Singer Says She Had Legitimate Deal At Death Row Records

November 12, 1996

Singer Says She Had Legitimate Deal At Death Row Records

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The daughter of a prosecutor who supervised Death Row Records executive Marion “Suge” Knight’s probation says it was her talent that won her a singing contract with the label.

Gina Longo, 18, said she has been unfairly linked to a controversy involving Knight and her father, Deputy District Attorney Lawrence W. Longo.

Knight – Death Row’s president and chief executive – remains in jail pending a hearing on possible probation violations. Her father was pulled from the case and the District Attorney’s Office is investigating a possible conflict of interest.

It was also discovered that Knight’s lawyer had leased a beachfront Malibu home owned by the Longo family and that Knight had been staying there.

But Gina Longo, who has studied dance and singing since age 6, defended her contract at Death Row. She is the first white performer at the rap label and said Knight once commented he was impressed with her “voice and look.”

“I’m no Milli Vanilli,” said Longo, referring to the pop duo that lost a Grammy award after it was discovered they lip-synced their 1990 debut album.

“The reason I’m on Death Row has nothing to do with my dad. I got my deal because I can sing. I know the perception out there is that everything was just handed to me on a silver platter, but that’s not the way it went down. I’m my own person and I got my own contract,” Longo said.

She signed a multi-album deal with Death Row in January worth an estimated $50,000. She has never released a record or performed in concert.

It all started in June 1995, Longo said, when her brother Frank gave her demo tape to Knight’s chief defense lawyer, David Kenner, while talking about an unrelated music proposal.

In July her brother, who is a lawyer, set up an audition for her with Death Row. She recorded a few test tracks before signing the deal on Jan. 2.

Under the contract, Longo, whose stage name is simply Gina, was to be paid a standard new artist royalty rate – 12 percent of the suggested retail record price, or about $1 per album. She also received a $25,000 advance upon signing and will receive an additional $25,000 after her first album is completed.

She is the first white singer to join the company’s roster of two dozen rap and R&B performers, including gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur.

A celebration dinner was attended by Longo, friends and family, Knight and several of the record executive’s associates.

At one point during the dinner Gina Longo’s father warned Knight not to expect any special treatment in regards to his probation on an assault charge, according to several people who attended the event.

The probation agreement was worked out in February 1995, nearly a year before Gina Longo’s contract was signed.

She recorded eight tracks for an album – including a duet with Death Row’s newcomer Danny Boy – before Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas on Sept. 7.

When Shakur died six days later, business at Death Row came to a halt, she said, and the company stopped returning her calls after Knight was taken into custody for allegedly violating his parole.

“I feel angry,” Longo said. “But even more than that, I feel hurt. … My dad is a great person. I am a talented singer. Why would the media want to take this and twist it into something that it’s not?”

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