Suge Knight Talks ‘Doggystyle’ And Russell Simmons Almost Swiping Snoop Dogg From Him

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/ November 25, 2013

After Snoop Dogg’s iconic debut Doggystyle turned 20 this past weekend, Rolling Stone had the opportunity to speak with one of the LP’s key figures and Death Row Records co-founder Marion “Suge” Knight. He speaks about helping the D-O-Double-G avoid jail time after the LP’s release, Death Row being a blueprint for major labels, the status of his relationship with Snoop and more. See the highlights below:

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.

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.

Snoop’s shown you a lot of love recently, said many positive things. There was that photo of you guys at a club together last February. What’s your relationship like with him?
My relationship with him is where it’s supposed to be. It’s respectful on both ends. I could never turn around and say I hate this mothafucka, because he’s a part of my life and I’m a part of his life. There was times starting this business with Death Row that some people were scared to go out of town, scared to go to New York. I’d come grab him, we’d go straight to the airport, just me and him, no entourage, not one person with us. We’d get our room, we’d go hang out, we’d be everywhere. We would go there, post up, enjoy the city, respect the city, and that went so far. Therefore, I owe a lot of credit, and a lot of other people owe a lot of credit, because if Snoop’s not gonna hit the road with me and hit all those spots, I couldn’t have did it, because I’m the business man. I’m not the artist, I’m not the talent. And pretty much everyone else was scared to go.

Go on.
[Snoop] played a role and built a lot of things. Built the West and built hip-hop. I think the things that happen in any relationship in business when you both come from the ghetto, it’s just [because of] the people that are your distributors. It might be a guy who’s not black, but he’s in the same business with you, and you’re gonna have a relationship. And they can never have a relationship with Snoop the way I have a relationship with him because you out four o’clock in the morning in different states, different countries, different streets, through good and bad. And the next person, they can only offer you a check. If you’re Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen, you can’t say “[Snoop], you got the best deal in the world.” You’re gonna say, “You got the worst fucked up deal in the world and I can make it better for you.” And that’s what Russell and them did. Russell went to Snoop and flew him to New York and said, “I want to do a deal with you for Doggystyle.”

So Russell Simmons tried to steal Snoop from you?
They figured if they could work it out with Snoop, they could work it out with Jimmy [Iovine], and where that leave me? So then that’s when people turned around and said, “Oh, Death Row mothafuckas is some fucked up motherfuckas, and Suge Knight’s an aggressive mothafucka.” Because somebody had to put their foot so far up Russell’s ass he thought he was in the hot tub with the guys he usually be with. [Laughs.] We had to go out there and literally smash them. If not, they’d take your shit. I still give Snoop the credit; he still sat down with Death Row and we made it happen. We all more mature now

Read the full interview here.

Photo Credit: Getty