By Paul Russell
12/4/2002 12:56:55 AM
Tags and topics realted to this article include 2Pac and Suge Knight.
In both he presented himself as a serene businessman who is passionate about music and relentlessly optimistic. He is inconsistent when speaking about matters of the street; he presents himself as a survivor who has outgrown the gang scene and its violence, but every time he goes into the studio he walks beneath a handwritten sign: "Keep it Gangsta."
At its peak, Death Row Records was a hit factory led by superstars Tupac Shakur (who recorded as 2Pac), Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and Knight was the dealmaker and details man. But the slaying of Shakur, the defections of Dre and Snoop and Knight's own imprisonment have left that empire diminished.
Renamed simply Tha Row, Knight's company now finds its biggest hits in the music of its past, such as "Better Dayz," a posthumous package of unreleased 2Pac music that today will debut high on the nation's album chart.
But Knight says there is only one full album's worth of unreleased Shakur music remaining. The long-term health of Tha Row will be determined by its new stars. "Death Row is all pictures and memories," Knight acknowledges, "and now it is about Tha Row ... " And so far Tha Row has yet to prove the doubters wrong. The debut album from its most promising new talent, Long Beach rapper Crooked I, was due in stores in September but has yet to be released.
"This is a guy who was a folk hero and a guy everyone talked about or feared," said Huyn Kim, an editor at Vibe, the hip-hop magazine that has tracked Knight's exploits for years. "But now, well, he has to show he can start over and there's a lot stacked against him."
More than a dozen music executives, artists and top publicists interviewed for this story agreed with that appraisal, but none would say it on the record.
"The problem is if you publicly say that Suge still matters, you look like an idiot to everyone," said one publicist with a client list that includes major rap artists and executives. "And if you say he doesn't, well, then you have to deal with Suge."
Find out more about 2Pac. Other items you may find on 2Pac include updates, news, multimedia, chat, links and more. Click here...
Find out more about Suge Knight. Other items you may find on Suge Knight include updates, news, multimedia, chat, links and more. Click here...