Death Row Records Is Now Owned By A Toy Company
In the early 1990s, Dr. Dre broke from N.W.A. and Ruthless Records. After five years of work with Eazy-E taking Gangsta Rap to the top of the charts, Dre wanted an imprint of his own. The producer for J.J. Fad, The D.O.C., Above The Law, and Michel’le moved across town. He partnered with The D.O.C.’s former manager, Suge Knight. Together, (and allegedly with creative input and finances from others) they formed Death Row Records. That label would become a juggernaut for much of the 1990s. As Rap music reached new plateaus, Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and others became the soundtrack to the critical and commercial domination. That music all featured the Death Row logo.
In the 28 years since Death Row was founded, the logo carried much more power in the first half than the second. In 1996, Dr. Dre relinquished his stake in the company, making Knight the sole leader. However, in less than a year, Knight would violate parole, and spend the rest of the decade behind bars. Dre left, Tupac was murdered, and Snoop’s contract was sold to No Limit in less than two years.
In 2009, Knight lost his label in a bankruptcy court when Canadian company WIDEawake purchased Tha Row at auction. At the price-tag of $18 million. In the years that followed, the new ownership released vaulted projects by Sam Sneed, Danny Boy, O.F.T.B., and others.
In 2013, eOne (aka Entertainment One) purchased the catalog for a reported $280 million. Since its days known as Koch Records, eOne had distributed Death Row releases following storied tenures with Interscope and Priority Records.
Now, Death Row has its third owner since Suge Knight (who is currently serving a 28-year murder sentence). Toy-maker Hasbro purchased eOne in a $4 billion deal. While Deadline confirmed the acquisition, Rolling Stone pointed out that the purchase means that the makers of Mr. Potato Head and the Monopoly board-game now have the rights to music by Tha Dogg Pound, Snoop, and The Lady Of Rage.
In 2015, Dr. Dre acquired the rights to his lone Death Row album, The Chronic. Meanwhile, Tupac’s unreleased materials have been given to his estate. Those recordings are now managed by the music executive who signed him to Interscope, Tom Whalley.
Hasbro’s plans for eOne and Death Row are unclear at this time.