- Alyssa Woods
Record label. Death Row Records was formed in 1991 by former football star Marion “Suge” Knight and rapper/producer Dre (Andre Romelle Young) in Los Angeles, California. The label’s first release was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1992, a groundbreaking album that paired explicit and often violent lyrics with commercial beats that were based on older soul, funk, and R&B songs. The musical style of The Chronic became known as “G-Funk” (Gangsta-funk), a style that dominated many of Death Row’s early albums as well as most West Coast gangsta rap throughout the 1990s.
Death Row achieved immense success within a few years, partly due to aggressive marketing to mainstream audiences, and partly due to a successful distribution deal with Interscope. Death Row Records became a target of the controversy within the gangsta rap industry due to the constant legal problems of Suge Knight and many of the artists signed to the label (for example Snoop Dogg, and later Tupac Shakur). As a consequence of public debates surrounding gangsta rap’s promotion of violence and drugs, Interscope’s parent company, Time-Warner, eventually dropped Interscope as a distributor in an effort to distance themselves from Death Row....