Death Row v Bad Boy
"Any artists out there who wants to be an artist and stay a star, and don't wanna have to worry about the executive producer trying to be…all in the videos, all on the records, dancing... Come to Death Row!"
At the first Source Awards in 1994, held at the Paramount Theatre in Manhattan, Suge’s Death Row business was booming with main stars, Dr. Dre and Snoop taking over the event winning almost all major awards for their achievements. However at the second annual Source Awards ceremony a year later Death Row took a back-seat to their CEO who dominated the event. Managing to stun the entire crowd and television viewers by taking main stage by himself dressed head-to-toe in a blood red suit, sent a shivering stare into the audience before he announced bluntly, "Any artists out there who wants to be an artist and stay a star, and don't wanna have to worry about the executive producer trying to be…all in the videos, all on the records, dancing..." answered by a growing tirade of boo’s and hurled abuse from the eastern coast crowd he continued, “Come to Death Row!”
This was a direct attack on Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, CEO of New York label Bad Boy Entertainment, who appeared in almost every video released from the label and shared vocals through many albums Bad Boy produced. The drama created not only an adversary but had precisely given the antagonistic label an arch-enemy that would overwhelmingly consume Suge Knight’s appetite for defeat and would take precedence above all business. This lone stunt birthed the notorious and fatal East/West coastal conflict that burnt the energy of America’s hip-hop industry eventually taking the lives of two of rap’s most prolific artists and would allow Suge to orchestrate every tactical move till the end.
Suge Knight had by this stage entered New York city to poach the talents of Andre Harrell’s Uptown Record’s Jodeci and Bad Boy R&B sensation, Mary J. Blige as a manager to secure better deals for them within their labels. Using his old format of fear and death threats Suge went about making appointments with the two labels.
Suge demanded a meeting with Harrell who became increasingly alarmed to find out Suge was beckoning him. Terrified by his presence, Suge finally met him face to face and several accounts of very horrific threats persuaded Harrell to upgrade Jodeci’s contract, doubling their royalty rate to eighteen percent and giving them almost complete creative control over their records. Harrell also agreed to free Mary J. Blige from contract for no compensation…Other than maybe his life. Suge also arranged a meeting with the lawyers and executives from Bad Boy Entertainment at the Four Seasons hotel to discuss the contract they held on Mary J. Blige. In an interview Suge put it frankly, “I told them they was lettin’ Mary out of that fucked-up deal. And they did.” Shortly after Newsweek media source stated Jodeci and May J. Blige had both signed management contracts with Suge Knight’s West Coast Management. Suge celebrated this success by presenting Devante Swing from Jodeci with a $250,000 Lamborghini. Andre Harrell as a result never travels anywhere without the security team he hires from Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam called the Fruits of Islam.
Jake the Violator Murder
Tensions soared a month after the gauntlet was thrown down at The Source awards between Death Row and Bad Boy at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in Atlanta attended by both Suge Knight and Sean Combs. The party crown assembled at the Platinum Club which Combs attended accompanied by several men he later insisted were not his bodyguards. Knight had his favourite stand over man in toe, Jai Hassan Jamaal ‘Jake the Violator’ Robles with him. Standing six feet tall and roughly 245 pounds, Jake was an active M.O.B. Piru gang member with a physically domineering presence who was felt through hard looks than verbal address. After the incarceration of Daryl Henley, Suge replaced Jake with the job of keeping everyone on Death Row in line with a menacing look of promise over threat.
At 4am, off duty Fulton County Shariff’s deputy moonlighting as door security witnessed an argument ensuing inside the club that looked to escalate to a fight. He confronted Suge Knight and Jake Robles standing off against Combs’ cousin, ‘Wolf’ and four Crips. Breaking up the situation, the Deputy ordered Wolf and Combs’ men to leave the venue and insisted Suge and Jake to reamin inside for fifteen minutes to defer any further meeting between the two involved parties. Wolf and the Crips left with Combs shortly behind. After five minutes Suge and Jake impatiently walked out the front to their waiting limousine. Both man had taken their seats inside the vehicle when only to exit the car again to meet the approaching Wolf and crew. The deputy noticed Wolf reach for a gun and reached for his side arm and chased Wolf to the back of the club only to lose him among parked cars. The deputy had walked off to hear three shots ring out, finding Jake Robles laid out fatally wounded with bullets piercing his torso. Amongst the fleeing crowd, Combs walked up to Suge to inquire what had happened, Suge gestured to his fallen friend and promptly told him, “You had something to do with this.”
Back in L.A. word had spread around Blood organizations that Jake had died at the hands of Comb’s cousin and the Crips protecting Suge Knight who was targeted. Soon after an Atlanta newspaper identified Combs’ cousin as the murderer, although Combs denied involvement to a Vibe Magazine writer. “If I set a nigga up, which I would never do, I’m’a be in Bolivia somewhere.” He reported Death Row putting out a contract on his life. The magazine interview was not looked on favourably by Death Row’s camp. Later both parties met again at the Soul Train Awards in L.A. Bad Boy secured by a squad of ‘Fruits Of Islam’ soldiers.
After Suge’s release from the halfway house following the Stanley Brothers’ assault and robbery case, he spent the summer of ’95 travelling to the Danemorra state prison visiting fallen rap icon Tupac Shakur to secure the desperate star’s employment for three records to be released onto Death Row Records. This led to the ultimate demise of Tupac’s life. Siding with Suge Knight was in fact siding with the Devil himself. Death Row inherited Tupac’s violent beef with Bad Boys’ rapper, Notorious BIG fuelling the fire between both labels into disastrous consequences. Both Tupac and Suge Knight were antagonists by nature. They banded together under a common foe and went into battle, all the while Death Row’s dominance bounced back with the release of Tupac’s super-album ‘All Eyes On Me’ with him promoting Death Row to the world of hip-hop. Tupac would sell incredulously for Death Row voicing the apparent hatred of Bad Boy Entertainment on records for Suge Knight and surrounding himself in the company of Suge’s Mob Pirus.
Mark Anthony Bell Incident
It wasn’t long after another incident ensued in retaliation for Roble’s death. An unknown man working on behalf of Suge Knight attempted to persuade close friend of Puffy’s who was a local New York record promoter working independently to turn informant and give up Puffy’s home address and address of his mother’s in promise of a recording contract and money. Suge Knight wanted to hunt down and kill Sean Puffy Combs and his entire family it would seem according to L.A.P.D. crime reports.
New York promoter, Mark Anthony Bell was a high school friend of Puffy’s and occasionally worked for the record exec. As Bell reports, he was contacted in September following the murder of Jake Robles by an unnamed voice asking for him ti give up the home addresses for Puffy and his mother. He was asked to write the details down on paper and drop it outside his front door and that’s all he had to do. In exchange he would receive a record deal. Bell refused to participate.