Conversations With Chad: Jewell Talks Death Row Records, Suge Knight, Working With Dr. Dre & Label Memories

Jewell, known as “The First Lady of Death Row Records”, has provided the hooks to many of Death Row Records‘ classic songs from the label’s historical catalog. From her show-stopping performances on Dr. Dre‘s “Let Me Ride”, “Bitches Ain’t Sh**”, Snoop Dogg‘s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)”, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony‘s “For The Love Of Money,” 2Pac‘s “Thug Passion” and countless other hits, Jewell played an integral part of the Death Row dynasty.

With the November 2011 release of her self-titled WIDEawake/Death Row Records album (cop it at Amazon.com), the former Death Row Records signee sat down with Chad Kiser for this exclusive interview.

What’s the story of Suge Knight strong-arming people for song rights and getting people out of their contractual agreements with other labels. What do you recall happening in those early days of Death Row Records?

He did it. They allowed him to do it because they were scared of him. He didn’t ever do anything like that to me, but everybody viewed him as this big, beastly creature that would come and f*** you up. You did what he said, or you reaped the repercussions behind it. Now that he’s been knocked out so many times, people take him for a joke. (laughs)

From what I’ve heard you say, it seems you Dre had a pretty simple and effective working relationship. Tell us a little bit about the relationship you two had.

We conversed a lot in the beginning because, like I said, music was all I really wanted to know. So, when he was there, I was there, even if it was just to sit in the room, be quiet, and just watch him. I absorbed his energy and the chemistry was always there between us, but when it was time to give me tracks, he said he didn’t know what to give me. In my mind, I was like “Was he serious? He didn’t know what to give me? Give me the same tracks you want to give Snoop Dogg to rap on and let me sing on it.” That’s the recipe he created for me, that’s what I sound the best on because even though it’s rap, I’m going to take my melodic melodies and R&B twists and make a masterpiece out of it with my voice.

But he thought that was too hard for me, and in my mind I couldn’t fathom why he would say these types of things when that’s what made them successful — me putting an R&B twist on your damn rap songs. Give me some of them rap tracks. I think he wanted to a project with me like what he did with Michel’le, but he was dealing with two different spectrums of the world — I was this and she was that. I guess he thought I was just good enough for a hook, but not for an entire R&B song over a rap track. That would’ve been the sh**.

One thing I always wondered about was if there was ever any drama or jealousies between you and Michel’le. You both seemed to have similar positions within Death Row, and with Michel’le having a personal relationship with Dre, and then subsequently with Suge Knight, was there ever any conflict there?

First of all, Michel’le was never at Death Row when I was there. If anything, she came to see Dre for 10 or 15 minutes, and then she left. So, she wasn’t a part of Death Row, she wasn’t signed to Death Row, she wasn’t an artist on Death Row, so let’s get that straight. Secondly, I never had a problem with Michel’le because she was never around. Dre wasn’t working on her project or anything like that. She came in towards the end when we got over to the Interscope building, so I would say it was like 95/96 when she started coming into the studio recording. Before then I didn’t really see her around. She came sporadically because she did some stuff for the Dogg Pound, but her and I, we never had any drama or any run-ins like that. I respected her as Dr. Dre’s baby-mama, so I never gave it a second thought.

Many rumors have been out there that you and Dr. Dre had a relationship, as well as one saying you and Suge Knight had one as well. Would you like to clear those rumors up?

No. Me and Suge was like brother and sister. I hung with his dad and his mom on holidays and stuff like that. I was good friends with Suge’s cousin Lachelle Saunders, a comedian who started out with Mo’Nique, Jaime Foxx, A.J. Johnson, so all of these people know her. We would go over to momma Jo’s house for the holidays, so Lachelle and I always hung together. I was really a part of the Knight family. I would always take up for Sharitha and not let nobody disrespect her. Suge and I would be getting into it behind that because I felt like if you were married, don’t mess around on your wife if she’s my friend because two things would happen: the other person would get taken down, and I’m going to let Sharitha know; so don’t do dirt in front of me.

Dr. Dre (laughs) … we never had any type of sexual relationship, but he did offer me a threesome. I respectively declined (laughs). I respected Dre a lot, and I still respect him; he’s looked at by me like he’s a Quincy Jones, so I would never want to ruin a working relationship that we had. There’s was never any physical contact, except for a hug or something like that, between me and Dr. Dre.

I did have a short-term relationship with Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg, when he broke up with Shante for a little short spell, and I was trying to get him to stand up to Suge. But he never would, and we grew apart because I don’t like somebody who can’t stand up for themselves, especially when I’m a woman in high heels with breasts and I can stand up for myself.

So, this threesome you spoke of, was this intended to be with you, Dr. Dre, and someone else,
or was he trying to set you up in a threesome with two strangers?

No, it was to include Dr. Dre, myself, and another person. But you have to get the book, My Blood, My
Sweat, My Tears
to find out a lot of this stuff. [Laughs]