Monday, November 25, 2013

A Very Rare Suge Knight Piece


The Death Row Records co-founder looks back at Snoop's debut



This past weekend, Snoop Dogg's debut album Doggystyle turned the 20. Back in 1993, the lanky 21-year-old from Long Beach, Calif. was riding high on his breakout performances from Dr. Dre's The Chronic, but he'd been implicated in the murder of Philip Woldemariam and had a murder trial looming. The Doggfather unquestionably had all eyes on him.
Doggystyle went on to sell millions of copies and spawned successful singles like "What's My Name," "Gin & Juice" and "Murder Was the Case." It was the second project released by Death Row Records, a label that Dr. Dre co-founded with Marion "Suge" Knight. It was Knight's executive muscle that helped Snoop avoid jail a few years after its release, but following the 1996 murder of his label mate Tupac Shakur and Knight's subsequent incarceration, their relationship soured. And it remained that way for years — until last February, when Snoop instagrammed a photo of the pair at an L.A. club. They'd finally made amends.
In a rare interview with Rolling Stone, Suge Knight looks back on the Doggystyle legacy.
What do you remember most about what went into making Doggystyle?
We were able to make sure [Snoop] didn't go to prison to make the album. We only had one song done, and then after that it was the [Philip Woldemariam] murder case and the trial. When we got ready to start the trial, $5 million had to be paid to a legal team. And at the time Snoop never sold no records. Jimmy [Iovine], Interscope, those guys were saying they're not going to participate in trying to help keep him out of prison, because they didn't think they were capable of doing it. Because of the simple fact that it was a murder case. If he would have got found guilty, he'd have died in prison. He'd have been there the rest of his life.

Did Snoop think he was going to go to jail?
Everybody thought he was going to go. A few times in court they asked him to stand up, and Snoop would actually get weak in the knees and fall back down. It was a lot of pressure. But it was still good to be able to come through and pull that off for him because it opened it up a bunch of doors and showed the world a different side of rap music.

One of the things about Doggystyle and The Chronic too, is that these albums incorporated music it sounded like you guys grew up listening to with your parents. 
At that time, any time you got in my car, it was always old shit in my CD changer. Tupac would hop in my whips to go grab a broad or something. We'd be at the studio and he'd go grab the keys, hop in that mothafucka and drive and call back and be like "Hey, I'm in your car but why you don't got no good music?" It would be Al Green, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway. I'd give shit to everybody [and] because everybody heard it so much, everybody took took a liking to it, and adopted it. My family, that's all we grew up on was those oldies. So it wasn't nothing for people on the West Coast to take ideas or concepts from those old records and make them into hits. Even Snoop, his folks are from Mississippi also. People from the South, they was buying 45s and 33s, they was playing those albums… that was a big influence on every record on Death Row.

The album was highly anticipated. Was that something you could feel when you went in to make the record?
Shit, yeah, definitely. One thing about Snoop at those times, you could call him and say, "Let's go here, let's go there," and he's gonna show up ready to go. He was hungry, ready to eat, ready to work. More importantly, it was that I believed in him as an artist. The first day before Doggystyle was shipped or anything, I had 800 trucks, 18-wheelers… filled with nothing but posters, snipes and all kinds of stuff.

What do you remember about Doggystyle's production?

[It] was was pretty much luck. Everybody thought [Dr. Dre] would be doing the records, but Daz pretty much did the whole album. And at the end of the day, once Daz finished it, everybody wanted Andre to get the credit. Next thing I know Daz is having a meeting with Andre and them and came back and said, "It's okay, give me a few bucks and I'll sign anything over that says produced by Andre instead of me."

"Ain't No Fun"… one of the homies from The Swans [ed note: the Mad Swan Bloods, or MSB, are a Los Angeles subset of The Bloods street gang] named Pooh, all them dudes already had a record done. And they came and played it for us in the studio. They played us the demo. Everybody looked at it like it was alright. And then after they left, shit, everybody was chopping that same beat.
Doggystyle came out a year after the L.A. riots. Death Row was a black-owned business. What kind of statement did that make?
Death Row wasn't only a black-owned record label, Death Row was pretty much the only American-owned record label. Everything else was either Sony or some other thing. It became the blueprint for any label that's out, including the majors. I was the first person doing 360 degree deals with all the artists; the majors would tell the artists, "It's the worst piece of shit deal in the world, don't go for it." And now they're doing it.



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