Suge Knight is evil.
Not that I necessarily have any Old Testament passages to quote, but there's definitely an underworld vibe with the one Mr. Marion. Maybe it's the baldhead-bearded look, maybe it's the fact that he's been smoking the same stogie since forever and lung cancer is too scared to set in, maybe he truly is Bizarro Kool-Aid Man, whatever, but you do get the feeling that Suge Knight would be more than comfortable eating hard-boiled eggs in Harlem. Above anything, he is most responsible for pushing rap music in the mid-90s in such an extreme direction, a direction that it probably wouldn't have gone without him. Sure, he didn't invent rap beef, and Puffy, Pac, Biggie, Snoop, and the LAPD are not without their own blame, but like some Hip-Hop version of the Bush administration, Suge rode a consistent campaign of fear and bullying to platinum success. He prodded and poked his stable of artists into joining this clusterfuck of a coastal feud, in the process, bringing the wrong kind of attention to the genre from all the wrong kinds of people. As if that was not enough, in the years since his Death Row empire crumbled, his biggest stars either jumping ship or winding up dead, he's attempted to manipulate the music they made while with him and sabotage their new projects as well.
For an example of this nonsense, take the Dogg Pound track Don't Stop, Keep Goin'. The version most will have heard came on 2001's 2002, where the team of Daz and Kurupt were paired with a recycled Bad Boy-killer verse from the late Tupac Shakur. The release of this 2002 album coincided with Suge's release from prison and his plans to rejuvenate the crippled Death Row record label, so what better way to start anew than to rely on some old tricks. It's all a part of the Suge Knight overseer strategy: milk the tapes and tension until they're dry and then try and sell their dust to the suburbs. But this isn't even the half of the real story.
Back in 1995, the Dogg Pound released their debut, Dogg Food. This since-overlooked LP was full of Daz's Dre-like g-funk beats and Kurupt's lyrical sniper-tight verses. In recent years, it's been played off as just another second-string Death Row release, a cog in the anti-New York machine. However, while the most infamous Dogg Food track, New York New York, did feature Snoop Dogg mocking NY in his opening ad-libs and later crushing Big Apple skyscrapers in the video, as those instances proved to be in the minority, it's really been misrepresented. In fact, not only would it seem a little odd for Philadelphia-born Kurupt to be taking shots at his home turf or thereabouts, but the duo, at the time, had even reached out to one of New York's finest, Nas.
Yes, the initial plan was for Nas to guest on Dogg Food, but because Suge ruled over Death Row with a one-note grip, trying to pump up beef between East Coast and West Coast, and win over 2Pac probably too, Nas was cut. And what song was he cut from? That's right, Don't Stop, Keep Goin'. The reason we know this at all is because of the original track's release on The Last of Tha Pound project, Daz's strike back at Suge for mucking up his music all these years. (Note the number of "Fuck Death Row" taunts from Daz as well.) While all three MC's seize upon the song's smoothed out production, for his part, Nas does a bit of what would eventually become Nas Is Coming, but also provides some otherwise unheard-of vintage Esco flow:
For you to diss is hazardous, gold chain and diamond LazarusThat Don't Stop is available now hardly erases the fact that it should have been heard over a decade ago, back when its "East-West connection" would have been a welcome break from all the coastal posturing and the antics of an oversized ex-bodyguard. It would have meant Nas, Kurupt, and Daz all together, in their prime, making music and not just threats.
I rap fabulous, loaded gat stay strapped and cap cabbages
Jesus Christ, I piece it right on the time
Interludes vary like illusions in the mind
Destruction on the black planet, I crack granite
Bourgeois repertoire, rude and bad-mannered
Tha Dogg Pound f/ Nas: Don't Stop, Keep Goin'