Retrospective: Death Row Records

By @TrueGodImmortal

With the release of the biopic "Straight Outta Compton", there has been talk of a "sequel" talking about Death Row Records, and we had to touch on this epic time in hip hop and the era. The beginning of the Death Row Era was rooted in dark controversy, as the fallout from the Ruthless Records led to the origin. However, there were some shady dealings and tactics, such as hanging Vanilla Ice out a window(or at least threatening to do so) until he signed over rights to the "Ice, Ice Baby" song. The details on Marion Knight's involvement in the underworld are always hard to decipher and clarify, so I won't even start here. However, as Dr. Dre began feeling unhappy in his situation with Ruthless and Jerry Heller in particular, he decided to leave with The D.O.C. and start up Death Row with Marion Knight, now known as Suge Knight.

With the pieces in place, Suge and Dre began working on getting their brand off the ground and the first true bit of success came with a song on the soundtrack to the film Deep Cover. Dr. Dre and a new upstart from California named Snoop Doggy Dogg combined to create the single "Deep Cover" telling you that its always "187 on a muthafucking cop". From there, work began on a solo album from Dre, and when this hit, nothing would ever be the same again for Death Row.

The Death Row roster was beginning to get stacked at this point. The Dogg Pound, Dre, Snoop, even folks like The Lady Of Rage and Nate Dogg were a part of the Death Row family, even if they weren't actually signed. As 1992 neared the end, Dr. Dre would release his first solo album "The Chronic" and it helped to shift hip hop in many ways. The G-Funk driven West Coast sound was truly honed and finessed with this album. With singles such as "Nuthin But A G Thang", "Let Me Ride" and even the Ruthless Records/Eazy E diss "Fuck With Dre Day", the album went on to sell over 4 million copies, making it a huge success and putting Death Row truly on the map. Suge was becoming known for his strong arm tactics as this was going on, and Death Row seemed to stay in beef. While The Chronic was successful and made a solo star out of Dre, it also set the tone for Snoop's true arrival into the game.

Snoop's debut album "Doggystyle" was an instant success when it released in November 1993, surpassing even the sales of The Chronic, by moving 5 million copies. This solidifed Death Row as a force to be reckoned with even more stars to come. As soon as the success came for Snoop however, he was with a murder charge and everything looked to be coming to a screeching halt unfortunately. In the meantime, Death Row kept busy by releasing the Above The Rim soundtrack which ended up going 2X platinum, moving about 2.1 million copies in total. Before getting to the Dogg Pound album, Death Row released the soundtrack to Murder Was The Case, playing off the issues Snoop was going through. The soundtrack would also go 2X platinum and set everything on the right path for the future. Death Row seemed unstoppable.

As The Dogg Pound geared up to release their album "Dogg Food", the Death Row crew made their presence known at the 1995 Source Awards, when Suge took shots at Puff Daddy live on stage. This would be the spark of a Death Row vs Bad Boy feud billed as the East Coast vs West Coast. What made matters worse was that Death Row had their sights set on an imprisoned Tupac Shakur, who would be bailed out by Suge and signed to Death Row instantly. Tupac began working feverishly on an album. However in October 1995, The Dogg Pound album would release, sparking the true East vs West feud with the song and video for "New York, New York". As 2Pac neared completion of his album, Death Row was in for a hell of a run to continue. However, some things were about to change.

For one, lost in all this madness was the fact that MC Hammer had signed to Death Row. No longer the pop rapper he started as, Hammer wanted to try his hand at gangsta rap but it just didn't work. And while 2Pac's first Death Row album was near, the man who started the whole movement truthfully was leaving. Dr. Dre could not deal with the stress and ended up leaving Death Row to go form his company Aftermath Records. Dre leaving altered a lot for Death Row, as Pac took the role of the top star surpassing everyone. His double album "All Eyez On Me", did enormous numbers and positioned him as the no. 1 artist in the game and certainly as the guy for Death Row. The album spawned tons of hits and would signal the beginning to the end of Death Row and their era. As 2Pac was murdered in September 1996, we saw Death Row at a crossroads as they need to figure out their next move. Unfortunately, Suge would get a charge during the Vegas trip that saw Pac murdered. Being sentenced to serve 10 years at the biggest moment of Death Row was a huge setback and despite the success of Makaveli(released after Pac's death) and Snoop's second album The Doggfather, nothing was the same.

While The Lady of Rage and Daz would release albums via Death Row, their true attempt at a comeback materializes in the 2002 XXL issue with Crooked I, Left Eye(RIP), Eastwood and Kurupt. However, after Left Eye's passing, that never came about. The Death Row Era was one of aggression, fun, and more. The great artists, the beefs, the albums, and the tragedies, it was one of the greatest eras in hip hop.



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