The 1st Look At Death Row Series Shows Suge Strong-Arming Eazy-E To Get Dre (Video)
The Death Row Chronicles is an upcoming six-part series on one of music’s most successful and most controversial record labels. Airing on BET February 20 (beginning with part one and two), a two-minute video trailer released, featuring commentary from some of the people closest to Death Row Records’ former CEO Suge Knight.
In the clip, there is a reenactment of just how Dre’s former business partner, Knight, got the N.W.A. member and Ruthless Records producer out of his contract. As depicted in 2015 film Straight Outta Compton and covered in texts such as Ben Westhoff’s Original Gangstas, Eazy-E was invited to a Hollywood, California meeting with Dre. Many have speculated that the matter was presented to Eazy for the two longtime friends and collaborators to settle their differences surrounding financial disputes. When Eazy arrived, it was Suge Knight and associates who allegedly emerged with the release forms to sign. This re-enactment uses a popular account of what many have said happened, including that Knight used Eazy’s mother’s address as part of an implied threat. In any event, Dre was released from Ruthless just months before the release of his acclaimed 1992 solo debut, The Chronic. He would leave the Ruthless roster of N.W.A., Above The Law, and Jimmy Z to build his own ensemble including Snoop Doggy Dogg, RBX, The Lady Of Rage, and Tha Dogg Pound.
Michel’le, who was also released from Ruthless and signed to Death Row (along with The D.O.C.) appears in the trailer. At that time, she was Dr. Dre’s fiancee, and mother of his child. In the late 1990s, she would later marry and have another child with Suge Knight. The singer ran Death Row for a time during his 1997-2001 incarceration, ahead of their divorce. Kurupt, who signed to Death Row as one-half of Tha Dogg Pound, also appears in The Death Row Chronicles. After leaving the label in 1996, the MC would briefly return to Tha Row as an executive and an artist, where he released one solo album.
A former Ruthless executive staffer and a member of Death Row’s street-connected security detail also appear. “Suge [Knight] was one of us,” says “M.O.B.” James McDonald, who hailed from the same Compton city neighborhood as Knight. In other interviews, he has stated that he knew Suge since they were teenagers. “He wasn’t no CEO. He wasn’t no tie behind no desk. He was a thug just like everybody else. ‘Gangsterism’ isn’t even a word but I’ma say that right now. He took gangsterism to a different level.” James is the brother of one of Suge’s closest associates, Alton “Buntry” McDonald, who was killed at a Compton gas station in April of 2002. In the last year, The Game paid tribute to him, and several other murdered Death Row staffers, on “Heaven 4 A Gangsta.”
The depicted exchange would ultimately end the business and creative ties between Dre and Eazy-E. The latter would allege that “‘Dre Day’ only made Eazy’s payday” in one of his famous diss tracks to the former band-mate, “Real Muthaph*ckkin’ G’s.” During interviews after the incident, Eazy-E maintained that he and Ruthless saw revenue from Dre’s later work.
The Death Row Chronicles first announced last April, which is co-produced by Entertainment One (eOne) who now maintains the label and much of its catalog. Dre relinquished his stake in an early 1996 exit. Knight lost his own stake in label to bankruptcy, following a litany of lawsuits in the mid-2000s.
It also announced this week that The Chronic joins Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” as a 2018 addition to the Grammy Hall Of Fame. At the time of release, video single “Let Me Ride” (featuring Jewell) won the trophy for “Best Rap Solo Performance.”
Suge Knight is currently awaiting trial on several charges, including the murder of music executive Terry Carter.