A Los Angeles Superior Court found that Death Row Records and its co-founder Marion “Suge” Knight defrauded rapper Kurupt’s former management, consequently granting a $4,344,000 judgement against the label and the gangsta rap mogul on Tuesday. The damages result in Knight being held responsible for more than $1 million of the verdict, and Death Row the remainder, with more punitive damages that could still be handed down on Monday as the case moves into its next phase.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Pamela Koslyn, co-counsel for Lamont and Ken Brumfield, the former managers and producers for Ricardo E. Brown, Jr. (a.k.a. Kurupt). “We’re hoping that there will be more further down in regards to the punitive part of this civil matter. There’s a psychological and moral basis for this, and we may settle, that’s what we’re discussing right now. We expect that [the punitive phase] will be handled expeditiously, since the jurors are restless and hoping to get out of this as soon as possible.”
In a complaint dating back five years, Lamont Brumfield’s management company Rapp Central Productions and Ken Brumfield’s Hoodsta-4-Life Publishing originally filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Interscope for allegedly conspiring with Death Row to induce Kurupt to breach his contract with the Brumfields. The complaint, alleging several counts of breach of contract and conspiracy, also named Death Row principals Knight, Andre Young (a.k.a. Dr. Dre) and Calvin Broadus (a.k.a. Snoop Doggy Dogg).
According to the Brumfields’ complaint, they began managing Kurupt in 1990, when he was still a minor, providing him with a place to live and expenses after he was kicked out of his family’s home. From there, Kurupt signed exclusive recording, songwriting and management agreements with the Brumfields once he reached the age of eighteen. The Brumfields claim they introduced Kurupt to Knight, Dre and Snoop in mid-1992, when the rapper was hired to perform and write for Dre’s first solo album, The Chronic.
Things soured when Death Row promised Kurupt “wealth and fame through defamation” of the Brumfields in order to get the rapper to enter into exclusive recording, songwriting and management agreements with the label, according to the complaint. Kurupt signed a recording contract with Death Row, a publishing contract with Suge Music and a management company with Knight’s ex-wife Sharitha Knight, who ran Knightlife Management — despite his existing contracts with the Brumfields. When Kurupt went bankrupt in 1996, he voided all of his contracts. By then, he had appeared on Snoop’s Doggystyle and had emerged as a part of Tha Dogg Pound, appearing on seventeen albums for Death Row, with the Brumfields receiving no compensation.
One possible settlement option Koslyn said she would be willing to accept is if Death Row releases a Kurupt album of unreleased material, with the proceeds going mostly to the Brumfields. Death Row, which is claiming it has no assets, is now required to reveal its financial situation, Koslyn said, and is expected to open its books in court Friday.
Knight testified via a videotaped deposition (he is currently in his fourth year of a nine-year sentence for a 1996 probation violation, for charges of assault). Dre was dismissed from the case before it went to jury, while Snoop was released from the case earlier. Interscope, which had been named in the suit due to its distribution of Death Row, settled with the plaintiffs before the verdict.
Death Row’s spokesperson said he couldn’t comment on the case, but would have a statement available in the near future.