Hard Truths

By Sidney Reilly

Hard Truths_2_5_15aAre You Absolutely S___ting Me, Suge Knight?

One of the interesting things about the gangsters and “yegs” of the Depression era was their charisma and fame. In this one way, you sort of have to marvel at the media whirlwind that is Suge Knight. He’s the last of a nearly forgotten breed of criminal who is so brazen and fearless that he flaunts his illegal activities and challenges the public to stop him or love him.

As the head of Death Row Records in the early ‘90s, he made Snoop Dogg a household name while overseeing one of the most profitable independent labels in history. The story goes that he built capital for his budding label by hanging Vanilla Ice off a balcony and threatening to drop him if he didn’t sign over royalties.

These are the stories that have followed him his entire career. When he was the mega-popular head of the most surprising success story in music, when he was in prison for nine years for probation violations, throughout his multiple shootings and arrests, and even while his stuff was being bid on in an episode of Storage Wars.

Like John Dillinger, the greatest bank robber of them all, who famously threw an arm around the warden and mugged for the cameras when he was captured (shortly before his escape), Suge Knight has always exuded the same fearlessness and confidence in his untouchability. So it came as little surprise when he was arrested this past weekend for getting in his car and running over his friend and longtime associate after an altercation, killing the man. Suge has never showed any fear of prison or the laws of civilized society.

What did come as a surprise was that Suge Knight was hanging out on the set of the upcoming biopic about the legendary rap group NWA, a movie being co-produced by rap luminaries Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.

How the hell are these guys still associating with Suge Knight after all these years? Leaving aside the theories of Knight’s culpability in the deaths of both Tupac Shakur and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, he undoubtedly is still hated by Dr. Dre, with whom he had very complex and antagonistic business dealings, and probably also Ice Cube, who is no longer a gangster and is now considered a family-friendly performer. These guys are gajillionaire business men with real reputations to protect, yet like the movie stars who used to pal around with Al Capone, these guys can’t seem to shake their associations with Suge.

Some things never change.

First They Came for Blockbuster and I Said Nothing…

There’s a cruel reality to free market economics that many like to refer to as simply “reality.” And as nobody really cried that hard for Blockbuster when Netflix came to destroy it with its superior services for less money, they again stayed mostly silent as Uber came to escort the taxi industry to their dusty crypts. Now as we see the trillion options for entertainment both live and recorded that the Internet and democratization of music equipment hath wrought, it’s the artists’ and musicians’ turn to not be spoken for as they march to the gallows.

The reality is simply this: there’s business and there’s charity and never the twain shall meet. I don’t know what the recipe is for resuscitating live music and art-for-pay in the small towns across America, but I’m 150% sure that wishing and pleading for it will not get it done. That doesn’t mean I, too, wouldn’t love to see a robust local music scene where everyone gets paid what they’re worth, it’s just that I’m not sure we all agree on what that amount is. Hey I’ve got an idea, maybe a union…

Speaking of Unions…

In a move that is splitting me between my libertarian leanings and my fervent desire to have exotic dancing in Corvallis, the strippers of Portland are starting to organize to agitate for improved working conditions. This should just not be required. The dancers are just asking to have safe conditions to work in while they provide probably Portland’s best product (apologies to the Blazers), and it’s puzzling that club owners don’t see this as also in their best interest. Clean and safe conditions beget awesome and talented dancers. Ten times out of ten.

Have you ever been in a dank and disgusting strip club with jagged edges and hard-to-see stairs? Did you then wonder if there was a correlation to the level of talent and dedication the dancers showed? Did you then want to shell out a few extra bucks for a place that looked like it wasn’t one inspection away from being quarantined by the Oregon Health Authority? Club owners, do I even need to explain this one? Give the dancers what they want. If you do, the customers will give you what you want. 

In fact, this argument goes for the musicians and artists, too…