Yesterday, I published an exclusive interview with Suge Knight at Rolling Stone. It was the first official interview with the controversial former Death Row Records CEO in nearly ten years.
The conversation took place last Friday afternoon (November 22), the day before the 20th anniversary of the release of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle.
He talked to me for about an hour and was quite amiable, speaking at length about Snoop, his fond memories of the early days of Death Row, and about the current state of hip-hop. Here are some outtakes.
On Kendrick Lamar:
Kendrick is a dude that’s an incredible artist. I’m not surprised because he’s from Compton. He grew up in Compton, that’s where he lived at, hung out at, and the guys he hangs with from his neighborhood, is p-folk. So there’s no way it wouldn’t rub off on him. There’s no way that his vision wouldn’t be aggressive or that he wouldn’t have the lyrics he has, if he didn’t grow up there. Kendrick know, anybody from Compton, that’s pretty much saying they’re a Death Row artist. That’s what they grew up to, that’s what they know, that was the people they’re involved with… they mimicked their stuff off of the blueprint I laid down. But Kendrick by far is one of them guys that they can’t fuck with. They can’t fuck with that boy lyrically and they better not sleep. Kendrick got a whole army behind him. He got real love out here.
On the influence of West Coast rap and helping Diddy with The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die album
The West Coast has been dry not because the talent hasn’t been there. You’ve got to let these young guys be them. You got Problem, YG, Joe Moses… you got some real talented [guys]. What usually hurts these guys is that people steal their style and sound before they get famous. The Dogg Pound was coming out, then all of a sudden Kriss Kross starting hanging with them and they started rapping like Daz and Kurupt. Da Brat started thinking she was Snoop. That’s how she got on. They’re mimicking the shit that already been done. And not knocking 50 [Cent], 50 came out and had an incredible album, but at the same time 50’s record is all West Coast. If you look at Biggie’s album, Biggie’s album is all West Coast. The first album. When they did the Biggie album, I helped them with that fucking record. I let Puff use every [The Chronic] sample on [Ready to Die], the hottest record of all time, and didn’t charge them. To show some love. Like here. It ain’t shit. We do this shit like we do. I don’t care if it’s a Down South record or East Coast record. If it’s successful, it’s a West Coast vibe.
On his current involvement with music:
On the music side I’m still about letting people express themselves how they want to. I’m looking forward to putting out more female artists than men artists nowadays. I think that females have a bigger story, they have a bigger struggle and they have more nuts nowadays than most these guys. It’s a real big change from 20 years ago.
On being a mentor:
If God bless you enough for you to grow, and give you a chance to have some good advice, you should. Or not just good advice, you need to be there. Because the kids today is a part of us. Take Chris Brown… Chris Brown is by far the most talented guy in the music business right now. Not just as an artist. But as a businessman, writer and an artist. So instead of us being so hateful, you don’t step on number two to become number one. Just be the best at it and you’ll become number one. So it’s definitely important to me for me to play my position and any time I can help these dudes I love to give something back.
On the difference between rap and hip-hop:
We started saying hip-hop just to get into the arenas so we could have a concert. When they say, “You got a ganster rapper?” We’d say, “No, we got a hip-hop artist.” A rapper period is just way different than a hip-hop artist. A rapper is a guy that came from the inner city. A rapper didn’t come from being rich. A rapper came from talkin about the shit that goes on every day. He’s like a newscaster. He wasn’t the guy doing it but he was lucky enough to hear the stories or see him then pretty much rap about it. That was a big diffierence then. Doggystyle came, and sometime it’s good to get the naked truth. Back then you couldn’t have gave people the naked truth because they wasn’t ready for it.”
Suge Knight is currently working on a documentary about Death Records with director Antoine Fuqua
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