DJ Quik watched first-hand as Death Row Records went from being on top of the music business to shuttering its doors – and he ultimately blames the demise on Suge Knight.
Quik spoke about the famous record label during his recent visit to Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson’s All The Smoke podcast. The famed producer/rapper was signed to Death Row in the 1990s, after already having success on his own, and even stayed on after Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and others left.
When asked about his time there, he noted that it had its moments – like getting to hear Dr. Dre‘s The Chronic before the rest of the world – but otherwise wasn’t being ran right.
“Sometimes it was cool and then it just became the streets,” Quik began. “All the stuff that I got away from, all the gang-banging and all that, just met me right there head-on at the office. It was hood shit. And you had to kind of be hood to deal with it because they were in there – them n-ggas was detecting fear.
“They just wanted to see if you were scared. Make you feel some kind of way. It’s like, that energy doesn’t go with making the right songs. Songwriting is a beautiful process, you know what I mean? And it’s a lot of thought involved. You got guys in here gang-banging and shit and threatening you and saying crazy shit.”
He added: “It was dangerous and it didn’t have to be, because it was the greatest record company at one point in the world. It was going to be the biggest thing in the game.”
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Quik then turned his attention to Knight and how it felt being around him. “But just the ego of the boss… You know, you never wanted to get on nobody bad side. It was like just walking on egg shells all the time. A bunch of anxiety, a bunch of nervousness. A bunch of people in there playing like they tough just so they don’t get punked. That wasn’t it.
“I signed up for some bullshit when I went in there. I was like, ‘Why did I even come over here? I got my own shit. I got my own label. I got my own record company.”
“But again, sometimes it was cool,” he continued. “Like when ‘Pac came through – that was dope being in there watching. I used to go to the studio when Dre was working on Doggystyle and just letting us hear snippets of it. I’m just sitting in there with my wig blown back at just the quality of the shit.”
“Dre called me up there. They gave me cassettes of The Chronic before it came out. so I’m rolling around with The Chronic in my car and everybody was like, ‘What is that?!’ You know, you’re the man when you got some shit like that. Straight out the muthafuckin’ building. And it didn’t know that The Chronic was gonna be that. But it did. It became a fucking juggernaut of Hip Hop.”
Quik concluded: “But it just seemed like Suge just got – he just went left on everybody, bro. Threatening n-ggas, punching n-ggas, beating up n-ggas. Like I didn’t come here to be no punching bag, y’all.”
In early 2022, Snoop Dogg became the new owner of Death Row after acquiring the rights from MNRK Music Group (formerly eOne Music). Just this week, the rap legend inked a deal with former Apple executive Larry Jackson to distribute Death Row Records’ iconic catalog to the masses.
Two future albums from Snoop Dogg and distributing Death Row’s catalog — which includes Snoop’s Doggystyle, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me — are among the first slate of projects that have been announced.