Is There Any Room to Feel Sympathy for Suge Knight?

Free Suge Knight?

By Rahim Ali

From the looks of it, the walls seem to be closing in on Suge Knight. He’s been doing jail time since 2015, charged with murdering Terry Carter after running the man over with his SUV. While in lock-up, Suge has reportedly been relegated to solitary confinement (eventhough he did nothing wrong) after a judge blocked his access to phones and visits from family and friends. And his health is reportedly been in decline. Recently, he was transported to USC Medical Center for blood clots, a condition that has been a problem for the past two years.

But for all the hardship the former Death Row Records CEO is experiencing in jail the reaction from the hip hop world to his misfortune has been telling. Specifically, there’s been none. Only silence. Moreover, within the silence regarding Suge’s treatment in jail has been an unspoken (at least in public) sentiment that he’s receiving Karmic justice. It is the unstated understanding that his current problems are the universe’s way of paying him back for all the ill he’s caused (and allegedly caused) to others. Like the rumors and reports of his unsubstantiated connection to the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. And the violence he unleashed on folks who worked at his Death Row label. Or his ill business dealings with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and many of the artists on his label as well a host of other incidents.

In other words, Suge’s current situation in jail is not generating much remorse from hip hop fans or drumming up outrage in activist circles over his freedom or even justice for his treatment while incarcerated. Some may argue that the former mogul doesn’t deserve a justice or freedom campaign because of all of the wrong he’s done and trouble he’s gotten into. But wouldn’t that be a contradiction when looking at many of the freedom/justice campaigns for rappers and celebrities who were also accused (some found guilty) of ill behavior in their celebrity life. For instance, folks sported “Free Gucci Mane,” t-shirts after the rapper was imprisoned for possession of firearm even though, in 2011, he was arrested for throwing a woman out a moving car. There was a similar cry for justice for Brooklyn rapper Bobby Shmurda in 2015. Fellow Brooklynite Shyne was the face of one of hip hop’s most highly publicized calls for release from prison. The former Bad Boy artist was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a infamous club shooting in 1999. Even Love & Hip Hop star Remy Ma was the subject of a “Free _________” t-shirt campaign. Is it somewhat hypocritical of hip hop fans to not give Suge the treatment they’ve given other troubled stars in the fraternity? Are Suge’s wrongs too egregious to warrant remorse for his punishment? Even O.J. Simpson received a hint of sympathy in 2008 when he was given a maximum sentence of 33 years for stealing items that were stolen from him.

It seems strange that all of the reports about Suge’s legal woes during his incarceration hasn’t garnered small pockets of outrage during a time when conversations about reforming the justice system is happening everywhere. The history of the American justice system treating both the innocent and the guilty the same is an issue people usually speak out against. While, by no means, am I saying Suge is innocent, it can be stated that the conditions he’s being subjected to are wrong for the innocent and the guilty. Many have spoken out about the case of Kalief Browder, the New York teen who, at 16 , was arrested and imprisoned for allegedly stealing a backpack . He spent most of his time in solitary confinement and eventually committed suicide for a crime he was cleared of. How does Browders’ treatment during his confinement anger us, but we for the most part remain silent for Suge? This seems like an opening that anti-Black Lives Matters advocates would pounce on. How come Suge’s life doesn’t matter.

The point of this argument isn’t to urge folks to run out and start a “Free Suge” campaign and ignore what he’s been accused of or what he’s been involved in through out his career. This is only to say we can’t ignore the shortcomings of the justice system in punishing him so harshly when he hasn’t been tried yet. In overlooking his treatment in jail, for someone who has not even been tried for his crime raises questions that many of us, myself included, probably have not even given thought to. What does it say about Suge’s relationship with hip hop? What does it say about us when the fight to change the system has never been more clear to this generation?

Many Love & Hip Hop Atlanta fans can remember the support Scrapp got when he stood in front of the judge and received his long-awaited sentence.