Suge Knight cried in a courtroom.
The thought alone reads foolish. Knight, at one point, the scariest man in rap, a mountain of an intimidating figurethat feverishly blended the roles of Darth Vader, the Boogeyman and Al Capone formed a start-up venture which became one of the most successful business in American culture during the 1990s. A man Kevin Powell referred to in his iconic 1996 VIBE portrayal of Suge and Death Row Records as “the wrong n**** to f*** with.”
Urban legends precede him, such as alleged roles in Hip-Hop’s two blackest eyes with the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. What can be confirmed only catapulted the mystique around him to astronomic levels, a la the 1995 Source Awards better known as Suge’s Gettysburg Address.
But here was Suge, in 2014, struggling to maintain composure while a sympathetic judge whisked through the legalities of his latest run-in with the law. In his eyes, glossed by mounds of tears – presumably years in the making – it was almost as if Knight’s thoughts were available for public consumption.
“Damn. Has it really come to this?”
The tears stemmed following Knight surrendering himself to authorities. He threatened a paparazzi in September, supposedly days before being shot at a Chris Brown-hosted party in Los Angeles. That much is confirmed. Where the details begin to divert in opposite directions, however, is the accusation of Suge allegedly stealing the woman’s camera. Suge claimed she was taking pictures of his children. She denied doing so.
As a man wanting to protect the privacy of his family, the frustration is understandable, despite the verbal altercation being anything but. Paparazzi have never the benchmark for moral integrity anyway, oftentimes willingly pushing boundaries to grab a picture, quote or video needed to generate the next viral story plastering itself on TMZ’s webpage.
Yet, on the flip side, Suge Knight is nearly 50-years-old continuing to be the subject of arrests.
Credible or not, Celebrity Net Worth lists Suge’s net worth at $200,000, a far cry from the cash cow he personified nearly 20 years ago. The trademark, freshly trimmed beard is intact. The cigar and hatred for Puffy are, too, evident in this drunken interview outside a L.A. club. The fear – Knight’s bread and butter character trait – he once incited in an entire industry is all but gone. The aura of invincibility has diminished, comparable to a Snuggie which once was an impenetrable force field.
Suge’s last relevant music moment can be argued was in 1996 when Knight’s business savvy and alleged violent negotiation tactics helped Death Row form its own “Big Three” with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac. In less than 12 months, the operation imploded. Dre left the label to form what would become Aftermath. Shakur was murdered (ironically while Suge sat beside him in the driver’s seat) and Snoop released Tha Doggfather, widely accepted as one of the most disappointing follow-up albums in history.
And at the forefront, there was Knight, in jail from 1997-to-2001 for his role in a fight with Orlando Anderson hours before Tupac’s shooting. Death Row was never a major player again.
The title of the article suggests Suge find a way to mature, and evolve beyond the bully image. Hearing stories of how he ran Death Row operated under mafia-like guidelines was fascinating three decades ago – and still is in retrospect – but now comes off as the guy who never left high school while everyone else moved on with their lives.
Interestingly enough, Suge’s predicament is reminiscent of a recent Charles Barkley quote. Chuck expressed hesitation in the New York Knicks running Phil Jackson’s (and Tex Winter’s) patented Triangle Offense because the current roster is older and set in their ways with certain playing styles. Changing them or attempting to change what nature embedded in them is futile.
“You are who you are by this point in your career.”
Give or take a word, that was Barkley’s stance.
The same holds true for Suge. It is time for Marion Knight, the adult and father, to grow up. But then again, it has been time. Knight is who he is at this point in his life and career: a shell of his former self hellbent on living off the acclaim of yester-decade. For a man who rarely afforded himself ample amounts of positive press, his long, slow, polarizing and very public downfall is sad. Somewhat.
Time moves on. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of us.