Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight was released from a federal prison in Oregon on August 6th after serving five years of a nine-year sentence. “Welcome Home Big Suge,” reads the Death Row record label Web site as well as the billboard above the Death Row Offices in Los Angeles, where Suge promptly returned following his release.
“I’m back,” Knight said in a statement. “At my desk. In the studio . . . and on the street, which is where we’re going to find the next generation of Death Row superstars. Death Row is going back to where it belongs — at the top!”
Knight had been on probation for state and federal charges when he was sentenced to nine years in prison for violating a 1995 probation sentence. That violation occurred in 1996 when Knight became in involved in an altercation in a Las Vegas hotel. The fight resulted in assault charges, and hours after the incident rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting while he rode in Knight’s car.
During Knight’s imprisonment, Death Row lost its stronghold as the top-selling rap label and indomitable force in the West Coast gangsta rap scene. Death Row co-founder Dr. Dre left the label in 1996, and Snoop Dogg left following Knight’s imprisonment. The label’s current roster features Crooked I, P.B, SKG, Tupac, Above the Law, Tha Dogg Pound, Tha Realest, Swoop G, Top Dogg, Doobie and K-9.
The label has had recent successful releases in Knight’s absence with Death Row Presents: Tha Dogg Pound, 2002, a collection of unreleased tracks from the likes of Snoop, Tupac, Jay-Z and others, as well as the latest posthumous release from Tupac, Until the End of Time, currently at Number 113 on the SoundScan album chart.