Death Row Engineer Says Suge Knight Stripped Dr. Dre Of Creative Control

Dr. Dre’s The Chronic turned 21 today, and the Death Row classic has put the label back in the headlines of late. The label’s chief engineer Rick Clifford did an interview with the 2Pac Forum Channel this week where he talked about the real reasons behind Dr. Dre leaving behind the legendary West Coast imprint.

According to Clifford, the issues had nothing to do with Tupac signing to the label in 1995, but rather had more to do with Suge not including Dre in decisions about signing artists. Dre left the label in 1996, with Tupac’s “California Love” the last song he recorded.

“The only reason Dre left was because he thought he lost creative control,” Clifford explained. “We’re working on ‘California Love’ and these guys come in and they’re walking in the studio, all excited, hugging Dre and giving him handshakes, telling Dre, ‘We’re glad to be on the same label as you.’ They leave and Dre got this strange look on his face. I go, ‘What’s wrong, man?’ and he looks around, nobody’s in the room but me, Dre and the assistant. He stops the tape, and he goes, ‘Big Rick, I don’t know how you know this is set up, but the way it’s supposed to be set up, Suge’s supposed to take care of business, and I’m supposed to take care of the creative. Nobody’s supposed to sign to this company unless I hear them first. I’m trying to keep a certain quality and integrity to our company. Now Suge decided to not check in with me; he decided they signing people now.’ About a week later, he was gone.”

Still, Clifford said that Suge is not a bad guy, despite the rap he gets from the media and the rest of the industry.

“Suge’s not a bad person. He loves music,” he said. “The only problem Suge has is if you mess with one of his artists. He would go beyond the call of duty about his record company and his artists. But Suge’s a great person.”