Suge Knight
Suge Knight.jpg

Birth name

Marion Hugh Knight Jr.


April 19, 1965
Compton, California, United States


Hip hop


Record producer, music executive, football player

Years active



Death Row Records (1991-2009)
Black Kapital Records (2009-present)

Associated acts

2Pac, The D.O.C., Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg

Marion Hugh "Suge" Knight Jr. (born April 19, 1965) is an American record producer, music executive, professional American football player and convicted criminal. He is best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records. The label rose to dominate the hip hop charts after Dr. Dre's breakthrough album The Chronic in 1992. After several years of chart successes for artists including Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound, Death Row Records stagnated after Shakur's murder and Knight's incarceration on probation violation charges in September 1996. The label went bankrupt in 2006.

In February 2015, Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder following a fatal hit-and-run in Compton, California. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. On 20 September 2018, Knight changed his plea to no contest and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Marion High Knight Jr. was born in Compton, California, the son of Maxine (née Dikemen) and Marion Knight Sr. His name, Suge, derives from "Sugar Bear", a childhood nickname. He attended Lynwood High School in nearby Lynwood, where he was a football and track star. He graduated in 1983. From 1983 to 1985, he attended and played football at El Camino College in Alondra Park, California. In 1985, he transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and played there for two years.

Professional football career[edit | edit source]

After college, Knight was not drafted by a National Football League (NFL) team, but was invited to the Los Angeles Rams training camp. He was cut by the Rams before the season began, but he became a replacement player during the 1987 NFL players' strike, and played two games for the Rams.

Career[edit | edit source]

1988-1991: Career beginnings[edit | edit source]

After the NFL, Knight found work as a concert promoter and a bodyguard for celebrities including Bobby Brown. In 1989, Knight formed his own music publishing company. His first big profit in the business came when Vanilla Ice agreed to sign over royalties from his successful song "Ice Ice Baby", because the song included material written by Knight's client Mario "Chocolate" Johnson. Knight and his bodyguards confronted Vanilla Ice several times. On one occasion, Knight entered Vanilla Ice's hotel room and allegedly dangled him by his ankles off the balcony. Vanilla Ice said only that Knight threatened to throw him off the balcony; the claim was resolved in court.

Knight next formed an artist management company and signed prominent West Coast hip hop artists DJ Quik and The D.O.C., the latter of whom introduced him to several members of the group N.W.A.

1991-1995: Death Row Records formation and early successes[edit | edit source]

Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. wanted to leave both N.W.A and their label, Ruthless Records, run by Eazy-E, another member of N.W.A. According to N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller, Knight and his henchmen threatened Heller and Eazy-E with lead pipes and baseball bats to make them release Dr. Dre, The D.O.C. and singer Michel'le from their contracts. Ultimately, Dr. Dre and The D.O.C. co-founded Death Row Records in January 1992 with Knight, who vowed to make it "the Motown of the '90s".

Initially, Knight fulfilled his ambitions: he secured a distribution deal with Interscope, and Dr. Dre's 1992 solo debut album, The Chronic, went on to Triple Platinum status in the United States by the end of 1993. It also made a career for Dr. Dre's protégé, Snoop Dogg, whose own debut album, Doggystyle, obtained a Quadruple Platinum certification in the United States in 1994.

Meanwhile, Death Row had begun a public feud with 2 Live Crew's Luther Campbell, and when Knight traveled to Campbell's hometown of Miami for a hip hop convention in 1993, he was apparently seen openly carrying a stolen gun. The following year, Knight opened a private, by-appointment-only nightclub in Las Vegas called Club 662, so named because the numbers spelled out "MOB" on telephone keypads, an acronym for "Member of Bloods". In 1995, he ran afoul of activist C. Delores Tucker, whose criticism of Death Row's glamorization of the "gangsta" lifestyle may have helped scuttle a lucrative deal with Time Warner.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.