There Have Been A Gang Of Death Row Records Documentaries, But This One Stands Tall (Video)
Starting when the label was less than six years old, documentaries started releasing around the creation, controversy, and commercial dominance of Death Row Records. Started by Marion “Suge” Knight and Dr. Dre in late 1991, the Los Angeles, California-based label released classic, multi-platinum albums by Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Tha Dogg Pound, and Dre, in addition to various soundtracks, compilations, and other efforts.
The VHS, DVD, and television chronicles have come from former artists, including a pre-Slaughterhouse Crooked I, who produced Life After Death Row in 2006. One of Suge’s alleged silent partners from the label’s formation, Lydia Harris (wife of convicted drug kingpin Michael “Harry-O” Harris) released 2001’s Welcome To Death Row. Suge even released “the only authorized” version of the story, his On The Real.
Many of these films, as expected, feature some sort of bias. In some, you’ll see talking-heads that claim to be former Death Row artists, who have curiously never been heard of. In others, you’ll hear what can only be considered slander, fitting in line with the agenda(s) of producers.
That said, MTV was one of the finer sources for documentary journalism. In 1999, after 2Pac’s murder, during Suge’s ongoing incarceration for felony parole violation, and following the mass exodus of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and DJ Quik (as “David Blake”), “Ultrasound” turned its lens on Tha Row. The one-hour episode, written by Chris Connelly (now an ESPN reporter/Grantland film critic), features rare footage, and commentary from all sides of the infamous Gangsta Rap label. Here, you will get information that celebrates the good and the evil reputation of the label, now owned by a Toronto, Ontario-based media group following Knight’s bankruptcy.
This sort of archival doc doesn’t run on MTV today, but it’s available online in four-parts. Look out for rare commentary by Suge, Dre, 2Pac, Nate Dogg, publicist George “Papa G” Pryce, Filmmaker/journalist Nelson George, Snoop, and even then-label artists, O.F.T.B.:
Will another label ever have the mystique of Death Row?
Related: Death Row Records (Playlist)