The assets of Death Row Records, once the thriving home to artists such as Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, are going back on the auction block Jan. 15 as part of a Chapter 11 proceeding.
Death Row initially filed for Chapter 11 protection in April 2006 and that July, the California Judge overseeing the filing ordered a bankruptcy trustee to take over the label. In February 2007, the Warner Music Group was named the stalking horse bidder, but pulled out.
Koch Records replaced WMG, but it too backed out. Sources in both companies say due diligence showed that inadequate record keeping made it difficult to ascertain the label's valuation, let alone whether it was worth the $25 million bid both had made. This time, the auction will include a trove of recordings discovered since the original auction.
Subsequently, an investment group called Global Music agreed to buy Death Row in June 2007, but that deal collapsed amid fighting between investors, who ultimately were unable to raise the necessary financing. Global Music Group "destroyed" the Death Row legacy and has turned it into "a joke," label co-founder Lydia Harris tells Billboard.
Some potential bidders are said to be worried about crossing ex-Death Row boss Marion "Suge" Knight. However, Harris, who started Death Row with Knight and incarcerated ex-husband Michael "Harry O" Harris in 1991, says "It isn't about them being scared. It's about money and greed."
"Everybody wants to hide behind the fear of Suge Knight -- the fear is something they are latching on to -- but all them still do business with him," Harris tells Billboard. "At the end of the day, he's still living, he made people a lot of money and opened doors for a lot of them. It isn't about them being scared. That's what people need to realize. These people still deal with Suge everyday. It's the money. It's the greed."
Harris battled Knight for years for a share of Death Row and won a $107 million judgment in 2005, which was one of the factors that tipped the label into Chapter 11. She remains one of many creditors waiting to see whether an auction of Death Row assets will provide any return.
Meanwhile, Harris is focusing on her newly launched independent label, Lady Boss Entertainment. She signed the New Jersey-based hip-hop duo Movin Music Platoon (MMP) in June 2008. Their single, "Picture Wit Me" featuring Jim Jones, premiered on New York radio station Hot 97 in October, and their debut album, "Make It Flurry," to be distributed via Universal Music Group and Bungalow Records, is scheduled for a mid-'09 release.
And although she wouldn't give any concrete details, Harris will also re-edit her recently released DVD, "Married to the Game," and book of the same title, to include information that she says she was legally forced to exclude due to the ongoing court case with Knight. "We have an audio version of the book too," she says, "and a soundtrack to the DVD will be released as well."
As an aspiring singer, Harris plans to release a single, "What Would You Do," in April. The track will appear on the DVD soundtrack, as well as her as-yet-untitled debut album, slated for later this year.