Dr Dre and Suge Knight have had an interesting relationship over the years. From chart-topping highs to depressing lows, the pair were once the most formidable force in the industry. However, over the years, their friendship began to sour and turned to hatred.
Dr Dre and Suge Knight’s partnership began in 1991 when the two met through their mutual friend, the D.O.C. Dr Dre (real name Andre Young), was keen to leave Ruthless Records as Jerry Heller had lost control of the collective. As a result, Young was eager to find a new musical home, and Knight proposed the two go into business by founding a label.
Knight told Young that he would be free to scout talent and produce while he, himself, would supervise operations and the label’s finances, which Dre was more than happy to agree to. By threatening Eazy-E, Knight managed to get Dre released from his contract with Ruthless Records. Still, Eazy-E received 20 per cent of all Death Row material.
Between 1992, when Dre released his debut, The Chronic and 1995, the operations at Death Row Records ran smoothly. However, during a speech at the Source Awards that year, following the release of Biggie Smalls’ Ready To Die, Knight decided to take jabs at Diddy, and this coincided with the release of 2Pac from prison when he signed with Death Row Records.
When 2Pac was released from jail and began spending time with Suge Knight, the two began fuelling the East Coast versus West Coast war, which made the atmosphere at the label toxic and dangerous. The notorious gangster was not only threatening people in the streets but was encouraging diss records and more. This upset Dr Dre as he could no longer make quality material due to the label’s constant embrace of negativity and street politics.
According to Dre himself, in 1995, he became depressed and turned to alcohol and weed. Furthermore, there have even been allegations that he abused his then-girlfriend, the R’n’B singer Michel’le and even broke her nose. However, after the death of 2Pac, Young could no longer take the toxicity that came with working alongside Knight and chose instead to partner with Jimmy Iovine, who then, through legal channels, got the G-funk producer off the label.
A year later, Snoop Dogg also left, meaning Death Row was left without its stars, and Knight wanted revenge. After the founding of Aftermath Entertainment and the discovery of Eminem, the infamous gangster caught wind of Dr Dre’s decision to release a project called The Chronic 2000. Therefore, he pointlessly released an album by that name to prevent Young from doing so. This led to Dr Dre’s 1999 body of work 2001.
Knight harboured resentment for Dr Dre and, over the years, attempted to have individuals, such as Jimmy James Johnson, carry out attacks on Dre; the former tried to beat up Young on stage at the VIBE Awards in 2004.
Knight never managed to stop Dre from ascending alongside Jimmy Iovine, 50 Cent and Eminem and never managed to harm Snoop Dogg, who was assisted by No Limit founder Master P. In 2015, the former Death Row label executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his involvement in a hit-and-run death.