Ear Hustle

Death Row Chief Engineer Rick Clifford Says Dr. Dre Left Label Over Creative Control

and then he would go beyond the call of duty about his record company and his

Rick Clifford says, “Suge’s not a bad person” and adds that Dr. Dre left Death Row Records because he felt that he was losing “creative control.”

The questionable inner-workings of early Death Row Records politics and the blossoming of the label’s artists often come hand-in-hand. Former label head Suge Knight’s name in general tends to lead to debate especially regarding the way he ran the label.


In a recent interview with 2Pac Forum Channel, former Death Row Chief Engineer Rick Clifford talked about Suge Knight’s personality and says he’s not what many portray him as.

“Suge’s not a bad person,” Clifford said when Suge Knight was brought up. “He loves music. The only problem Suge had is if you mess with one of his artists artists.”

Rick Clifford also talked about why he believes Dr. Dre left Death Row Records and says it was because the producer lost creative control of the record label.


“When [Dr.] Dre left, that caused a lot of confusion,” Clifford said. “Dre left due to the fact that he thought, the only reason Dre left ’cause he thought he lost creative control.”

When asked whether Dr. Dre left Death Row because of Tupac, Clifford responded saying those rumors are false.

“That’s not true at all,” he says. “Here’s what happened. We were mixing ‘California Love.’ Dre usually mixes something in four or six hours, then he’d leave and come back. I talked to him saying, ‘Why don’t we leave ’cause we have to do the regular version and remix version.’ So I told Dre, ‘Why don’t we block out the studio for the whole weekend?’ He goes, ‘Hey I always heard about that. I never did it.’ I go, ‘Well dude, this is your studio.’

“So I put the tape on the board for him and we was all excited ’cause nobody could touch it so,” Clifford continues. “Next day we’re working on ‘California Love’ and these guys come in and they’re walking in the studio and they’re like all excited. They’re hugging Dre and giving us handshakes and saying, ‘We’re glad to be on the same label with you.’ So, they leave and Dre got this strange look on his face and I go like, ‘What’s wrong man?’ and he looks around and nobody’s in the room with me. Dre and the assistant and stops the tape and he goes, ‘Big Rick, I don’t know how, the way this is supposed to be set up, Suge’s supposed to take care of the business and I’m supposed to be taking care of the creative and nobody’s supposed to sign to this company unless I hear them first. I’m trying to keep a certain quality and integrity to our company. Now Suge’s just signing people, not checking with me. They signing people now.’ About a week later, he was gone.”

Dr. Dre left Death Row Records in 1996, four years after signing with the label. Dre and Tupac collaborated on “California Love” after Pac signed with Death Row in 1995. It was the last single Dr. Dre would produce before leaving the label in early 1996.


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