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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
6/23/2004 11:44:14 PM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Kurupt.

Once the perennial runt of the Death Row Records litter, renowned Los Angeles gangster/battle rapper Kurupt has completed a strange, often unsavory roller-coaster ride since his first appearance on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992. He and longtime collaborator/producer Daz found platinum success as Tha Dogg Pound with their 1995 West Coast classic Dogg Food, but their friendship soured. Even Kurupt’s once close relationship with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre is over. And it’s all because, a little over a year ago, Kurupt abandoned all the Death Row haters and signed back up to work with Marion “Suge” Knight and his company, now known as Tha Row.

Today, Kurupt (né Ricardo Brown) hopes to become the Dr. Dre of this formerly super-powerful label. He’s dead set on helping Tha Row reinvent itself and recapture the glory that made it a dominant force in ’90s hip-hop. His forthcoming album, Death Row Presents Kurupt – Against the Grain (due out next month), is Tha Row’s first major release since 1996. It’s also the label’s best hope for any commercial success, outside of the big checks Knight still receives from Tupac Shakur’s, Snoop’s, and Dre’s best albums.

On a muggy June afternoon, a black G5 Mercedes wagon pulls into Tha Row’s Beverly Hills parking lot with Kurupt in the passenger seat. Unusually perky, the rapper carries a bulging briefcase, two packs of Newports, and a 40-ounce of Budweiser. His wiry, lithe body is swallowed up in a two-piece denim outfit. Having interviewed and hung out with him more than 10 times since 1992, I deem him more focused and clear-eyed than ever before.

“I am trying to improve on my executive game and not just MCing,” he explains, flinging ashes into a cup while we talk in a small conference room. “I’m the senior vice president here at Death Row. My job is strictly music. Simon [Suge Knight] is the brains, the muscle, and the push. I am the decision-maker about what he wants to push. I choose the artists, the music, and the albums created. Anything that has to do with the artists and their grooming, I do that. My job is to give him the product he is going to give to the world.”

Kurupt’s decision to essentially get a check left him in a lurch. Since he returned, both Snoop and Daz have made records dissing him. (He plans to fire back on his new LP.) But Kurupt says his boys didn’t look out. When he needed financial help recently – he was bankrupt and in trouble with the IRS – it was Suge, not Snoop or Dre, who shot him a life preserver.

“I’m getting old,” says the rapper, who’s 31. “I’m a father. I have five kids to take care of. I have more responsibility than ever before. Time moves so fast. Last time I looked up, it was 1993 and 1994. Now we are in 2004 going to 2005.”

Still, diehard fans wondered why Kurupt would join forces with the label he once accused of ignoring him, possibly taking millions out of his pocket, and even threatening his life.

“It’s like a big ol’ masquerade,” Kurupt says with a laugh, musing about his renewed bond with Knight. “But that’s just life. Never say never, because you never know what tomorrow will bring. The past didn’t matter to me and Suge. I didn’t have negative feelings. When I left, I fucked my money off. I had bills. That’s why I went bankrupt.” He adds that he never felt he didn’t get the money he was entitled to. “I was greatly compensated. I just wanted to leave back then and do my own thing. I wanted to know what it was like to be an executive and run my own label.”

Knight, recently released from prison after another probation violation (he reportedly punched a valet at White Lotus restaurant), has refused to speak to the media

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