2012, he was taken into custody once more for marijuana-related offences in Las Vegas. In 2014, Knight was shot at a bar on the West Hollywood Sunset Strip where Chris Brown was hosting a celebration for the Video Music Awards.
The six bullets he took allowed him to walk to the hospital. For the theft of a camera from a paparazzi photographer in October 2014, police detained both Knight and Katt Williams. Knight was indicted in August 2017 for making death threats against “Straight Outta Compton” filmmaker F. Gary Gray. Gray’s Suge Knight in the film had been unflattering. Knight missed all of his 2017 court dates due to his health issues, including blindness and blood clots.
Fatal Hit And Run Incident
Suge Knight was allegedly involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Compton on January 29, 2015. This might have been connected to a brawl that happened on set. Supposedly, eyewitnesses saw Suge run over the guy with his truck and then drive off. Reportedly, Suge departed the area and left his car in a parking garage. Suge entered a no contest plea to voluntary manslaughter on September 20, 2018, facing up to 28 years in state prison if convicted. For the time being, Knight can be found in the RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego.
During his time behind bars in 1999, Knight wed American R&B singer Michelle. He had previously sent her to a treatment center to assist her to overcome her addiction. After 6 years of marriage, she finally decided to file for divorce, only to learn that their union was never valid, to begin with because he was legally still married to his first wife. Bailei, their daughter, is the product of their union (b. 2002).
Toi Lin Kelly, Suge Knight’s fiancee, was convicted of aiding the creators of a Death Row Records tell-all documentary by sending letters and making phone calls to them in 2015. She was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018. Before his murder trial, a court had already ordered that Knight have no contact with anyone other than his attorney.
Suge Knight Net Worth
Suge Knight net worth is $200 thousand as of 2022.