"Anybody from Compton, that's pretty much saying they're Death Row," Knight says.
Marion "Suge" Knight is infamous for clashing with rappers, but Kendrick Lamar gets his stamp of approval. In fact, Lamar is basically a Death Row Records artist, Knight said in "outtakes" from his Rolling Stone interview. "Kendrick is a dude that’s an incredible artist. I’m not surprised because he’s from Compton," he explained said.
"He grew up in Compton, that’s where he lived at, hung out at, and the guys he hangs with from his neighborhood, is p-folk. So there’s no way it wouldn’t rub off on him. There’s no way that his vision wouldn’t be aggressive or that he wouldn’t have the lyrics he has, if he didn’t grow up there.
"Kendrick know, anybody from Compton, that’s pretty much saying they’re a Death Row artist. That’s what they grew up to, that’s what they know, that was the people they’re involved with… they mimicked their stuff off of the blueprint I laid down. But Kendrick by far is one of them guys that they can’t f--- with. They can’t f--- with that boy lyrically and they better not sleep. Kendrick got a whole army behind him. He got real love out here."
While Knight talked up the "love" Lamar gets, he wasn't as praiseful on the subject of the Notorious B.I.G. and Sean "Diddy" Combs. According to the Death Row founder, Biggie's Ready to Die debut is a rip-off of Dr. Dre's The Chronic. Knight claims he shared samples with Combs free of charge. "If you look at Biggie’s album, Biggie’s album is all West Coast," he said of the region's influence on the rap game. "The first album. When they did the Biggie album, I helped them with that f---ing record. I let Puff use every [The Chronic] sample on [Ready to Die], the hottest record of all time, and didn’t charge them. To show some love. Like here. It ain’t sh-t. We do this s--- like we do."
Biggie and Diddy weren't the only ones biting off the West Coast in Knight's eyes. Everyone was doing it. "I don’t care if it’s a down South record or East Coast record. If it’s successful, it’s a West Coast vibe. "
As a music vet, Knight has seen the industry change over the last two decades. The 48-year-old has been marred by money and legal troubles over the years, and filed for bankruptcy protection to hold on to Death Row Records in 2006.
While the label has since been auctioned off, Knight is still very much in the business of building talent like he did back in the '90s. "I’m still about letting people express themselves how they want to," he continued. "I’m looking forward to putting out more female artists than men artists nowadays. I think that females have a bigger story, they have a bigger struggle and they have more nuts nowadays than most these guys. It’s a real big change from 20 years ago."
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(Photos from left: REUTERS /STEVE MARCUS /LANDOV, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Clear Channel)