While visiting The Arsenio Hall Show yesterday (February 18), former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight explained how the record industry woes he saw early in his career continue to have an effect on today’s rappers.
“The deals are still messed up,” Suge said. “I think it’s unfair if you really look at it, if you look at Interscope, the two guys from Compton—Game, Kendrick Lamar—got two of the worst deals in the industry. And when you look at it, it’s not so much the production company fault, but what people don’t realize is that if you’re on Universal, it’s the ship. Then Interscope get they cut, then Aftermath get they cut, then G-Unit get they cut. Then the guy who really has Game signed, it was another production company, then it came to Game. The reality is there’s more slavery now than ever.” While Hall checked Knight’s statement—and later quipped “12 Years A Rapper”—the record exec touted some industry deals as “worse.” “When you were a slave you knew it was bad,” he said. “When you was a slave, you was like, ‘Shit, it’s bad.’ But it’s worse when somebody make you be a celebrity and put you on a status and you thanking a person for stabbing you in the back.”
Suge Knight Explains D.O.C.’s Record Deal
Before referencing Game and Kendrick Lamar specifically, Suge Knight explained that an artist who had negotiated a poor deal more than twenty years ago pushed him into the industry in the first place. “One of the reasons I got in the business is that there was a guy named D.O.C.,” Suge said of the former Dr. Dre collaborator. “And he had an accident where he lost his voice. And every person abandoned him, you know, I took what I had to help him. And I [asked], ‘Do you still have your publishing?’ Come to find out, Jerry Heller and [Eazy-E] bought his publishing for a watch and a gold chain. Then come to find out, Dr. Dre was getting two points off of anything he gets—that means two pennies—out those two pennies, one went [away], and one went to him. So if you sold a hundred million records, and you only get a penny a record, you will never get rich. So that was the thing that made me say, ‘You know what? We shouldn’t have to do a deal in Compton and do another deal in Beverly Hills; it’s still the same deal, we still doing the same business. It shouldn’t have to be that the same deals that applied in the ‘50s and the ‘60s [are used] today.
“And one of the things you can’t take from it,” Knight added. “I love Death Row. That was my baby. I enjoyed the people on there, and we done that. And you know, ‘Pac still moves on or lives on in every person from there I feel is successful. That’s a blessing. But more importantly we’re supposed to learn from that. We’re supposed to grow. I’m not trying to do a new Death Row, I’m not here to create a new Tupac, there will never be another Tupac, no matter how much they shout about it it’s not gonna happen. At the end of the day, it’s up to me not to try and get in the way and say ‘I wanna keep pushing the label.’ You have guys out here with great labels, we gon’ support him, let them grow, even these youngsters.”
While on the show, Knight also fielded a question about a recent incident at a Los Angeles marijuana dispensary explaining that a misunderstanding with a security guard was behind the incident.