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The Endless Fall of Suge Knight

Page 9 of The Endless Fall of Suge Knight Rolling Stone


Knight's most recent troubles apparently began like many Suge Knight stories: with him thinking that somebody owed him money. The upcoming N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton — co-produced by Dre and Ice Cube, and due out in August — was getting attention after a teaser leaked in December. "People working on the set were calling and telling Suge, 'Hey, man, this movie is really [becoming] a Death Row movie,' with a Suge look-alike in the movie beating up people in the studio and all that," says Reggie Wright, a childhood friend of Knight's who worked at Death Row from 1994 to 2002. "Suge felt like they were using his likeness in this movie without consulting him."

On the afternoon of January 29th, Knight drove up to the production's base camp in his red Ford Raptor pickup, breezing past the film's security. Dre's bodyguards would not move him while Knight was on the premises, leaving producers in a panic. Cle "Bone" Sloan – a "nonactive" gang member who was working as a technical adviser to the movie – stepped in, confronting Knight. Sloan said later that he had heard there was a "problem" between "[Knight] and Dre or somebody." The confrontation turned into a shouting match. Sloan said he told Knight, "Why don't you leave so we can move forward? You got the white folks scared!"


With the door to the NFL closed, Knight used his size to get into the music business, working as a bodyguard for Bobby Brown. Knight began moving in the same circles as rapper the D.O.C., as well as Dre, Eazy-E, Cube — and a young MC named Mario Johnson, who complained that he'd written much of Vanilla Ice's To the Extreme. Knight saw his opportunity, which supposedly led to the notorious hotel-room confrontation with the white Florida rapper. Ice settled with Knight for an unspecified amount. It was his first big payday.

The next breakthrough came when D.O.C., Dre and Knight hatched a plan to get the rappers out of their contracts with Heller's Ruthless Records. Death Row was founded in 1991, and the next few years were gilded with hits: Dre's 1992 classic The Chronic went triple-platinum, followed by Snoop Dogg's quadruple-platinumDoggystyle. In the space of a few years, Knight had inserted himself into the heart of West Coast hip-hop and taken over.

Stashed in: Hip Hop, Music, Rolling Stone!, @snoopdogg, 1990s, @drdre, @icecube

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It's hard to imagine 1990s hip hop without Suge Knight. 

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