Part of the gangsta rap music scene for the last decade, Kurupt contributed to two of the genre’s most popular albums, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, before releasing the controversial Dogg Food as part of the duo Tha Dogg Pound in 1995. Going on to a solo career, Kurupt released a series of solo albums that featured hardedged sounds and explicit lyrics. With his own record company, Philadelphia-based Antra Records, and a series of small film roles, Kurupt has broadened his career to become a fledgling entertainment impresario.
Ricardo Brown grew up in Philadelphia in a singleparent household. By the time he was 15 years old, Brown was running with a tough crowd and his mother, fearing for his safety, sent him to live with his father in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, California. Adopting the pseudonym Kurupt, the young rapper soon made contact with the gansta rap scene centered around Compton and South Central Los Angeles. His success was almost immediate: at the age of 18, Kurupt signed a contract with rap impresarios Lamont and Ken Brumfield, who ran Rapp Central Productions and Hoodsta-4-Life Publishing. Later, the contracts would become the source of multimillion-dollar lawsuits against gansta rap kingpin Suge Knight and his label, Death Row Records.
While Kurupt’s record and publishing contracts marked the teenage rapper as a potential sensation, he first became known for his efforts on one of the landmark rap albums of the 1990s, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Part of a group of young rappers from the Los Angeles area that included Snoop Doggy Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Daz Dillinger, Kurupt became part of the successful Death Row team of artists that shook the music scene with lyrics that emphasized their brutal view of ghetto life. Cementing his relationship with the Death Row roster, Kurupt signed a deal with the record label and a publishing contract with its founder, Suge Knight, in 1993. That same year, Kurupt made a bigger impression with his appearance on Snoop Dogg’s successful debut, Doggystyle. The following year, Kurupt teamed with Daz Dillinger for their own project, Dogg Food, under the name Tha Dogg Pound.
While Tha Dogg Pound’s initial release was eagerly anticipated by fans of gangsta rap, its release was delayed when activists threatened a boycott against Death Row’s distributor, Interscope Records, and its parent company, Time Warner, for the violent and misogynistic lyrics that dominated their gangsta rap releases. Kurupt was dismissive of the criticism; as he told Rolling Stone, “The second they stop our music is the second they have to stop pornography. They got to stop movies where people get their heads blown off. They got to stop Beavis and Butthead saying ‘penis’ over and over or saying it’s cool to set your couch on fire.” Eventually, Dogg Food was released in 1995. While the cuts “Let’s Play House” with Nate Dogg and “New York, New York” with Snoop Dogg received some airplay, the album’s sales were a disappointment in light of all the prerelease hype.
Kurupt also faced problems with a lawsuit filed by the Brumfield brothers against him, Knight, and Death Row Records over his breach of the 1990 contracts that he had signed with Rapp Central Productions and Hoodsta-4-Life Publishing. Kurupt avoided liability by declaring bankruptcy in 1996, but the lawsuits dragged on, creating even more tension in the crumbling Death Row empire. In December of 2000, a Los Angeles jury agreed with the plaintiffs that Knight had improperly interfered with the contract between Kurupt and the Brumfields. Knight and Death Row were ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay $4.34 million in compensatory damages to the Brumfields and an additional $10 million in punitive damages.
With Tha Dogg Pound viewed as one of Death Row’s lesser successes, Dillinger and Kurupt parted ways to work on their own solo projects. Kurupt also set up his own Philadelphia-based label, Antra Records, in affiliation with A&M and later Artemis Records. “I am doing my own thing. I wouldn’t even call it a break from the ‘hood. I would call it more or less trying to make the ‘hood bigger and better,” he told the New York Amsterdam News. “When I came back to Philly, I encountered
For the Record …
Born Ricardo Brown in 1972 in Philadelphia, PA.
Worked on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle before releasing Dogg Food as part of Tha Dogg Pound, 1995; released first solo album, Kuruption!, 1998; released second solo album, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha, 1999; released third album, Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —Antra/Artemis Records, 130 5th Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10011, website: http://www.antramusic.com. Website —Ku-rupt Official Website: http://www.kurupt-online.com.
a gang of new talent. So I snatched up as many talented brothers as I could.” The rapper’s ambition carried over into his first solo project, Kuruption!, a double album released in late 1998. With cuts aimed at both the East Coast and West Coast rap crowds, Kuruption! attempted to secure the artist’s fans in both camps. As Q noted in its generally positive review of the album, “[Kurupt] seemed cut out for big things until Los Angeles and New York rappers started killing each other and Death Row Records fell apart…. Kurupt, from Philadelphia, quite reasonably doesn’t want his only head blown off.”
Although it was helped by the guest appearances of Snoop Dogg and Foxy Brown, Kuruption! was not a big seller. Kurupt faced additional trouble in the aftermath of his breakup with Brown, whom he had dated during the making of the album. In response to rumors of Brown’s affair with rival rapper DMX, Kurupt decided to record a track for his second album, “Callin’ Out Names,” to attack the pair. Word of the track leaked out, however, and the results were lethal. On October 17, 1999, while Kurupt was in a recording session for his second album, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha, his bodyguard, Dwayne “Draws” Dupree, and two other bystanders were shot by two gunmen. Dupree died from his wounds and the assailants escaped without being arrested. Through his record label, Kurupt later denied that there was any connection between “Callin’ Out Names” and the attack, and the track remained on the album.
Released in November of 1999, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha eventually earned gold record status; however, it gained most of its attention for the rage-fueled lyrics that predominated on its tracks. The Vibe website summed up the rapper’s sophomore solo effort by describing it as “over 70 well-produced, malevolently misogynist minutes of Kurupt exacting his ruthless assault on women.” Another review, by Jason Rzepka on the Manhunt Music website, similarly concluded, “While I didn’t exactly extract any life lessons from multiple listens to his second album, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha, I was possessed by an intense inclination to beat the living crap out of somebody and disrespect every woman in the general vicinity.” Confined to the familiar gansta rap themes of glorified violence and ruthlessness against women, Kurupt’s music threatened to be overshadowed once again by controversy.
Kurupt returned to the recording studio for his third album, Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey, in 2001. By now engaged to Natina Reed, a singer with the group Blaque, Kurupt described the album as more introspective than his past efforts. “I was just really thinkin’ about space, about my mind,” he told the Virgin Mega website. “And as a result, I think I opened up more on this album.” With guest appearances by Reed, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, and Snoop Dogg, the album aspired to return Kurupt’s profile to the heights it had reached during the peak of gangsta rap’s popularity in the 1990s. The rap artist also added some acting roles to his resume with small parts in the Kurt Russell film The Plague Season, based on the Los Angeles riots of 1992, and the Dr. Dre movie projects Keepin’ It Reel and The Wash. Kurupt also continued to serve as the chief of Antra Records, a position that he viewed as vital for the continued success of the gangsta rap genre. “When it first started, one person brought us to the table, and we all did our thing together,” he explained to the New York Amsterdam News. “Now, because of the success of Death Row, we’re all able to be on our own. When we all come back, it will be the start of another era.” For its part, Death Row Records released some old Dogg Pound material from its archives as Tha Dogg Pound’s 2002, a project that quickly disappeared from sales charts after its release in the summer of 2001.
Kuruption!, A&M, 1998.
Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha, Artemis, 1999.
(Contributor; with Everlast) Eat at Whitey’s, Tommy Boy, 2000.
Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey, Antra, 2001.
Los Angeles Times, December 13, 2000.
New York Amsterdam News, December 17, 1998.
Q, November 1998.
Rolling Stone, November 2, 1995.
“Kurupt,” Antra Records, http://www.antramusic.com/kurupt_history.htm (December 5, 2001).
“Kurupt: Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha,” Manhunt Music, http://www.manhunt.com/reviews/html/554.html (December 5, 2001).
“Kurupt: Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha,” Vibe, http://www.vibe.com/virtrevolutions/19991107/ (December 5, 2001).
“More Violence,” RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid-9515&cf=6175 (December 5, 2001).
“Rap Label Denies Lyrics Incited Shooting,” APB Celebrity News, http://www.apbnews.com/media/celebnews/1999/10/20rap1020_01.html (December 5, 2001).
“Sentenced to Death Row,” Rock & Roll Reporter, http://www.rocknrollreporter.com/jan01/dirt.htm (December 5, 2001).
“West Coast Gangsta Kurupt in Love,” Virgin, http://www.virginmega.com/default.asp?aid=5F8 (December 5, 2001).
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