The record label was no stranger to complaints and reports about auto thefts, robberies, and armed gang members. The label head himself, Suge Knight, rolled with the Bloods, so Death Row quickly became a ‘hangout for gangsters.’
In the documentary Welcome to Death Row, Leigh Savidge, co-director of the movie tries to show just that. He also says that “There’d be Crips on one side of the couches and Bloods on the other side because Snoop [Dogg] was Crip affiliated at that point.”
Signing with Death Row, 2Pac publicly declared that gangster ethos is something he embraced. Moreover, he had ‘MOB’ tattooed on his body. Even though he claimed it meant ‘Money, Organization, and Business’ many people believe it stood for “Member of the Bloods.”
Thanks to his undeniable talent, by 1996 2Pac had become the biggest star in the hip-hop industry but then everything started to fall apart. The record label was facing many obstacles.
At that time, Snoop went on a trial for murder, and Dr. Dre decided that he was leaving Death Row. After Snoop was acquitted he decided to put some distance between him and the gangsta life. His example was followed by Dr. Dre as well, as he grew tired of the violence surrounding Suge and was not very happy about working with 2Pac and some of the label’s new artists.
From the outside it looked as if 2Pac and Death Row were going to ride together despite everyone else. However, it turns out that while 2Pac was blaming Dre for being disloyal, the young rapper was making his own moves away from the record label.
In 1996 Tupac not only made his own production company, Euphansia, but he also starred in two movies- Gridlock’d and Gang Related. A couple of times he also mentioned that he wanted to start a label and work on different kinds of film projects. It is pretty much obvious that he knew Death Row was going to be a handicap for him.
The clearest sign about 2Pac thoughts for a different direction in life came on Aug. 27, 1996. On that day, the famous rapper fired the label’s lawyer David Kenner, a former defense attorney who was also the one who had helped with Tupac’s release from prison.
Kenner was one of the secret weapons Death Row had. He gained power by attaching to Suge, but he was also good at his job and got many of Death Row’s artists out of legal situations. This was also the case with Tupac. Kenner helped the rapper get out of prison but in return Tupac had to sign a contract, making Kenner his legal representative.
Once outside, Tupac realized that he had made a mistake, and his relationship with Kenner grew even more complex when the lawyer denied 2Pac access to some of his music. That was the final straw and Tupac fired Kenner.
In one of his interviews, George Pryce, Death Row’s publicist said that he felt like Tupac had wanted to start his own company, and the only reason why he had stayed with Death Row for so long had been the money he had needed.
One thing is sure, in the summer of 1996, Tupac was indeed one of the most famous rappers in the world and played an essential role in the survival of Death Row records, but he was also ready to strike out on his own.
And then, Las Vegas happened…
Was 2Pac really going to leave the gangsta rap life behind? What was he doing in his final