DAR Hip Hop: The Greatest Death Row Records Artists

By @TrueGodImmortal

Once upon a time, Death Row Records had the music world on lockdown. Through the mid 90's, there was no other label that had the momentum that they would possess and whkle some others would arise as the Death Row reign came to an end, the truth is, Death Row had left a mark that no one could replicate for the West Coast. I remember watching the rise of the G-Funk era, the beginning of the label with Suge Knight, The D.O.C., and Dr. Dre as pivotal founding pieces, and how they took over hip hop. Today, I wanted to take a look at the greatest artists to come through Death Row and list their importance and impact as well. Some names that were around Death Row at the time are not mentioned like The D.O.C. and RBX, as they never really released anything with the label, and would disappear from the projects as the year progressed. Today, the artists we take a look at are the pivotal ones and the forgotten ones that made an impact within the label. Let's take a look at the greatest Death Row artists.

*Dr. Dre

-The true centerpiece of this entire thing. Dr. Dre is the reason Death Row existed and was able to be successful. Let's be real. Suge was strong arming the competition and forcing the deals to be done, but without Dre as the face, the label would not have taken off the same way. Snoop might not be who he is if not for Dre introducing him to the world and working side by side with him. Dre was the one who led the charge, beefing with Eazy E and Ruthless Records in the name of Death Row and starting the label off with his classic solo debut The Chronic. His debut is a legendary moment in the genre overall and it was the beginning of the Death Row story. Dre would also make contributions to Snoop's debut, the soundtracks, and Tha Dogg Pound album before leaving the label around the time Pac was arriving. Pac and Dre would make the classic "California Love" together before Dre left and was dissed by Pac and Suge, but that doesn't take away from what Dre did for the label. Without Dre, Suge wouldn't exist in the business and Death Row as a whole wouldn't exist. It is that simple.

*The Lady Of Rage

-So, honestly, The Lady Of Rage is one of the best female rappers that tends to go underrated and almost forgotten. She had the skills that made the listeners intrigued and shortly after her appearance on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, there were a lot of fans clamoring for a release from Rage. While she went on to have a solid career in film and television, one has to wonder what could have been had she released her album during the Death Row heyday. Her project eventually released under the Death Row umbrella in 1997, after the departures of Dr. Dre and others, and after the death of 2Pac. Her debut album Necessary Roughness was a solid release, and her mark was left on the Death Row brand everytime she stepped up to the mic.


-So, it is strange to think about it.... but Michel'le has been involved in controversy all her life and was absolutely a big part of Death Row more so on the personal end than anything. She had relationships with both Dre and Suge, but she would also make random appearances on Death Row releases, most notably Dogg Food by Tha Dogg Pound. She would release a solo album on Death Row as well in 1998, two years after the final major year for the label. Her album, titled Hung Jury was not a successful release, but because of her connection and history with the label, Michel'le has to get a mention here.


-While she was never the artist releasing solo projects, Jewell was a force on the Death Row albums, appearing on just about every release during the Death Row prime. Jewell was never the most popular vocalist nor is she remembered like she should be, but her contributions to The Chronic, Doggystyle, Above The Rim and Murder Was The Case soundtracks, and All Eyez On Me helped give the label an added flavor and she certainly earned the title "First Lady Of Death Row".

*Nate Dogg

-So, of course. We know very well who Nate Dogg was as an artist and a hook master. He was the assist man for a number of artists, West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, South, you name it. Nate was willing to put his vocals on any record that needed it and he would steal the show without an issue. He made his Death Row debut on The Chronic, providing the hooks for a number of songs, and then he would steal the show on Snoop's debut as well. Nate was one of the best artists on the label and his work on the albums from Dre, Snoop, Tha Dogg Pound, and 2Pac make him a Death Row legend even without releasing a solo album on the label. Another bad business move from Death Row not capitalizing on the greatness of Nate with an official solo album during their prime. Regardless, Nate is a West Coast legend and a Death Row legend without a doubt.

*Danny Boy

-So, when he joined the label, no one knew what to expect of Danny Boy or who he really was. While that would be revealed more as time passed by, the truth is, Danny Boy was very important to the label in the later years, especially once 2Pac arrived. He made his debut on the Murder Was The Case soundtrack, would record an album titled It's About Time (that finally saw official release in 2010, 14 years after it was recorded), and provided 2Pac with memorable hooks on his two Death Row projects. The work Danny put forth on All Eyez On Me added a lot to the double album and despite never releasing his project during the Death Row heyday, Danny Boy is definitely a label legend in many ways.

*Snoop Dogg

-The truth is, if Dr. Dre is the centerpiece of Death Row and the most important part of the label history, Snoop is right there just a notch below him. Snoop was the next generation of Death Row so to speak, as he was younger than Dre, had just made his debut in the game when he got to Death Row and had his own crew alongside him in Tha Dogg Pound. Snoop would release a successful debut album in Doggystyle, which is  widely regarded as one of the greatest albums in hip hop. In addition to his appearances on every Death Row release and a second release on the label titled Tha Doggfather, Snoop would rep for his label every chance he got, making it known that his home was Death Row Records, even being a central part of the East vs West beef in the early stages. Snoop was a legend for the label and his time in Death Row was groundbreaking for a number of reasons.

*Tha Dogg Pound

-So, one of my favorite pieces of the Death Row run is when this group released their ddebut album. When it first dropped, I was way too young to appreciate it, but as the years passed, I would soon grow to love the Dogg Food album and every song on it. Daz and Kurupt separately had some greatness on the label, as Daz would help produce a number of tracks, while Kurupt would steal the show on a number of guest appearances, but the reality is, the duo worked much better together, as evidenced by their debut. Dogg Food is one of the best albums from the West Coast in general and is a pivotal album in the Death Row history, along with the numerous guest appearances they make over the other releases. You can't mention Death Row and leave out Dogg Pound. Period.


-So, yes. You cannot mention Death Row without mentioning Pac because in many ways, he was saving the label at a time when they probably needed it. Imagine there being no Pac there to cover up the loss of Dr. Dre and the next Snoop album being critically panned and a slight failure commercially. Without Pac, the label definitely has no other star to carry the torch and there was no one like Pac on the label ever in the history. Snoop was a star, Dre was a star, but Pac was in a league of his own. Pac's initial working relationship with the label started in 1994 during the work he contributed to the Above The Rim soundtrack, but his main contributions to the label are of course his two Death Row albums, the arguable classics All Eyez On Me and the Makaveli project, The 7 Day Theory. Pac would sell an enormous amount of albums, earning Death Row their only diamond plaque in the label's history. In a short time, Pac made his lasting impact on the label and certified himself as a true hip hop legend.



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