washingtonpost.com
The Turbulent Life and Times Of a Rap Mogul

Sunday, June 17, 2007

1965 Marion "Suge" Knight is born in Los Angeles.

1984 Knight, a good student, earns a football scholarship to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

1987 Knight pleads no-contest to charges of attempted murder and car theft. Signs with the Los Angeles Rams as part of their replacement roster during NFL players strike.

1988 Dr. Dre records "Straight Outta Compton," a gangsta rap album, with his group, N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude). It becomes an underground hit and eventually sells 2 million records.

1989 Knight rejoins the Rams; he's cut from the team the same season. He forms his own music publishing company. One of his first big deals involves persuading Vanilla Ice to credit lyricist Mario "Chocolate" Johnson with publishing rights to "Ice, Ice Baby." Rumors abound that Knight secured the deal by dangling Ice by his ankles over a balcony. Both sides later deny the story.

1989 Knight forms a management company; signs The D.O.C. and DJ Quik.

1991 Knight and Dr. Dre form Death Row Records after Knight persuades Eazy-E to release Dre from his Ruthless Records contract.

1992 Dre releases "The Chronic," an instant classic and bestseller featuring newcomer Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Knight is arrested for armed assault of aspiring rappers George and Lynwood Stanley at Solar Records Studio. They reportedly angered him by using a studio phone without his permission. He is placed on probation.

1993 Snoop releases his debut, "Doggystyle," which goes multi-platinum. Snoop, along with two associates, is charged with the murder of Philip Woldemariam. Dr. Dre is convicted of assault. Tupac Shakur is charged with sexual assault.

C. DeLores Tucker starts campaign to protest gangsta rap.

1994 Shakur survives being shot five times during a robbery at a New York recording studio; later he's also sentenced to prison after being convicted of the sexual assault charges. Knight opens Club 662.

1995 Knight pleads guilty to felony assault of the Stanley brothers and is placed on probation after receiving a suspended sentence of nine years.

He and Tucker tussle over gangsta rap; the controversy scuttles a deal with Time Warner. (Knight, today, calls the late Tucker "a great lady.")

Kelly Jamerson, a member of the Crips, is stomped to death at a Death Row party at Los Angeles's El Rey Theatre. Knight insults rival rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs at the televised Source Magazine Awards show; the incident escalates tensions in the East Coast/West Coast rap feud. Knight puts up an appeals bond to get Shakur out of prison; Shakur signs with Death Row. Tha Dogg Pound releases "Dogg Food," which hits double platinum.

1996 Dick Griffey and The D.O.C. file a $75 million suit against Knight. Snoop is acquitted of murder. Shakur's "All Eyez on Me" reaches platinum in four hours and occupies Billboard's No. 1 spot. Shakur is gunned down in a drive-by shooting on the Strip in Las Vegas and later dies. Death Row releases the compilation CD "Christmas on

Death Row" and Shakur's posthumous "Makaveli." Knight is sent to jail on a parole violation.

1997 Biggie Smalls is shot to death in Los Angeles. Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, files a racketeering lawsuit against Knight and his attorney, David Kenner. Knight is sentenced to nine years in prison for violating probation.

1998 Snoop, along with other Death Row artists, leaves the label.

2001 Knight is released from prison and renames his label Tha Row. Signs TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes to a solo deal. She takes on the alias N.I.N.A.

2002 Lopes dies in a car accident in Honduras. Lydia Harris, a onetime Death Row associate, sues Knight and label associates for breach of contract and defamation.

2003 Knight is sentenced to 10 months in prison on a parole violation for allegedly striking a parking lot attendant. An LAPD SWAT team raids the offices of his label, looking for evidence in gang killings. Later, bullets are fired into his label's Beverly Hills offices by an unknown assailant.

2005 Knight is shot in Miami at a party before the MTV Music Awards.

2006 Knight and his label file bankruptcy.

Sources: Court records; the Recording Industry Association of America; Allmusic.com; Rollingstone.com; "LAbyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the Implications of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the Origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal," by Randall Sullivan.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company