How did that happen?
According to James Rettig at Stereogum:
In a wild turn of events, Death Row Records is now owned by Hasbro, the gargantuan toy and board game company that is behind My Little Pony, Furby, Monopoly, G. I. Joe, and many more classic children’s enterprises. Death Row Records is, of course, the West Coast rap label that was founded in 1991 and put out major releases from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac. Strange bedfellows!
Hasbro acquired the Canadian Studio One Entertainment for $4 billion. They owned the Peppa Pig and PJ Masks franchises.
Entertainment One had a valuable music division when they purchased the Death Row catalog in 2013 after its previous parent company went bankrupt.
They bought the label’s catalog for approximately $280 million in 2013, about seven years after Death Row declared bankruptcy.
in 2006, Death Row Records filed for bankruptcy. It was auctioned to Wideawake Entertainment for $18,000,000 on the 15th of January 2009.
The WIDEawake remit was to put out all unreleased Death Row material. Their chief aim was to put out all unreleased songs from the Death Row Vault . They also re-released and remastered classic Death Row material and made considerable money from the venture.
It beggars belief that what was once a black owned label that made crazy money and had rap stars living five stars lives is no more in black hands but in the arms of a major toys and board company.
Death Row Records shot into public consciousness in 1992. It was a fledgling West Coast record label that was founded by the infamous Suge Knight and the famous and legendary Dr. Dre as depicted in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.
It had only been established for a year when Dre’s The Chronic exploded on the scene and took over the streets of America and spread globally.
Following the success of that album, Snoop Dogg and Tupac joined Death Row Records and with their considerable talents built the label into one of the most formidable recording labels at the time and made vast amounts of money.
The Chronic’s success was quickly followed up by Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle, Above The Rim, Murder Was the Case, Tha Dogg Pound – Dogg Food, 2Pac’s All Eyes On Me and Makaveli – The Don Killuminati: The 7 day Theory.
Those albums and many more that followed solidified Death Row Record’s reputation as one of the baddest rap and music labels of all time and probably the most notorious.
The downfall of Death Row Records was Suge’s temper and love for violence. It is no surprise though because the label was started with proceeds from violence.
Suge allegedly implied he would throw Vanilla Ice over unless he complied and signed the rights of Ice Ice Baby to him.
That money helped to establish Death Row Records. The label would eventually make more than $400 million and end with it’s star dead, the business manager in jail and monies stolen by white businessmen.
In an ironic twist of fate, the money ended up where it started in white hands and they are enjoying the fruits of black labour as has been the case for the past centuries.
There is a lot to learn from the case of Death Row Records. It is an important case study in how not to run a business; how to manage your wealth, intellectual property, and why it is important to safeguard our legacies for the next generation.
But maybe the biggest lesson is that there are no guarantees in life and nothing lasts forever.
Despite the crazy monies Suge Knight made during the heyday of the Death Row Records and managing it’s back catalogue, his net worth today is about $500 thousand dollars.
For many of us, Death Row Records’ music was the backtrack to our youth and finding our feet in this world. We grew up fired by its artists and music. It is sad to see the label’s fall from grace from being a black icon to a white acquisition.