Report: Inmate claims he helped start Death Row Records

September 01, 1997

Report: Inmate claims he helped start Death Row Records

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A man convicted of attempted murder who claims to have helped started Death Row Records has emerged as a central figure in a racketeering probe of the rap label, a newspaper reported today.

FBI agents have interviewed Los Angeles music executives, asking questions about Michael “Harry O” Harris and his purported role as a Death Row financier while behind bars, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Death Row founder Marion “Suge” Knight, who is serving a prison sentence for a probation violation, denies the claim by Harris. The label is under investigation for alleged links to gangs, drugs, money laundering and violent acts.

Knight dismissed Harris as a scheming “snitch” who is trying to lighten his prison sentence.

“I am not a rat,” Harris told the Times in a prison interview. “If I was a rat, I could have been home free 10 years ago.”

Harris and his wife also negotiated deals with music labels owned by Time Warner, Polygram, Sony and Viacom. Record industry officials refused to comment.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Harris’ drug operation was part of an international drug ring that linked Los Angeles street gangs to a Colombian cocaine cartel.

In 1987, he was convicted of the kidnapping and attempted murder of one of the members of his drug ring, James Lester, whom Harris suspected of stealing money. Harris is serving 28 years in state prison.

“I’m a workaholic,” Harris said. “I applied myself. I know I did wrong in the past and I am paying my debt to society. That, however, in no way negates the fact that I was blessed with entrepreneurial talent.”

Harris, 35, declined to discuss the racketeering probe, but sources told the Times he has testified before the federal grand jury – as have a number of people involved in the early days of Death Row.

Harris is careful to describe his role as a “consultant” to ventures operated by his wife, Lydia Harris, because it is illegal to run a business while in state prison.

Harris said Death Row began in the fall of 1991, when he introduced his lawyer, David Kenner, to Knight, an aspiring music entrepreneur who had access to a recording studio.

Harris asked Kenner, who was working on an appeal of his drug conviction, to bring Knight for a visit to the Metro Detention Center to discuss the possibility of cutting a demo tape of his wife’s singing, Harris said.

Harris says he put up $1.5 million in working capital for a half stake in an entertainment corporation called GF Entertainment that would include a record division called Death Row.

Knight visited Harris at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi nearly two dozen times over the next 18 months, state records show.

But by November, Harris says, he learned that Knight and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young had secretly cut a deal with Interscope Records, which released Death Row’s debut album and a string of other multimillion-selling hits.

Harris says Knight and Kenner repeatedly have refused to give him an accounting from Death Row or share any of its profits with his wife, who he maintains deserves half of any income earned.

Knight denies that Harris financed Death Row, insisting the label was launched with millions of dollars from deals cut with Sony, Interscope and Time Warner.

Over the past four years, Death Row’s music has been distributed by four of the nation’s six biggest record conglomerates and generated more than $300 million in retail sales.

Kenner said he cannot comment on his former client’s accusations, citing attorney-client privilege.

Posted by on Sep 1 1997. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply


Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google

Photo Gallery

Log in |
  • Hispanic Gangs
  • Homies Figures – The Original Homies
  • Prison Gangs
  • The Inside Man – Confidential Informant, Los Angeles Gangs & the LAPD
  • Email
  • Connecticut Drug Threat Assessment report – 2003
  • Dianne Feinstein Report, The Gang Prevention and Effective Deterrence Act: Combating the Spread of Gang Violence – 2003
  • National Alliance of Gang Investigators 2005
  • L.A. Area Terrorized by Marauding Youngsters
  • Other Cities
  • Three persons were killed by shotgun blast in hotel on Vermont Avenue, 1979
  • Jamiel’s Law, proposed by Mayoral candiate Walter Moore
  • Los Angeles Police Gang Enforcement Initiaitives – 2007
  • My Kingdom Come – 2015
  • Passing of Vincent A Alonso
  • SG Music Group
  • Crip Gangs
  • Bloods
  • Asian Gangs
  • Forums
  • Shop
  • Injunctions
  • Contact information
  • Resources