A New Documentary Series Will Show The Rise & Fall Of Death Row Records
There are few storylines, whether fact or fiction, filled with more drama, violence, or ups and downs than the tale of Death Row Records. Founded in 1991 by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, with help from SOLAR Records’ Dick Griffey, The D.O.C. and incarcerated silent partner Michael “Harry O” Harris, the record label was filled with potential and peril, from the start. Rumors swirled that Suge Knight had used heavy-handed tactics to extract Dr. Dre from his contract with Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, and Harry O’s silent investment would later become the subject of a major lawsuit, when he asserted he was denied compensation he was owed in connection with the label. Despite numerous setbacks like those Death Row would quickly grow to become one of the most powerful entities in the music business, grossing over $250 million by 1996.
In addition to its financial strength, Death Row amassed a roster of talent rivaled by few others, including Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, The Lady Of Rage and, of course, Tupac Shakur, for starters. By 1996, after a high profile cover story in the New York Times Magazine, Knight felt so comfortable in his position that he re-christened the company “The New And Untouchable Death Row Records.” Unfortunately, the name change would prove to be the end, rather than a new beginning. Dr. Dre had departed the label, Tupac had been killed, and Knight’s relationship with Snoop was deteriorating fast. While the company would hang on officially for years, it was all but dead by the end of ’96, when Suge was sent to prison for 5 years, in connection with a probation violation. In the 5 years between the founding of Death Row and Knight’s incarceration, however, it was beyond a wild ride, and the story will be the subject of a new documentary series that will air on BET.
According to BET, Death Row Chronicles, “the story of the world’s most dangerous record label, could only be told in a definitive, six-part documentary series.” The network describes the series as “part true-crime murder mystery and part hip-hop drama,” and promises it will “comb through mountains of misinformation, uncovering key evidence and witnesses who will reveal the truth about the bitter rivalries surrounding [Death Row’s] legends.” BET also says the docu-series will “celebrate the groundbreaking music of Death Row, explaining how it reflected society at the time and how it influenced some of today’s biggest Hip-Hop artists.”
Given its controversial history and profound cultural impact, the Death Row story has been told a number of times, over the years. Author Ronin Ro’s 1998 book, Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise And Violent Fall Of Death Row Records, was one of the first and most comprehensive takes on the subject. In 1999, MTV also released a 4-part documentary on the legendary record company. Still, after nearly 18 years since that film, countless details have emerged regarding Death Row and those who built it, so their is bound to be a great deal of previously uncovered territory in the Death Row Chronicles.
The docu-series will be produced by Entertainment One and is expected to air in 2018.