Dr. Dre Parts Ways With Death Row Records – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
March 22, 1996: On this day in 1996, Dr. Dre parted ways with Death Row Records, the infamous West Coast label he cofounded in 1991 with Marion "Suge" Knight.
Prior to Death Row, Dre had been signed to Eazy-E's Ruthless Records as a part of the group N.W.A. Frustrated with Eazy and N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller's business practices, the veteran producer linked up with Knight to start Death Row. Knight reportedly used strong-arm tactics to appropriate the contracts of Dre, rapper the D.O.C. and singer Michel'le.
Beginning in 1992, with the release of Dr. Dre's solo debut The Chronic, Death Row enjoyed a successful but short-lived reign at the top of the hip-hop charts. The label later signed artists like Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and Tupac Shakur.
However, in 1996, just months after Death Row signed Tupac, Dr. Dre split with the label over a contract dispute. Dre would go on to partner with Interscope Records' Jimmy Iovine to launch Aftermath Records.
As we all know, Dre and Jimmy's new label was a runaway success, starting with the compilation album Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath and an album from rap supergroup The Firm, which consisted of Nas, AZ, Nature and Foxy Brown. Aftermath signed Eminem in 1998, he dropped his major label debut, The Slim Shady LP, in 1999 and took off from there. 50 Cent, another rap superstar, soon followed. Scooping up The Game, Kendrick Lamar and more just sealed the deal, and made Aftermath one of the most successful rap labels ever.