If you really think about it, Suge Knight is like the O. J. Simpson of hip-hop.
They are both elusive, once-popular figures who stayed in trouble with the law and who were allegedly tied to high-profile ‘90s murders for which neither was convicted and, in Knight’s case, there were never any charges.
Yet both have been in the crosshairs of law enforcement ever since, and finally, in Suge’s case, it’s a murder plea that will land him in jail for what could be the rest of his life.
The former hip-hop mogul who founded Death Row Records in the early 1990s and brought gangsta rap to mainstream households everywhere with artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur, recently pleaded no contest to a murder rap resulting from the January 2015 death of a business man named Terry Carter, whom Knight ran over with his motor vehicle after the two had been in an altercation. Also injured in the incident was Cle Sloan, the man Knight backed into with his vehicle in reverse before shifting gears and running over Carter and fleeing the scene in his truck.
All of it was captured on surveillance video, and Knight likely knew that the probable outcome of a jury trial would have been a conviction followed by a life sentence. The 28 years he copped to will most likely amount to that, absent either Knight defying life expectancy odds – especially given his own poor health history – or some good behavior and a very forgiving (or forgetting) parole board.
But anyone with half a memory also knows that Knight was part of a conspiracy theory tying him to the high-profile murders of both Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. in 1996 and ‘97, respectively. He was with Tupac the night the rapper was fatally shot in Knight’s car (after the two were involved in an earlier altercation while attending a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas).
Six months later, Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G., was similarly gunned down in Los Angeles after attending a Soul Train Awards after-party. Biggie was signed to Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment, the label that had been embroiled in a long-standing beef with Knight’s Death Row artists for two years. In the months leading to both artists’ assassinations, the two labels and their executives had been in a war of words that went beyond typical rap beefs. After Tupac’s death in September 1996, many wondered not if but when Biggie would be next.
Neither Tupac’s nor Biggie’s murders have been solved, and there’s no real evidence that Knight was either directly or indirectly involved in the rappers’ deaths. But conspiracy theories abound with several conjectures that Knight had Tupac killed before he could leave Death Row Records, then had Biggie murdered in similar drive-by style to redirect the spotlight from Tupac’s murder.
As tempting as it is to believe that theory, it’s doubtful that Knight would have had someone target his vehicle with him sitting inside of it, and its likely for that reason – along with the lack of other evidence – that he was never implicated formally in the Tupac case.
And while the case against Knight for the Biggie murder would seem more plausible, there was never any evidence to bring up charges against the Death Row CEO, much less convict him.
Still, there’s the association factor. Both Biggie and Tupac were the main players in the dangerous gangsta rap game being facilitated by Suge Knight and, to a slightly lesser (or better disguised) degree, Sean “Puffy” Combs. Their songs’ lyrics were art imitating life, with each act perpetuating hardened images that were essential to their street cred and their ability to continue selling millions of records.
When Knight posted Tupac’s bail for a prior conviction just months before the rapper’s fatal shooting, rather than steer ‘Pac down a straight and narrow path to redemption, the mogul allowed his superstar signee to continue dwelling in what were, at best, questionable situations, culminating in the fracas in Las Vegas that preceded his murder.
As for Biggie, count this writer among those who still believe that there is a more direct cause-and-effect relationship between Knight and the rapper’s 1997 demise. Or, at best, it’s probable that Biggie would still be alive today were it not for the East-vs.-West rap feud in which he, 2Pac, Sean Combs and Suge Knight were key players.
Whether or not Knight is guilty of Biggie and Tupac’s murders, the recent plea deal for the 2015 murder of Terry Carter feels like the proverbial chickens coming home to roost, just like O.J. Simpson’s jailing in 2008 for robbery felt like retribution for the unsolved murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her acquaintance Ronald Goldman at her home in 1994, murders largely believed to have been committed by O.J.
Except, while Simpson is now a free man, Suge Knight, whose sentencing was scheduled for Friday, October 5, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for a murder he committed – one for which there was irrefutable evidence. It was the culmination of three decades of run-ins with the law that has mercifully come to an end, both for Knight and the people around him.
Well, at least for those not in the pen with him.