Marion Hugh Knight Jr.
Background information
Birth nameMarion Knight, Jr.
Born (1965-04-19) April 19, 1965 (age 55)
OriginCompton, California, USA
GenresHip hop
OccupationsCEO, executive producer
Years active1989–present
LabelsDeath Row, Black Kapital Records, Brick Squad Monopoly
Associated actsTupac Shakur, Irv Gotti, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Lisa Lopes, Waka Flocka Flame, 1017 Brick Squad, MC Hammer
Suge Knight
No. 79     
Defensive End
Personal information
Date of birth: (1965-04-19) April 19, 1965 (age 55)
Place of birth: Lynwood, California
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Weight: 265 lb (120 kg)
Career information
College: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Debuted in 1987 for the Los Angeles Rams
Last played in 1987 for the Los Angeles Rams
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • N/A
Career NFL statistics as of 1987
Games Played     2

Marion Hugh Knight Jr, better known as Suge Knight, (pron.: /ˈʃʊɡ/; born April 19, 1965) is the founder and CEO of Black Kapital Records and co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records. Death Row Records rose to dominate the rap charts after Dr. Dre's breakthrough album The Chronic in 1992. After several years of chart successes for artists including Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Outlawz and Tha Dogg Pound, Death Row Records stagnated after Knight's incarceration on parole violation charges in September 1996.

Early lifeEdit

Marion Hugh Knight was born in Compton, California. His nickname, Suge, derives from "Sugar Bear," a childhood nickname.[1]  He attended Lynwood High School in nearby Lynwood, California where he was a football and track star, graduating in 1983. From 1983 to 1985, he attended El Camino College on a football scholarship.[2]  In 1985, he transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and played there for two years.[3]

After college, Knight was not drafted by an NFL team, but was cut during training camp by the Los Angeles Rams. However, he became a replacement player during the 1987 NFL players' strike, and playing two games for the Rams.[4]  Later, he found work as a concert promoter and a bodyguard for celebrities including Bobby Brown.

Knight was arrested in October 1987 for domestic violence - he assaulted his girlfriend and cut off her ponytail on the street. On Halloween Night 1987, Knight was arrested in Las Vegas for auto theft, carrying a concealed weapon and attempted murder.  He had allegedly shot a man three times while stealing his car.  He pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received two years' probation.[2]

Two years later, Knight formed his own music-publishing company. His first big profit in the business came when Vanilla Ice (Robert Van Winkle) agreed to sign over royalties from Van Winkle's smash hit "Ice Ice Baby" because the song included material written by Knight's client Floyd "Earthquake" Brown. Knight and his bodyguards confronted Van Winkle several times.  On one occasion, Knight entered Van Winkle's hotel room and allegedly dangled him by his ankles off the balcony. (Van Winkle said only that Knight threatened to throw him off the balcony.)  The claim was resolved in court.[2]

Knight next formed an artist management company and signed prominent West Coast hip hop artists The D.O.C. and DJ Quik. Through the former, he met several members of the seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A.

In 1991, Knight had a son, Taj, who is said to be living in Atlanta with his mother, Davina Barnes. In 1993, a second son, Andrew, was born on April 19, Knight's birthday.  Andrew now lives in the Greater Los Angeles as well as his mother, Tia. Knight also has daughters named Posh and Bailei, the latter with R&B singer Michel'le.[5]

Death Row RecordsEdit

Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. wanted to leave both N.W.A. and their label, Ruthless Records, run by Eazy-E, another member of N.W.A. According to N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller, Knight and his henchmen threatened Heller and Eazy-E with lead pipes and baseball bats to make them release Dre, The D.O.C., and Michel'le from their contracts.[6] Ultimately, Dre and DOC co-founded Death Row Records in 1991 with Knight, who vowed to make it "the Motown of the '90s."

Initially, Knight fulfilled his ambitions: he secured a distribution deal with Interscope, and Dre's 1992 solo debut, The Chronic, has sold over three million copies.[7] It also made a career for Dre's protégé, Snoop Dogg, whose debut album Doggystyle was another multi-platinum album.[8]

Meanwhile, Death Row had begun a public feud with 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, and when Knight traveled to Miami for a hip-hop convention in 1993, he was apparently seen openly carrying a stolen gun. The following year, he opened a private, by-appointment-only nightclub in Las Vegas called Club 662, so named because the numbers spelled out MOB, which stands for Money over Bitches, on telephone keypads. In 1995, he ran afoul of activist C. Delores Tucker, whose criticism of Death Row's glamorization of the "gangsta" lifestyle may have helped scuttle a lucrative deal with Time Warner.

Addition of Tupac Shakur and MC HammerEdit

Knight's feud with East Coast impresario Sean Combs (known as Puff Daddy at the time) progressed when Knight insulted the Bad Boy label founder on air at the Source Awards in August 1995. Openly critical of Combs's tendency of ad-libbing on his artists' songs and dancing in their videos, Knight announced to the audience, "Anyone out there who wanna be a recording artist and wanna stay a star, but don't have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos, all on the records, dancing, come to Death Row."

The same year, Knight offered to post a bail ($1.4 million) for Tupac Shakur if the troubled rapper agreed to sign with Death Row. Shakur agreed, setting the stage for his 1996 double album All Eyez on Me and the songs "California Love" and "How Do U Want It".

MC Hammer's (Stanley Kirk Burrell) relationship with Suge Knight dates back to 1988. With the success of Hammer's 1994 album, The Funky Headhunter (featuring Tha Dogg Pound), Hammer signed with Death Row Records by 1995, along with Snoop Dogg and his close friend, Tupac.[9] The label did not release the album of Hammer's music (titled Too Tight) while he had a career with them, although he did release versions of some tracks on his next album.[10][11] However, Hammer did record tracks with Shakur and others, most notably the song "Too Late Playa" (along with Big Daddy Kane and Danny Boy).[12][13] After the death of Shakur in 1996, Burrell left the record company.[14] He later explained his concern about this circumstance in an interview on Trinity Broadcasting Network since he was in Las Vegas with Tupac the night of his death.[15] Hammer released 2Pac's "Unconditional Love", on his Family Affair album, in 1998.

The friendships between Hammer (played by Romany Malco), Shakur (played by Lamont Bentley) and Knight (played by Anthony Norris) were depicted in the television film, Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story (airing on VH1 in 2001).

Loss of Dr. Dre and TupacEdit

The label suffered a major blow when Dr. Dre, frustrated with the company's increasingly thuggish reputation and Knight's violent inclinations, decided to leave and form his own label. A stream of Dre-dissing records followed, but things turned tragic in September 1996, when Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

When Shakur's East Coast rival, The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls), was murdered in a similar shooting in March 1997, speculation arose that Knight was involved and that B.I.G.'s death was a revenge killing;[16] although former Death Row artists like Snoop Dogg would later state that Knight was involved in Tupac's murder as well.[17] Subsequent investigations exposed a web of connections between Death Row Records, gang members who worked there, and LAPD officers who sometimes worked security for the label. Author Randall Sullivan claimed that the majority of clues found by investigators assigned to B.I.G.’s killing “pointed... directly at Mikey g sixx”.[18] Mario Ha’mmonds, a convicted felon who shared a cell block with Knight at California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California in the late 1990s, claimed that Knight took credit for the murder, and quoted him as saying, “My people handled the business. They took care of him. . . ”[18] No one has been charged in connection with the crime, however, and Knight has denied any involvement.

Tupac Shakur's bodyguard, Frank Alexander, produced a documentary about the murder, Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake, in which he stated that it would be inconceivable that Knight, who was the driver of the car in which Tupac was killed, and a very large man, would put himself in the path of bullets if he knew they were coming. In the documentary, Alexander also states that he has no reason to suspect Suge Knight, and that Knight treated the security people "very well" at all times. In addition, Cathy Scott, who worked closely with the LAPD during her career as a journalist, stated on the same documentary that "The LAPD found no evidence whatsoever that implicated Suge Knight." She also said, "You can be sure that if the LAPD had ANY evidence that Suge Knight was involved in Tupac's killing they would have arrested him." Cathy Scott wrote a book entitled The Killing of Tupac Shakur. On a website entitled Archived Letters Scott writes back to a fan of her book, stating, "Thanks very much for your note. Re: your question about Suge Knight, there never was any evidence — or even alleged evidence —linking Suge to Tupac's murder in any way, shape or form. He was never a suspect. The Biggie and Tupac documentary was based solely on one disgruntled ex-cop's theory. He despised Suge and wanted to see him go down."

In 2006, nine years after the "Biggie Smalls" murder, the LAPD formed a task force to finally solve the case. According to its principal investigator, LAPD officer Greg Kading, Duane "Keefe D" Davis, a member of the "Crips" street gang, confessed to riding in the car involved in the Las Vegas drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur.[16][19] Keefe D claimed they had been offered "a million dollars" by Puffy Combs for the killing of Tupac and Suge Knight.[16] While in Las Vegas he and a group of fellow Crips accidentally crossed paths with a limousine carrying both Knight and Shakur. The fatal shots were fired by Orlondo "Baby Lane" Anderson because he was on the side of the car closest to the limousine. In retaliation, Suge Knight hired Wardel "Pouchie" Fouse to hit Puffy Combs' most valuable star, Biggie Smalls, a hit accomplished following a party at the Peterson Automotive Museum. Pouchie later survived one assassination attempt but died in a drive by shooting a year following the first attack. Despite the task force's findings, charges were never brought and the task force was wound down and disbanded for reasons of "internal affairs."[20]

After the death of Tupac Shakur and the release of Tha Doggfather, Snoop Dogg openly blasted Suge Knight for the murder of Shakur and decided to leave the label, which he did in 1997, moving to Master P's No Limit Records and then forming his own record label, Doggystyle Records. In 2002, Snoop released the song "Pimp Slapp'd", in which he repudiated Suge and Death Row. In 2006, Snoop again attacked Knight verbally, charging him for the death of Tupac Shakur. Suge responded, stating that Snoop is a "police informer" as he "never goes to jail".

End of Death Row RecordsEdit

On April 4, 2006, Suge Knight filed bankruptcy due to civil litigation against him in which Lydia Harris claimed to have been cheated out of a 50% stake in Death Row Records. Prior to filing, Knight had been ordered to pay $107 million to Harris.[21] Under questioning by creditors, he denied having money tucked away in foreign countries or in an African company that deals in diamonds and gold. Bankruptcy documents filed showed Knight had no income that year from employment or operation of a business. According to financial records, his bank account contained just $12, and he owned clothing worth $1,000, furniture and appliances valued at $2,000, and jewelry worth $25,000. He also testified that the last time he had checked the label’s financial records was at least 10 years prior. Knight’s lawyer said that his client was still “at the helm” of Death Row and had been working on securing distribution deals for the label’s catalog. Harris told reporters she had received a $1 million payment but had not agreed to settle the matter. "I'm telling you, I didn't do a settlement for $1 million. That's ridiculous. Let's keep it real," she said.[22]

Knight skipped a meeting with his creditors after injuring himself in a motorcycle accident. Another scheduled meeting with the creditors had been missed after Suge said he had experienced a death in his family. Finally on July 7, 2006, the federal judge, Ellen Carroll, ordered a bankruptcy trustee takeover of Suge Knight's Death Row Records, saying the record label had undergone a gross amount of mismanagement.

He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which allows a company to continue business operations while restructuring. Death Row was being operated by Neilson during the bankruptcy proceedings, while Knight oversaw his bankruptcy estate as a debtor in possession.

In June 2007, he placed his seven-bedroom, 9½-bath home in Malibu on the market for $6.2 million as part of his "financial makeover". The mansion was finally sold in December 2008 in bankruptcy court for $4.56 million.[23]

In June 2008, he sold Death Row Records to New York-based company Global Music Group, which confirmed it had purchased the firm in a statement to the Associated Press news agency.[24][25]

On January 25, 2009, an auction was held for everything found in the Death Row Records office after the company filed for bankruptcy, including some of Knight's personal items. Of note was the Death Row Records electric chair which sold for $2,500. Some of Knight's personal items appeared in an auction during the debut episode of A&E's Storage Wars, and a vault full of items (including a coat) was purchased by featured buyer Barry Weiss.[26]

Personal and legal troubles Edit

In 1996, Knight was sent to prison for a probation violation. In 1997, he was sentenced to nine years for the violation. He was released on August 6, 2001.[27]

In 2003, he was sent to prison again for violating parole when he struck a parking lot attendant.[28] Death Row Records' income rapidly declined due to Knight's incarceration. It managed to save itself from complete bankruptcy by releasing archived Snoop Dogg compilation albums and posthumous Tupac albums. Despite signing new artists, Suge never released any of their albums.

In 2005, Knight was shot in the leg at the Red Room at Miami Beach's Shore Club.[29] To date, no one has been charged in the shooting.

In 2006 Knight was engaged in another dispute with former friend and ex-associate Snoop Dogg after Snoop insulted him in Rolling Stone.

On May 10, 2008, Knight was involved in an altercation involving a monetary dispute outside of a nightclub in Hollywood. He was knocked out for 3 minutes, taken to the hospital, and reportedly did not cooperate with the LAPD.

On August 27, 2008, Knight was arrested on drug and aggravated assault charges after leaving a Las Vegas strip club. When police arrived on the scene, Knight was beating Melissa Isaac, his girlfriend of three years, and brandishing a knife. Reports also allege that he was under the influence of both ecstasy and hydrocodone. As of October 31, police and prosecutors had still failed to contact Isaac, and no formal charges have been brought against Knight.[30] On December 5, 2008 Suge Knight was cleared of all charges. Knight’s attorney, David Chesnoff, said the prosecution had "discovery problems and witness problems." Prosecutor Susan Benedict did not immediately return a call for comment. When Knight was asked about the positive verdict he replied "God is good, Happy Holidays".

As part of an October 30, 2008 bankruptcy claim, Suge also filed a lawsuit against Kanye West and his associates. The lawsuit concerns an August 2005 shooting at Kanye's pre-Video Music Awards party, where Knight suffered a gunshot wound to the upper leg.[31][32] The lawsuit cites damages of mental and physical pain caused by the shooting, costs of surgery, loss of income and the theft of a 15-carat (3.0 g) $147,000 diamond earring.

In late March, 2009, Knight was implicated in the robbery of Akon producer, Noel "Detail" Fisher. According to Christopher Walker, an employee of Detail, on the morning of March 25, 2009, five armed men broke into Detail's house, stating that they were collecting a debt on behalf of Knight. $170,000 worth of jewelry was stolen, along with a locked safe, stereo equipment and the key to a Mercedes vehicle. Walker claims the incident is related to the altercation at the W Scottsdale Hotel in February.[citation needed]

Knight started a new record label called Blackball Records, with its first artist Young Life and featured it in a reality show, Unfinished Business. The show was based on Knight dispelling long-standing rumors in sit down interviews, his days with Death Row and the artists he worked with, and finding new talent for his record label. As of April 2009, the show had not been picked up by any major network.

Remaining items from Knight's personal property were auctioned in the first episode of Storage Wars on A&E, which aired on December 1, 2010.

On February 8, 2012, Suge Knight was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, on prior outstanding traffic warrants and after police found marijuana in his car. Knight was serving three years' unsupervised probation for driving with a suspended license at the time of his Las Vegas arrest.[33]

On February 24, 2013 an arrest warrant was issued after Knight missed a court date on charges of driving without a license while on three years of unsupervised probation.


  1. Hirschberg, Lynn (1996-01-14). "Does a Sugar Bear Bite?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Suge Knight bio
  3. Rachael Levy, Former coaches portray Knight in positive light, Las Vegas Sun, September 10, 1996.  Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  4.,Biography for Marion "Suge" Knight.  Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  5. "Michel'le". Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  6. Suge Knight gets knocked out May 21st 2008 09:24 (2008-05-21). "Suge Knight gets knocked out". Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  7. "Gold & Platinum - February 12, 2010". RIAA. 1993-03-18. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  8. Rollin' Wich Dre: The Unauthorized Account: An Insider's Tale of the Rise, Fall, and Rebirf of West Coast Hip Hop (Williams/Alexander, 2008) ISBN 0-345-49822-4
  9. "MC Hammer Interview - part 1". June 1997. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  10. "MC Hammer". MTV.
  11. "MC Hammer". MTV.
  12. "2pac Too Late Playa Feat Mc Hammer, Big Daddy Kane, Nutt-so Danny Boy".,_Big_Daddy_Kane,_Nutt-So_Danny_Boy. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  13. Burgess, Omar (2009-03-18). "Death Row Records: The Pardon | Rappers Talk Hip Hop Beef & Old School Hip Hop". HipHop DX. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  14. "MC Hammer Interview - part 2". June 1997. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
  15. "What had happened was MC Hammer". March 2009.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 VIDEO: Greg Kading's Book Says Sean Combs, Suge Knight Ordered Tupac and Biggie Killings By LA Weekly Mon., Oct. 3 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 "The Unsolved Mystery of the Notorious B.I.G.". (Rolling Stone). December 5, 2005. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  19. Gred Kading LA Weekly
  20. Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations by the Detective Who Solved Both Cases, Greg Kading, One Time Publishing, 2011. ISBN 0-9839554-8-4 Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  21. Taylor, Steve. Rap Mogul ‘Suge’ Knight Declares Bankruptcy, The Deadbolt, April 5, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  22. Deutsch, Linda. Rap Mogul Knight Details Business Woes, The Washington Post, May 5, 2006. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  23. - Suge Knight's Mansion Sold In Bankruptcy Court. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  24. "Suge Knight knocked out in nightclub fight", United Press International
  25. Death Row label is sold for $24m, BBC News, July 15, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  26. "Electric chair is hot item at Death Row Records auction". The Orange County Register. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  27. [1], Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  28. Teresa Wiltz (June 17, 2007). "Like Knight and Day? Gangsta Rap Brought 'Suge' Knight Wealth -- and Lots of Trouble. Now He's Singing a Different Tune.". The Washington Post.
  29. "Suge Knight Recovering After Being Shot At Kanye West Party In Miami". MTV.
  30. By Lenny_V (2008-10-31). "Still no charges filed". Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  31. By MTV News staff report (2005-08-28). "Suge Knight Recovering After Being Shot At Kanye West Party In Miami - News Story | Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV News". Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  32. 6:46 p.m. ET (2005-08-30). "Who shot Suge Knight? - Access Hollywood -". MSNBC. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  33. "Suge Knight Arrested After Cops Find Weed [Mug Shot". 2012-02-09. Retrieved 2013-03-17.

Further readingEdit

  • The Killing of Tupac Shakur. by Cathy Scott[2], Huntington Press, October 1, 2002, 235 pages, ISBN 0-929712-20-X
  • The Murder of Biggie Smalls by Cathy Scott, St. Martin's Press, 210 pages, 2000. ISBN 978-0312266202
  • Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations by the Detective Who Solved Both Cases, Greg Kading, One Time Publishing, 2011. ISBN 0-9839554-8-4
  • Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records, Ronin Ro, Doubleday, 1998, 384 pages, ISBN 0-385-49134-4
  • Labyrinth: Corruption and Vice in the L.A.P.D.: The truth behind the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls by Randall Sullivan, Atlantic Monthly Press, April 2, 2002, 384 pages, ISBN 0-87113-838-7
  • Suge Knight: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Death Row Records: The Story of Marion 'Suge' Knight, a Hard Hitting Study of One Man, One Company That Changed the Course of American Music Forever by Jake Brown, Amber Books, October 1, 2001, 218 pages, ISBN 0-9702224-7-5
  • Biggie & Tupac. Dir. Nick Broomfield. Lafayette Films, 2002.
  • Philips, Chuck. "Who Killed Tupac Shakur? How Vegas Police Probe Foundered." Los Angeles Times. 7 Sept. 2002, p. 1.
  • Raftery, Brian M. "A B.I.G. Mystery." Entertainment Weekly. 27 Sept. 2002, p. 19.
  • Scott, Cathy. "The Unsolved Murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls." Crime Magazine. July 23, 2012, page 1.
  • "Suge Knight Sentenced to 10 Months for Parole Violation." 31 July 2003.
  • Sullivan, Randall. LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2002.
  • Welcome To Death Row. Dir. S. Leigh Savidge & Jeff Scheftel, 2001

External linksEdit

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