This was a political decision made by L.A.P.D. officers who, after the O.J. Simpson trial and L.A. Riots were scared to tear down a man who at the time was being portrayed as one of the country’s most important black entrepreneurs in fear of racial conflict. Suge also had a lot of political allies in his corner including the most influential black office holder in Southern California, Congresswoman Maxine Waters who defended accusations of Suge Knight’s alleged criminal activities by telling reporters, “The only thing Suge is threatening is the status quo.” Suge Knight also held a strong friendship with mayor of Compton, Omar Bradley.
However in 1994 the U.S. Justice Department had commenced a long racketeering investigation into Suge Knight and Death Row Records. Long Beach Police officer, L.A. Arnwine had infiltrated Death Row as an agent of the federal task force searching allegations that Suge Knight and his gang member associates were heavily involved in illegally dealing in drugs and gun sales. According to various Death Row employees, the task agent was told of Suge Knight making exorbitant amounts of money from stealing drugs off Hispanic suppliers. The Death Row offices had served as a warehouse for transporting cocaine from the west coast to the east by Mob Piru Blood gang members. The agent reported the Bloods paid $18,500 for a kilo of cocaine in L.A. and sold it to rappers in New York for $26,000. Reports had already circulated that Suge Knight had paid off artists with drugs to deal to make more money than contracted payments.
The police officers most from Compton P.D. working for Death Row and Suge Knight’s Wrightway Security Company were supposedly acting as security detail for the artists. However an informant at Lancaster state prison (former Godfather Entertainment partner of Suge Knight’s Michael ‘Harry-O’ Harris) had reported to L.A.P.D. officer Stuart Guidry knowing a good deal of information on Kevin Hackie, one of the L.A.P.D. officers working for Suge and his involvement in drug trafficking for the record company. They provided security during transactions, accompanying Bloods during drug deals. Acting as lookouts and advisors, the officers monitored police frequencies, assisted in choosing locations and gave information on police tactics.
Outside of Death Row, Suge was living very large, he had homes in Westwood, Encino, Anaheim Hills and soon Las Vegas, as well as his family home in Compton in which he had remodelled complete with a four-car garage. Suge kept a fleet of luxury vehicles at his own auto-customising business, ‘Let Me Ride’ for his personal use. He had also put a lot of money back into his community, with Death Row holding the annual Mother’s Day celebration for fifty single mothers at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Also Suge sponsored Christmas toy give-aways at Compton churches and hospitals. Ironically he also put money into starting an anti-gang foundation in Compton and Maxine Water’s youth program. Suge had become a major target for rival Crip gangs, seeing him surviving numerous shoot-outs with gangbangers. All headlines he received built up a monstrous celebrity for the multi-millionaire Don of Compton and Godfather of west coast hip-hop.
This mythical lifestyle shared by Death Row and its artists held enthralled audiences throughout the country’s rap industry. Suge’s rapid-growing power had given him legendary status in the music industry, record executives and artists from across coasts following every movement and growing envious of the power Suge Knight carried. Pioneering New York A&R V.P. Sean ‘Puffy/P Diddy’ Combs had publicly stated his admiration for Suge’s Death Row movement as he called it when interviewed by Rolling Stones magazine and had inspired him to break away from Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records to form Bad Boy Entertainment in fashion of Death Row Records. In years later tales of Irving ‘Irv Gotti’ Lorenzo’s rise to fame in the rap industry follows very similar footsteps to those of Suge Knight. An unfortunate but almost necessary role model for this particular genre of cultural music business saw Suge atop of a much-envious trend of record companies emerging. Suge however would remain the prevailing, terrorising bully in the hip-hop community. During 1995 demons from the past surfaced as Harry-O (who had already been moved to a downtown L.A. detention centre to work as with federal investigators building a case against Suge Knight) spoke up publicly on his participation on the inception of Death Row Records filing lawsuits for his share of the profits suing Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine and parent company Time-Warner. Head of Interscope rap promotion Fade Duvernay was physically threatened by Suge’s head henchman Jake Robles and Mob Pirus ragged the executive out of a meeting and choked the man in his own adjacent office informing him to keep quiet on affairs and to stay away from visiting Harry-O in prison.
With an untouchable status by now, Suge believed he was bullet-proof to any prosecution, especially with the assistance of David Kenner. Those who dealt with Death Row were persecuted into submission by Suge’s power. Cypress Hill and House Of Pain manager, Happy Walters was engaged in a shouting stand off with Suge Knight over politics on a soundtrack appearance. A few days after the altercation while withdrawing money from an ATM, Happy disappeared off the scene sending shock waves through the music industry. He reappeared several days later wandering the streets incoherent, shaved down, naked and covered in cigarette burns. When admitted to hospital he had amnesia and refused to comment on Suge Knight.
Loud Records owner, Steve Rifkind was in a public dispute with Suge over Loud’s group Wu Tang Clan. Rifkind had hired Suge’s former UNLV teammate, Bigga B as a bodyguard escorting him from home to office daily who claimed Rifkind was so scared for his life he wouldn’t go to the toilet without security.
Warren G, close friend of Snoop’s from Long Beach and brother of Dr. Dre was claiming he was robbed of due credit for his part in establishing Death Row Records in the early stages. He insisted to a Source magazine reporter he had “made” Death Row only to phone in a few days later pleading with them not to print the statements. The quote appeared anyway and a story circulated the Death Row offices that Warren was visited by Suge’s Mob Pirus in the middle of the night and threatened with guns in his mouth warning him to watch what he says in future. What was certain was that Warren G was visibly shaken and begun carrying two 9mm pistols at all times.
Suge instilled fear through his employees, showing incredible power of controlling his star rappers bringing in aspiring and established artists together collaborating on tracks for no apparent upcoming release project. Owning rights to collections of tracks with varying artists for Suge’s own future superannuation, very rarely did anyone dare to ask for compensation or contract for rights. Many felt that their chance to advance their career through the label was enough. Stars were kept on short leashes in almost pimp fashion, Suge bought all his stars apartments, as Snoop was still living in an unfurnished apartment after the release of the explosive gangsta rap classic ‘Doggystyle’. With the exception of Tupac, artists were kept almost hand fed and dependant on Suge Knight solely. Suge spared no expense on Tupac’s lifestyle in the Row’s company after ‘Pac promised to increase the fortunes of Death Row and over the year and a half serving under Suge Knight he did just that.
After repeated reports of several deaths and beatings at the command of Suge Knight accompanied with suggestions of a relationship with the ‘Ghetto Godfather’ Harry-O and his drug empire starting up Death Row against growing allegations that Suge’s record company is used as a front for smuggling guns and drugs across the country the federal agencies and law enforcement were still investigating the 30 odd businesses under assumed order of Suge Knight.