Over the past year, Suge Jacob Knight Jr., son of notorious Death Row Records mogul Marion Suge Knight, has made multiple claims in (since-deleted) Instagram posts that one of Death Row’s most legendary artists, Tupac Shakur, is living in Malaysia and working on new music.
Back in October 2018, Knight Jr. played into long-running conspiracy theories that Shakur didn’t really die as the result of gunshot wounds in 1996, posting “Tupac is alive” and “He never left us” along with (presumably Photoshopped?) pictures of Shakur posing with 50 Cent and Beyoncé. He also implied that the Illuminati had silenced Shakur and were now after him for “saying too much.”
Knight Jr. doubled down on these allegations in January 2019 — posting that Shakur was “back in the studio” with “new music coming,” and announcing, “I need the hottest producer to work on a project for Pac.”
Now the 23-year-old Knight Jr. is starring in the new VH1 reality show Love & Listings, which chronicles his burgeoning career in the high-stakes Los Angeles real estate game. Naturally, viewers are wondering if Knight Jr. (who goes by the first name Jacob professionally, because he wants “people to feel safe”) will clarify his claims on the show — or if Tupac will even make some sort of “appearance.” Sitting with Yahoo Entertainment to promote the docuseries, Jacob recalls the internet-breaking reaction when he first posted his “Tupac is alive” proclamations online.
“When I said it, the whole world stopped moving. Everybody was like, ‘What's going on?’ I went and got 200,000 followers within two days. And I was like, ‘Wow, like this is, this is crazy. Germany's calling me [to do interviews], and I don't even speak German!’ So, I don't even know what to do. Pretty much the reason why I did it, there's a purpose for it, and you actually have to tune into the show to see why,” says Knight Jr., who recently flip-flopped and conceded that Tupac is dead, but still teased some sort of unreleased material from the revered rapper. “I know people are expecting new music of his too. So, you guys got to tune in.”
Knight Jr.’s infamous Instagram posts understandably drew the ire of many Tupac fans, whether they believed him or not — sparking him to comment “I’m not on drugs” and explain, “I’m a Knight. They think Knights are a threat. I will continue to move smart. I’m not snitching on Pac, never the case. He would want me to protect my family. I’m doing that. We are free. Big Suge ’til then.” Speaking to Yahoo now, he stresses that he “meant no disrespect to [Shakur’s] family. That man's family is my family. … It's a real good message why I did it. It's like, it makes the world reflect on ourselves. … I don't want to ruin it. It's an important message. Tupac's my godfather. That's all I have to say.”
During Death Row Records’ heyday, Suge Knight Sr., who is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence at San Diego’s RJ Donovan Correctional Facility for voluntary manslaughter, signed some of the hip-hop’s greatest artists, including Tupac Shakur, to the world. And that’s a legacy of which the younger Knight is very proud.
“It was the life,” Jacob says fondly of his hip-hop childhood. “I think of it like this: We're in 2019. Ten years ago, everybody pretty much is pretty mad at us. … Everybody was like, ‘Oh Suge Knight, he's bad. He's bad.’ Ten years before that, we ran the city. Everybody loved my father. He helped a lot of people in the music industry. So, just growing up, I seen a lot. I witnessed a lot of greatness. I witnessed my father give back to the community. I would see my father employ jobs. That's really my idol to this day. …The biggest misconception could be that he's feared, when in reality, he was a protector. That's how I like to put it. He's a real good friend. He's a real genuine guy.”
Jacob has spent years advocating for his father, whom he believes has been mistreated in jail and by the justice system. That’s why it was so meaningful that Love & Listings gave him the opportunity to speak to his dad on the phone (in an emotional scene depicting Suge Sr. giving Suge Jr. a career pep talk). “They had a communication ban on us. We couldn't send letters [or email]. We couldn't pretty much do anything. I just had to pray and then work hard. … The judge or whatever felt that Suge Knight and his son, they can't talk to each other. It didn't make any sense,” recalls Knight Jr.
Jacob says his father is “real private” and that “this is the first time that we actually opened up; this was the first time that people will see Suge Knight and see the inside of his family.” So, it was obviously a major step for Knight Sr. to participate in a reality show. But Jacob says his father readily agreed to it. “He's like, ‘Anything to support my son. Let's do it.’ So, that's a good dad right there.”
Love & Listings premieres July 29 on VH1.
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