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Welcome to Death Row

Year: 2001
Production Co: Xenon Pictures
Director: S Leigh Savidge/Jeff Scheftel
Producer: Jeff Scheftel
Writer: Jeff Scheftel
Cast: Dr Dre, Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg, Vanilla Ice, Puff Daddy, Bob Dole, RBX, The Doc, Eazy E, Master P, Dan Quayle, Tupac Shakur
The absolutely riveting story of the egos, money and corruption of the gangster rap movement.

Maybe the most interesting aspect was hearing the story that explains all the disses and props on the lyrics. Of course I'd heard the names Ruthless Records, Death Row and Aftermath, but had no real idea of the impetus behind the creation and the larger than life personalities that created them.

It chronicles NWA, the generation of gangster rap via NWA, Death Row via Suge Knight and Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac via Death Row, Aftermath, the east vs west war of words that occasionally resulted in real violence, Puff Daddy, Bad Boy Records and the east coast movement and more.

The whole thing is spun out through interviews with inside players and quite impressive archive footage and imagery, and the movie's biggest strength is how they managed to get some of the key players involved (Dre, Snoop) despite the film pulling what appears to pull no punches about the truth.

It manages to incorporate Vanilla Ice, tells the story behind Interscope (who you'll know from Eminem's label, Shady records and even gives you the inside on stuff you don't know like the white LA lawyer David Kenner and the associate of Death Row (Michael Harris) who helped run it from prison.

As the final fateful line says; the two middle class white guys who run Interscope made off with an enormous fortune, Suge Knight's in jail and Tupac's dead.

It seems to be implying the whole gangster rap movement was a way of keeping the black man down, but what it doesn't say is that it just happened to be the black guys who lived and believed their own myth a little too literally while the guys with the real smarts stayed in the background and looked after the money.

Absolutely essential if you're a fan of the genre.

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