Inside Suge Knight's Life In Prison

Suge Knight of Death Row Records is one of the most infamous record executives in the world of hip-hop. Once largely successful, Knight is known for shaping the West Coast rap scene in the 1990s and catapulting the careers of rap legends like Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur. He was responsible for executive producing classic hip-hop albums, like 2Pac's "All Eyez on Me" and Dr. Dre's "The Chronic." Death Row's accolades include countless gold and platinum records and winning the soundtrack of the year award at the 1995 Source Awards.

Amidst his monetary success, Knight found himself frequently in trouble with the law. In 1995, the executive received five years of probation for assault with a deadly weapon stemming from an incident against two rappers. He violated the terms of his probation in 1997 on the night of Shakur's murder in Las Vegas; Knight was involved in a physical altercation hours before Shakur's death, which resulted in a nine-year prison sentence. Fast forward to 2018, he pled no contest and was sentenced to 28 years for manslaughter from a 2015 hit-and-run that killed one man and injured another.

Even behind bars, Knight still makes headlines. However, his life in prison may not be as privileged as one would assume for a former multi-millionaire.

He lost phone and visitor privileges

While awaiting his manslaughter trial, Suge Knight faced some challenges in prison as a judge revoked his phone and visitor privileges in February 2016. Court documents cited that during the investigation of Knight's case, he shouldn't have any people visiting or receive mail or phone calls, aside from his legal team. The ruling was upsetting to both Knight and his fiancée, Toi-Lin Kelly, who told the Daily News it was "unfair," as their youngest son looked forward to the visits with his father.

Knight's other son, Suge Jacob Knight, claimed that his father had "extreme" restrictions in prison and was being treated "like a mass murderer." "Going in today and hearing my dad ask to be treated like a regular inmate, it actually hurt me," he recounted to the Daily News. "Why does he even have to ask for that? I feel like it's taking time away from his actual case." 

It was later confirmed by Judge William Ryan – who ruled for Knight's contact with the outside world to be cut off — that it wasn't intended to punish him, but it was for security purposes. By June 2016, Knight was allowed to visit with his family again.

He experienced major health issues in prison

Suge Knight's deteriorating health in prison has been concerning to his family. Since first being arrested and put behind bars in 2015, he has had some major health problems, causing him to be transferred to a hospital multiple times.

Back in 2015, when a judge issued his bail at $25 million, Knight actually passed out in the courtroom. This was a month before he was hospitalized for having chest pains before a court date that was later revealed to be a panic attack. Knight also claimed that he was going blind in one eye, in addition to losing over 30 pounds due to untreated injuries that he sustained. In 2017, Knight also had to go to the hospital for blood clots and claimed the clots were due to how he was being treated in the prison's solitary confinement, according to TMZ

His son, Suge Jacob Knight, expressed his concern over his father's condition. "With all those health issues, I'm very worried about my father. I'ma be honest. Because he's a strong dude, but he's human, man ... It's stresses that's causing his health to be f***ed up ... It's set up for him not to make it out. And that's just the sad part because he doesn't deserve it. I don't wish this on anybody ... He needs attentive care all the time," he spoke on behalf of his father.

He claimed his rights were violated during his court case

While serving his 28-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter (dropped from murder), Suge Knight alleged that he accepted his plea deal from his 2018 trial under false pretenses. In an October 2023 interview with All Hip Hop (via VIBE), Knight claimed he was told he had "three strikes" on his record, which he alleged were incorrectly put there. He theorized that if he could have gone to trial instead of being forced to accept a plea deal because of the "three strikes," he would have beaten his case.

Knight thus believed his rights were violated and he should walk free after doing time served. "So an unfixable error, the only thing you got to do is you got to make a deal and let me go home," he stated. "Or show I was right, or you let me take my plea back and start all over. But it'd be harder to start all over because you did all this bulls*** with my case."

Knight added that after he fired one of his attorneys, the judge presiding over his case wouldn't allow him to represent himself. However, he still had one other attorney on his case and was given over a month to replace the one he fired. Knight was still displeased. "You don't have the right to not let me have a lawyer," he claimed. As forced as Knight's theory may sound, it looks like he spent his time behind bars seeking to make a case against the court.

Knight testified from prison in a case against himself

The family of Suge Knight's deceased hit-and-run victim decided to sue him for millions of dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit. For the civil trial, in June 2022, Knight testified remotely from prison in what Rolling Stone described as a "cinderblock room painted neon white." For the first time, the former music mogul explained his version of what happened the day of the fatal accident that killed Terry Carter and injured Cle Sloan back in 2015.

According to his testimony, Knight came to the set of the "Straight Outta Compton" film at the request of Dr. Dre wanting to discuss something with him, which was disputed by Dr. Dre's legal team. When Knight arrived and was denied the meeting, he admitted to not being thrilled about it. He testified that Carter then called to summon him for a meeting with Dr. Dre near Tam's Burgers in Compton, where he alleged Carter and Sloan ambushed him in the parking lot.

He claimed that he "feared for his life," and it was an act of self-defense when he jumped in his car and backed over the two men, killing Carter and severely injuring Sloan. The families of the victims believed that Knight was the actual aggressor. A judge ultimately declared a mistrial as the jury couldn't come to a consensus on finding Knight at fault.

He entrusted Ray J with Death Row Records

Suge Knight realized that even while behind bars, he needed ways to support his family on the outside. After all, the hip-hop mogul has five children plus a fiancée, so he tapped into his friends and family for help. Knight revealed to The Blast in 2019 that he placed musical artist Ray J in charge of Death Row Records and its future musical releases. "Ray J is the little brother and family," Knight stated proudly to the publication.

Knight confirmed that, in addition to his deal with Ray J, he appointed hip-hop's favorite dad, Nick Cannon, to help get a book written about his life. Knight's fiancée, Toi-Lin Kelly, is his power of attorney and spearheads the deals behind all film and television projects about him. In 2021, Deadline announced that a production company purchased Knight's life rights and were set to produce a movie based on his life and career.

Although he was making arrangements for his businesses to be taken care of while he's locked away, Knight noted to The Blast that he believed he would be out of prison in time to take care of his family himself. "I'll be home before you know it," he said.

His tough reputation didn't follow him to court

As the head of Death Row Records, Suge Knight always had a reputation for being feared. There were rumors that he was affiliated with the infamous Bloods street gang dating back to when he was growing up in Compton, California. Page Six once reported that Knight had a past of allegedly kidnapping and torturing people over business disputes or even something as minor as using a company phone without permission. 

When he appeared in court in 2018, the Los Angeles Times' headline — "Suge Knight's Image as Thug and Feared Enforcer Crumbled in Court" — hinted that Knight seemed to be a different person during his manslaughter trial than his perception in the public eye. His tough reputation collapsed as he chuckled with Judge Ronald Coen while having a generally jovial demeanor. He even complimented Coen, stating, "I trust you. You've been my judge and my advisor ... You're my only friend now."

Knight's sister, Karen Anderson, emphasized to the publication that her brother isn't necessarily the villain he has been painted as. "I'm not sugarcoating anything. I'm not saying he's an angel," she said. "But he's not the person everyone's portraying him to be either." If he's anything like he was in the courtroom, his mob-boss-like reputation didn't follow him to the slammer.

A gang leader claimed Knight had enemies behind bars

Many people have a lot of trouble believing that someone like Suge Knight could be fearful in prison. In July 2023, a Blood gang leader who appeared via phone call on "The Lionel B Show" claimed that Knight was "hiding" in his cell due to his fear of what could happen to him in the general prison population because of his dark and shady past. He alleged that Knight was disloyal to the Bloods when he was previously affiliated, claiming Knight purposely created problems within the group and with the Crips, their rival gang. Many people were reportedly waiting for him to lose his "status," as both gangs were not big fans of him.

Since Knight was put behind bars, the gang leader theorized that many other gang members within those walls could be looking for vindication. Additionally, one of the men he injured in 2015, Cle Sloan, was gang-affiliated. The gang member on the podcast speculated that Knight should watch his back as he is not well-liked in prison.

He had beef with Snoop Dogg's purchase of Death Row

Snoop Dogg once recognized that Suge Knight changed his life by signing him as an up-and-coming artist to Death Row Records in the early 1990s. Fast forward to 2022, Snoop Dogg announced that he was the new owner of the record label amid Knight's legal and financial troubles. However, Knight is claiming that Snoop and his business partner, Michael Harris, didn't acquire the company legally. 

Knight alleged that the pair committed bankruptcy fraud with the company in 2013, which had put all Death Row artists in a very bad place financially, per TMZ. " "I didn't lose my company by doing anything wrong," Knight told TMZ in April 2023. "They went in and the lawyer didn't show up, and they got a default judgement. I settled the judgement. They turned around and said I didn't settle the judgement." As pointed out by the publication, Snoop wasn't involved when the bankruptcy happened in 2013, and he bought Death Row almost a decade later.

The two caught up years prior, as Snoop recalled to Revolt in 2016, and the rapper claimed that he and Knight were "cool" after squashing some previous beef. "We had a long 3-to-4-hour conversation one time. And we got caught up on some real love. Cause it was never that he never hated me, I just think he was disappointed that he couldn't control me," Snoop stated. So much for being cool.

He launched a podcast from behind bars

Perhaps one of the most shocking headlines about Suge Knight from prison was that he was starting a podcast called "Collect Call with Suge Knight." According to Rolling Stone, the premise of the podcast was CEO and founder of Breakbeat Media, Dave Mays, calling Knight collect on the phone for candid discussions, including Knight calling on other artists as well. Mays stated in the podcast's introduction that Knight will "[answer] everything that world-wide hip hop fans want to know." Knight's prison, RJ Donovan Correctional State Facility in San Diego, allegedly has no qualms with this project.

On a November 2023 episode, Knight addressed Keefe D's arrest for his involvement in the murder of Tupac Shakur, 27 years later. Keefe D has denied all involvement in the incident. On the same episode, he accused Snoop Dogg and Daz Dillinger of recording a song with one of the men who conspired to murder Shakur.

Additionally, after Sean "Diddy" Combs's ex-girlfriend, singer Cassie, dropped shocking allegations against the rapper in a November 2023 lawsuit, TMZ learned that Knight would be addressing the lawsuit on the podcast. Knight also planned to address Cassie's allegations about Combs showing up to confront him with guns years prior.