In 2001, an iconic documentary was released chronicling the rise and fall of West Coast label Death Row Records entitled Welcome To Death Row. Produced by Santa Monica-based production company Xenon Pictures, the documentary explored many different subjects, from the making of Dr Dre’s The Chronic to the various feuds that Suge Knight had during the label’s heyday.
One feud that has been misconstrued and twisted over the years is one between Knight and the ‘Ice Ice Baby’ emcee Vanilla Ice. This beef allegedly ended up in Knight dangling the rapper from a balcony, threatening to kill him. However, on separate occasions, both parties have addressed the story to clarify what really happened.
The feud was related to a singer and songwriter Suge Knight managed when Vanilla Ice’s Hooked album was released. The vocalist, Mario Johnson, had helped pen many songs on the project. Although he had received credits, Vanilla Ice’s team never paid him and stopped returning his phone calls.
Recalling the incident for the 2015 book Welcome to Death Row: The Uncensored History of the Rise and Fall of Death Row Records, Johnson recounted, “I remember bein’ at Vanilla Ice’s attorney’s office. I found out his album had two million pre-orders before it was [released], so I knew we had a big record…Suge didn’t know how to handle a big potential lawsuit like that — a record of six, seven million, at the low end.”
However, the attorney told Knight, “Look, we’ll give you a couple of dollars if you’ll let bygones be bygones.” This infuriated the label executive, who then wanted to speak to Vanilla Ice himself.
Remembering how Suge found Vanilla Ice, Johnson told the book’s author, “We knew where [Vanilla Ice] was staying because I was supposed to be hearing some tracks he was doing. He wanted me to come by myself. But Suge said, ‘I’m going with you’.” This is when the infamous LA gangster confronted Vanilla Ice.
In the book, Vanilla Ice clarified, “I went to my hotel room, and Suge was in there with several people. He let me know he wanted to get some points off the record ‘Ice Ice Baby.’ Suge took me out on the balcony and started talking to me personally. He had me look over the edge, showing me how high I was up there. I needed to wear a diaper that day. I was an ‘investor’ in Death Row Records with no return on my money.”
However, he concluded by asserting, “He didn’t hang me off from any balcony, okay? The story’s been kind of blown out of proportion, and I want to clarify that Suge and I have no bad feelings towards each other.”
The Suge Knight against Vanilla Ice story was a real feud. However, the balcony was used as a threat and a bargaining tool. Suge Knight did not dangle the emcee from the balcony, and it is, therefore, an urban myth. You can hear Vanilla Ice clarifying the story below.