BET’s ‘Death Row Chronicles’ follows the rise and fall of the infamous Suge Knight.
Suge Knight’s legal battles took yet another strange turn this weekend.
According to newly released legal documents, Suge Knight says that he was shown a check for $20,000 that Dr. Dre allegedly wrote to a man named Dwayne Johnson (not that Dwayne Johnson) to have Knight killed. According to TMZ, Suge claims that this purported hit was supposed to go down on the same day (January 29, 2015) that he ran over and killed a man in a Tam's Burgers parking lot, which has led to his current murder trial.
The ex-CEO of Death Row said in legal documents that during a jailhouse visit in July of 2016, both he and a private investigator had Johnson tell them that a check for $20k was given to him as partial payment to kill Knight. Johnson was at the aforementioned parking lot on the date of Knight's hit-and-run that led to his current incarceration.
As TMZ notes about this most recent accusation:
“The upshot of what Suge is arguing … he had reason to fear for his life when he entered Tam's.”
Still, according to the LA Times, Suge says he never got a copy of the check and the PI he mentions “now claims it does not exist.“
Knight, of course, is no stranger to throwing out accusations, which has even included a past claim that Dr. Dre hired a hitman to have him killed at the 2014 VMAs pre-party hosted by Chris Brown. At that pre-party, he was shot six times.
Not surprisingly, an attorney for Dr. Dre called these latest claims both “absurd” and “defamatory.”
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Friday, Fox announced an upcoming two-hour special to explore the deaths of slain rappers 2Pac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Rapper, author, actor, and director Ice-T will co-host Who Shot Biggie & Tupac? along with Emmy Award-winning journalist and author Soledad O’Brien, as the show takes a deeper look into what amounted to cold cases during at least two police investigations and one FBI probe.
Shakur died on September 13, 1996 after being targeted in a drive-by shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. The Notorious B.I.G.—born Christopher Wallace—was similarly killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. The former friends and collaborators turned rivals remain linked some 20 years after both were killed.
Fox’s choice to cover the two iconic rappers is a curious one, given how Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera and other of Fox’s news pundits have previously criticized hip-hop music and culture.
“This is why I say that Hip Hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years,” Rivera said, during a critique of Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 BET Awards performance.
The special will also reportedly feature what is being billed as the first on-air “reunion” between Lil’ Cease and E.D.I. Mean—one-time protégés of B.I.G. and Shakur as respective members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. and The Outlawz. Doug E. Fresh, Funkmaster Flex and Suge Knight are also set to appear.
Shakur’s case remains unsolved, with conspiracy theories abounding. In April of 2008, the Los Angeles Times retracted a story by Chuck Phillips insinuating Sean Combs orchestrated the 1994 Quad Studios attack on Shakur.
“The Times has since concluded that the FBI reports were fabricated and that some of the other sources relied on—including the person Philips previously believed to be the ‘confidential source’ cited in the FBI reports—do not support major elements of the story,” the retraction read.
Former LAPD captain Kevin McClure shut down a task force investigating B.I.G.’s murder in 2010 noting a lack of results.
“We kept pounding the doors on the same cold leads,” McClure told the Los Angeles Times in March. “The shooter is most likely dead. You cannot ask him who paid him. We don’t know who gave the money.”
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R. Marcos Taylor, who played Suge Knight in ‘Straight Outta Compton,’ faces assault charges.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that transcripts from recorded conversations between Suge Knight and his defense attorney appear to suggest that the two explored bribing witnesses in order to have them alter their testimony in his upcoming murder trial.
In the court filing released on Thursday, Knight and his lawyer Matthew Fletcher, along with Knight's fiance Toi-Lin Kelly and business partner Mark Blankenship, who were in on the call, “had an understanding that they were going to assist the defendant in procuring witnesses for his defense, which included payments for fabricated testimony.” During one of their conversations, the group discussed the idea of paying witnesses to claim that they saw one of the victims in possession of a firearm.
The district attorney filed a motion, asking the court to look into whether representing Knight is a conflict of interest for Fletcher after investigators “gathered evidence of possible witness tampering, bribery, conspiracy to violate a court order and obstruction of justice.” The DA also points out that Blankenship can be heard telling Suge that “witnesses being discussed would be procured by 'legitimate' means and that they would just 'tell the truth'” on multiple occasions.
At the moment, no one on the phone call has been charged in connection with possible witness tampering.
Knight is facing trial next year on murder charges stemming from a January 2015 incident in the parking lot of a burger stand in Compton. Following a dispute on the set of Straight Outta Compton with Terry Carter and Cle “Bone” Sloan, Suge ran over both men with his truck. Carter died from the injuries he sustained. Suge has pled not guilty, claiming that he was acting in self-defense.
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Suge Knight's legal troubles continue.
Knight has been indicted on felony charges of making criminal threats by a grand jury in Los Angeles County. He was reportedly unhappy with his portrayal in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton, TMZ reports. So the record producer, music executive, and founder of the iconic Death Row Records allegedly sent death threats to F. Gary Gray, the director of the movie, through text messages. Court records obtained by Variety show that the crime was allegedly committed on August 8, 2014. Suge will be arraigned on Thursday.
It's just the latest legal incident involving Knight. Back in January 2015, he was arrested on murder charges, which were also tied to the production of Straight Outta Compton. Knight allegedly ran over a man named Terry Carter with his vehicle on the set of the film. He is currently behind bars awaiting trial on those charges.
Prior to that incident, Knight and comedian Katt Williams were arrested in 2014 for their alleged connection to an armed robbery. The pair pleaded not guilty. Suge was also shot multiple times at a pre-MTV VMAs party hosted by Chris Brown the same year.
Straight Outta Compton, which was released in theaters in August 2015, grossed more than $200 million at the box office. The biographical film received a generally positive reception from critics and maintains a solid 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
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Capturing the look and essence of ‘90s hip-hop style can be challenging—especially when it’s for a movie like All Eyez on Me, the film about Tupac Shakur. But Kenya Ware, the costume designer for All Eyez on Me (out in theatres on June 16), was there and lived through it. She even styled Tupac himself before he was killed in 1996.
Ware, an L.A. native, married and started a family with Tha Dogg Pound member and Snoop Dogg’s cousin, Daz Dillinger, in 1991. Helping in any way that she knew how, she began to shop for Death Row Records’ artists, including Snoop, Tha Dogg Pound, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, often hand-delivering wardrobe to the set of music video shoots and TV appearances. From there, she became Death Row’s West Coast marketing representative.
She credits Suge Knight for supporting her passion for styling. “Suge always told me that beauty was only temporary, but your intelligence is forever,” she says. “He inspired me to get my own. He wanted me to succeed and that’s stayed with me to this day.”
In this exclusive interview, Ware talks about what it was like working with Tupac, what she wanted to accomplish with the wardrobe for All Eyez on Me, and why Tupac’s style will always be imitated.
How did you meet the guys from Death Row?
The first person I met was N.W.A. member MC Ren backstage at a 1989 New Edition concert. N.W.A.’s bodyguard approached me and said one of the members wanted to talk to me. I was frightened because I had heard they were gangbangers. Ren asked me for my number and on the first date I almost got kicked out of my house because he walked into my Baldwin Hills estate with a black trench coat, khakis, and Crip slippers. My mother went ballistic!
How did you meet Tupac?
[My ex-husband] Daz [Dillinger] would always write letters to the Clinton Correctional Facility to try to keep Tupac's spirit up while he was in jail on the rape case. Once he got out and signed with Death Row, I threw him a party at our place. We invited Method Man, Redman, Rage, Snoop, Kurupt, and a few other people to celebrate Tupac being released from jail and also signing with Death Row Records.
What was it like shopping for Tha Dogg Pound?
Shopping for Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop was always fun because I got to create something different than gangster wear. They were in love with Guess shirts but still wanted the baggy Karl Kani jeans. It was a slow process to get them away from the Dickies uniform. I had to make sure that whatever I bought for them was oversized and was in either blue or grey, which were Tha Dogg Pounds’ and the Crips’ colors.
Did you shop for Tupac?
‘Pac had his own style. He wasn't interested in clothing right away. He said the only thing he wanted to do was stay at the studio and make as much music as possible. I often pulled boxes of Karl Kani clothing for the boys and let them pick out what they wanted to wear for events.
What did you buy for Tupac? What was he into at the time?
I tagged along with Suge Knight and ‘Pac during the [boxing] fights in Las Vegas. Shopping at Caesar's Palace during the fights was the best. It was kind of like a status quo. That's where you got to showcase how much money you really had because all the ballers were watching. Tupac wasn't that into fashion but at that point, in the ‘90s, you had to dress to impress. He slowly transitioned away from the gangster clothes to Versace. Suge was about to hire me as ‘Pac’s personal stylist, but then ‘Pac got killed.
Speaking of Versace, Tupac walked in a runway show with Kidada Jones for the Italian fashion house in 1996. How did that happen? Whose decision was it to have a bodyguard walk with them?
During those days, if you were an artist on Death Row Records the rule was you had to always wear your bulletproof vest and keep a bodyguard at all times. The bodyguard was definitely Suge Knight’s call.
What did you want to accomplish with the wardrobe for All Eyez on Me?
This film needed to have Karl Kani and Walker Wear to be authentic because those were two designers that Tupac wore religiously. I wanted to make sure that all of the replicas were right. Sometimes getting information from third parties or Google aren’t that accurate, so[All Eyez on Me producer] L.T. Hutton figured it would be better to hire a person who actually knew Tupac and was around him a lot.
How would you describe Tupac's style?
A revolutionary gangster. He set the tone for the durag on your head, the body tattoos, and the oversized baggy jeans.
Are there any specific Tupac looks you tried to copy for the movie?
Yes. Tupac did an advertisement for Karl Kani and we remade that look. The actor who plays Tupac, Demetrius Shipp, went to Karl Kani's studio and we made sure that he looked and wore the clothes just like Tupac. We also copied the Black Panther Party look because his mom was a Black Panther.
What do you think of Demetrius Shipp Jr.?
Ironically, Demetrius' father used to work with Death Row back in the days, so it was like working with family. It's just amazing that his son looks just like Tupac. Demetrius Shipp was the best choice [for the role]. It’s funny because before he started acting he worked at Walmart.
Did he stay in character on set?
He had Tupac's demeanor down to a T.
What was the vibe like on set? Did any celebrities stop by?
I did most of the shopping in Los Angeles but the few times I did visit the set in Atlanta and saw Demetrius it was like seeing Tupac reincarnated. I think every celebrity in Atlanta stopped by the set in hopes of getting a cameo. Snoop’s dad, Vernell [Varnado], and Daz were on set during the entire time.
Where did you source the wardrobe from?
Since I grew up in L.A. in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the shopping came naturally. One of the stores I went to is called Greenspan in South Gate. If you really need gangster clothes, this is the one-stop shop for your ‘80s and ‘90s looks.
Why did All Eyez on Me take so long?
It was a couple things. Tupac's estate and a lot of the people they wanted to do the movie held it up. There were also issues with clearing the music since Death Row’s catalog was sold.
What's your favorite Tupac look?
I love the Versace blue and gold shirt he wore. I actually have a picture of me and him in that shirt at Suge Knight’s daughter's third birthday party.
Do you remember where you were when you heard Tupac was killed? Walk us through that moment.
I was actually in Vegas with Tupac and Suge when he was killed. I was with Tupac downstairs at the Luxor Hotel after they got into a big fight at MGM Grand. I spoke to him right before he took that car ride to Club 662. I made the first call to [Suge’s ex-wife] Sharitha Knight and Daz and let them know what had just happened. One minute I was walking into Club 662 wondering why it was taking Tupac so long to get there and next thing you know we were told that something had happened to him. I drove like 100 miles an hour trying to get to the crime scene. It was the craziest night of my life.
Why do you think Tupac's style was copied so much in the years after his death? What do you think he would've thought of that?
Tupac was a pioneer of rap, period. This man created history and set a tone in just 24 years of life. He will forever be copied because his style was genuine. If he were alive today, at age 45, he'd probably teach the youth to be original and create their own style.
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Funk Flex isn’t done speaking about 2Pac.
Earlier this week, the Hot 97 DJ faced a wave of backlash after ranting about the late rapper on social media. It began during an Instagram Live broadcast, in which Flex felt the need to speak “the truth” regarding 2Pac’s 1994 Quad Studios attack. He claimed Pac actually shot himself by mistake, and went on to blame Diddy and Biggie for the ambush as he was too afraid of the actual assailants. Of course, fans of Pac were quick to call out Flex, accusing him of disrespecting the legendary rapper. Even T.I. spoke out about Flex’s comments, suggesting the remarks were inappropriate.
“Respectfully Bruh… on G-Code…regardless of what YOU THINK the validity of your statement is, I was taught never to speak down on a dead man,” T.I. said on Instagram. “Considering they ain't here to speak up for themselves.”
On Thursday, Flex responded to his critics and explained why he continues to speak about 2Pac, more than 20 years after his death.
“Pac, of course, is from New York […] So people that’s trying to make this an East Coast-West Coast thing, that ain’t what it is. I was just speaking on a situation,” he said in a video. “I know everybody got a little testy, a little up in arms. I get it.”
He admits he brought the wrong energy when speaking about Pac, and agrees the rapper made huge contributions to the rap world; however, he maintains Pac used Biggie as a scapegoat for the Quad robbery, which ultimately started the deadly rivalry.
“Notorious B.I.G. did not set [Pac] up in that studio that night to get robbed. That is my only issue,” he said. “[…] There is no disrespect in anything I've said so far […] We're having a conversation about the truth.”
This was Flex's biggest point when it came to T.I. “Back to G-code. You a G, T.I. So you know…we ain't supposed to call false names on anything that happens to us in the street… He was screaming Biggie's name. 2Pac lied, bro.”
Flex continued to make more claims about Pac throughout the video, including that there was a period where he was “scared to come to New York.”
Toward the end of the 40 minute video, Flex got extremely emotional. “He lied, and Biggie died. That's my only issue,” he exclaimed. Flex also talked about Suge Knight, saying, “In New York, he didn't have no weight. He was no tough guy in this town.”
You can watch all 40 minutes and 58 seconds of the video above.
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According to the Hot 97 DJ, not all of the late rapper’s gun wounds were caused by his enemies; the first was actually self-inflicted. Funk, who was reportedly in the building at the time of the shooting, claims Pac accidently shot himself when he attempted to pull out his gun during the ambush.
“You Pac fans always talking that talk,” Flex said in the broadcast. “Cheddar Bob. Came in there, popped himself in the leg. Popped himself first. That’s what happened.”
Funk continued: “He knew who approached him. He had a steel on him, because he knew he had a issue out there, and when get got there, they was just gonna take his jewelry. They didn’t even touch him. He panicked, pulled out the steel, shot himself.”
The shooting took place on Nov. 30, 1994, right after Pac arrived at Quad Studios to record a feature. The rapper was reportedly ambushed, beaten, robbed, and shot five times at the studio; however, it’s been widely speculated Pac unintentionally shot himself.
“In the haste of getting his gun out of his waistband, I believe he pulled the trigger,” said former LAPD investigator Greg Kading. “I think the wounds to his head were superficial lacerations from being pistol whipped. If [his three aggressors] went there to execute him, they could have certainly done that.”
In 2011, Dexter Isaac came forward admitting he was involved in the non-fatal 1994 shooting. He told authorities he was paid $2,500 by Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond to carry out the attack.
Funk’s broadcast arrived shortly after several Pac theories resurfaced. Just last month, Suge Knight made headlines after he accused his ex-wife of killing the rapper. A few weeks later, an interview with Pac’s former bodyguard made its way onto YouTube; the man, named Mob James, said he believes Pac was fatally shot by Crips member Orlando Anderson. The case is still unsolved.
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