Thursday, March 20, 2008

Death Row vs. Bad Boy: Who really won?

by dunklinstreet

Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records ruled Hip Hop in the 1990's. Headed by influential executives Marion "Suge" Knight and Sean "Puffy" Combs, these two companies became the bench mark in the new world of commericalized rap that began in the late '80's. Death Row started in 1991. Bad Boy would follow 2 years later. As would be the case with each of their

biggest stars, Pac and Biggie, you almost can't mention one without mentioning the other. But why are these two companies mentioned in the same breath as the other? What is it that makes them alike? Different? There was definitely a rivalry between the labels, even before Suge "call out" Puff at the infamous 1995 Source awards. They say "success breeds envy", and that was the case with this beef. But I think the biggest reason for the beef was MONEY! Yeah that's right money. Keep reading as I try to paint a picture for you.

Death Row was the kings of the West Coast gangsta rap scene that began with Ice T and Death Row co-founder Dr. Dre's former group NWA in the 1980's. It was founded in 1991 when Dr. Dre became disenfranchised with his role and compensation in NWA. He met and befriended body guard-turned manager Suge Knight. Knight would negotiate Dre's release from his Ruthless Records contract. After that they would set up shop with Suge doing all the "behind the scenes" work and Dre controlling the music part. They would sign artists to the label like Tha Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, Lady of Rage, RBX and future superstar Snoop Doggy Dogg. With all the players in place, Dre went to work on his seminal classic debut The Chronic. That album is probably the most influential album in rap history. Less than a year later The Row released the Doggystyle, Snoop' debut album. It is the first debut album history the enter the Billboard Charts at #1. A month before the album was released, Snoop was arrested in connection with the death of a rival gang member. These charges would haunt not only him, but the label for the next 3 years. With these two releases, The Row established themselves as the elite label in rap. They would release the mega-successful soundtracks to the films Murder Was the Case and Above the Rim. The latter starred the only major West Coast artist not on Death Row, Tupac Shakur. But in a matter months that would chance. And the The Row would never be the same.

Bad Boy was once called the "East Coast Saviors". And they probably were. Some might argue what about Nas or the Wu-Tang Clan? They all contributed to the rebirth, but difference is Bad Boy sold records. It was founded 1993 by Sean "Puffy" Combs after he was fired from Uptown Records. He had signed Biggie to Uptown and brought him over to Bad Boy to be his marquee artist. He released Ready to Die, Biggie's debut album in the fall of 1993. It became a instant hit, with it's mix of east coast/g-funk singles and it's gritty tales of urban life. Puffy and his Hittmen production team also had a knack for producing glossy, extra stylized remixes to already hit songs. Every thing that Puff did, he made sure it was on a bigger scale than anyone had previous done it. The Hype Williams directed videos became the blue print for the so-called ghetto-fabulous lifestyle. Bad Boy also released highly successful records by Faith Evans, Total and 112.

As I said earlier "success breeds envy", and Bad Boy's success had began to eclipse that of Death Row's. Suge Knight would take offense to the fact that he had a competitor on a rival coast. He started taunting Puffy and Bad Boy at every chance he could. He made disparaging remarks towards Puff at the '95 Source Awards in New York. Later in the show, Snoop and Dre performed and got jeered by the crowd, causing Snoop to say "New York ain't got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg!?" Their crews go into it at Jermaine Dupri's Birthday Party in Atlanta. One of Suge's close friends was killed in the incident. Suge would later blame Puffy for having something to do with the killing. Meanwhile Biggie was involved in a beef with former friend 2Pac. They had met in 1993 while Pac was shooting the film Above the Rim in New York City. Biggie was just getting into the game, while Pac was an established star. On November 30, 1994, Pac was shot inside the Quad recording studios in Manhattan. He would later accuse Big, Puff and others for being involved. The day after bein shot, Pac convicted of sexual assault and server 11 months before Suge Knight put up the 1.4 Million got bail out in exchange for a 3 album contact. The alliance between Death Row and Pac benefited both parties. It also meant that the Death Row-Bad Boy rivalry would only escalate. Biggie had released a song called "Who Shot Ya?", which Pac felt was dissing him. When Pac was released from jail, he immediately began recording tracks for his classic album All Eyez on Me. It was the first rap double-album. It contained the first and only time Pac worked with Dr. Dre, who would leave the label soon after Pac's arrival, thus becoming another enemy. Pac would throw insults at Bad Boy though out the early part of 1996. In the the famous diss song "Hit'em Up", Pac alleged that he had sex with Big's wife, Faith Evans. The rival crews confronted each other at the '96 Soul Train Awards. Guns were drawn but nothing happened. A Miami paper refered to this incident as "the hip hop version of the Cuban Missle Crisis."
Want to know what happens next?
Want to know who wins the epic battle?
Well stay tuned to the "Show-Me Files"