Name at birth: Marion Hugh Knight, Jr.
Marion "Suge" Knight co-founded Death Row Records, one of the most successful record labels of the 1990s and the company that launched the careers of such hip-hop artists as Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. Raised in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton, Knight was an athlete in high school who earned a football scholarship to El Camino College in 1983. After two years, he transferred to the University of Las Vegas and played football there until graduating in 1987. He wasn't drafted by the NFL, but he played two games in 1987 during the players' strike (he was a defensive lineman). After a stint as a bodyguard for Bobby Brown, Knight found his way to the hip-hop music scene. After Andre "Dr. Dre" Young left Ruthless Records, he and Knight founded Death Row Records in 1991. In the next five years, they released rap albums that became the foundation of West Coast "gangsta" rap, including Dre's The Chronic (1992), Snoop's Doggystyle (1993) and Dogg Food (1995), and Tupac's All Eyez on Me (1996). By all accounts, Knight ran the operation like a crime boss out of the movies, and while they were selling millions of records, they were also feuding with East Coast rappers (especially Eazy-E, P. Diddy and The Notorious B.I.G.), straitlaced politicians -- and each other. Then it all fell apart: Shakur was murdered in 1996, The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered in 1997, and Suge Knight went to prison for a probation violation. Knight ran Death Row Records from jail, but Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg both left and formed their own careers. Embroiled in criminal and civil court cases, Knight and Death Row soldiered on until filing bankruptcy in 2006. Knight was wounded in 2005 in a shooting at a party hosted by Kanye West; he was shot 6 times in 2014 at a party hosted by Chris Brown. On 29 January 2015, Knight and his truck ran over Cle "Bone" Sloan and former colleague Terry Carter. Carter was killed and Sloan was injured, and Knight ended up in jail again, charged with murder and attempted murder.
His name Suge is short for “Sugar Bear,” a childhood nickname, and is pronounced “shoog.”