Sure he's gotten shot at an awards ceremony, spent time in jail, and had Benjamins upon Benjamins. Like some of the rap artists he produced, Suge Knight and his record label have seen the negative side of money. Specifically, the negative balance. Suge Knight has declared both himself and his record label bankrupt in a move that might safeguard financial health.
Marion "Suge" Knight, Jr. was the de facto king of West Coast rap at the height of his career, running his label and the streets of Compton simultaneously. Among his friends and associates were some of the best-known names in rap music: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg. Those days are long gone.
Millions at Stake
Before filing bankruptcy, Knight faced a hearing that could have cost him his record label. The subject? A 107 million dollar judgment was awarded to Lydia Harris, a former associate of Knight's. She claims she helped start the rap record empire with her former husband, Michael Harris. She claims Knight cheated her out of a 50-percent stake in the company. Michael Harris, an imprisoned drug dealer, also claims he put up more than a million dollars for the label - from behind bars. Knight has repeatedly denied this claim.
If Knight skipped this hearing, the Los Angeles superior court judge might have seized Knight's label. Had that happened, a court-appointed "receiver" would have taken control of the company and its extensive music library.
On April 4th, Suge Knight filed for bankruptcy protection for himself and his record label. In each filing, he claimed debts of more than $100 million. As bad as that sounds, the move may have kept Knight's label from falling into someone else's hands.
Gone Are the Good Old Days
Knight founded Death Row Records with Dr. Dre in 1991, which dominated the hip-hop charts for years. However, the label fell into obscurity when Knight was incarcerated on parole violation charges in 1996. Dr. Dre moved away from the Death Row image, finding success as a producer and owner of his own record label. The aforementioned Ice Cube became an actor and family man. Snoop Dogg still enjoys a successful rap career and even sells Chryslers from time-to-time.
Knight, on the other hand, has made more controversy than hit music. His name has been implicated in the murders of Tupac Shakur and rival The Notorious B.I.G. After being released from prison in 2001, Knight has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement. He's been jailed for parole violations and several alleged assaults and drug charges. In August of last year, someone shot Knight as he was attending the MTV Video Music Awards. Police still have not found the person responsible.
In his personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Knight recorded assets between zero and 50,000 dollars. He claimed debts totaling more than $100 million. As president of Death Row Records, Knight signed the company's filing. It estimated $1 million to $10 million and debts of more than $100 million. The federal filings stopped both federal and state actions against Knight.
Knight will continue running what is left of the label while the federal courts sort out the bankruptcy and judgment. Meanwhile, Knight has made it clear he does not have the money for the judgment. As for the future of Death Row Records? That's anybody's guess.