Old Rap Shit is a column dedicated to unearthing the bizarre corners only found in the weird and wild history of hip-hop.
Topics of rap convos change quickly. Especially in this day in age where attention spans are at an all time low while content consumption is at an all time high. The news cycle moves fast –blink and you'll miss it. But one topic that has constantly stayed in the narrative for the past 20 years is the story of Death Row Records. In a lot of ways, Death Row is the classic American story: a rags to riches tale that includes money, sex, murder, celebrity, deceit, violence, drugs, gangs, mystery, extreme highs and crippling lows. The world just can't get enough of it. It also doesn't hurt that rap's (arguably) biggest star ever, Tupac Shakur, was tragically murdered at the height of the label that was pulling in a reported $100 million annually.
Death Row stopped putting out records years ago, but they've never stopped being relevant. This still holds true in 2017, almost 21 years after Tupac's death. BET recently announced a new six-part documentary series , Death Row Chronicles; and All Eyez On Me – the Tupac biopic –hits theatres this week and is sure to do gangbusters. New theories on who killed Tupac emerge monthly, with one of the most recent claiming the former head of Death Row security and Suge's ex-wife put a hit on Suge's life and clipped Pac by mistake. Hell, even one of the few living members of Suge's inner circle is speaking out on what happened that fateful night in Las Vegas. I guess people feel safe now that Suge is likely going to sit behind bars for the duration of his life.
The story of Death Row reads like a movie. But in the case of this label, the truth is truly stranger than fiction.
So much of Death Row's story is out there for the world to read and has been meticulously chronicled – more so than any other rap label in history. In fact, there are hundreds of YouTube accounts and websites dedicated to the four-year reign of the world's most dangerous record label, most rife with conspiracy theories and alleged insider info. But one of my personal favourite pieces of Death Row lore is one that's rarely discussed. A mere footnote in the diabolical escapades of Suge Knight. Arguably more ridiculous than the time he signed both a fake Snoop Dogg and Tupac.
The time he gave the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney's daughter a record deal.
Not much is known about Gina Longo. She was 18 at the time she inked her recording contract at the label. The Las Vegas Sun reported that Gina signed a multi-album deal with Death Row in January 1996 worth an estimated $50,000. She had never released a record or performed in concert prior to inking with the label. The Sun also reported she was signed after Knight's sometimes-controversial longtime-attorney, David Kenner, was passed her demo via her brother Frank. She was the first and last white artist ever singed to the label.
A quick Google search turns up no music recorded during her stay on Death Row. However, a little internet sleuthing lead me to YouTube where a song titled "Nothing," an Americana sounding track, credited to Gina was uploaded in 2010. It also appears she has a fan page on Facebook and released some sort of group project under the name Early Girl in 2012 – although I cannot find a link to purchase it anywhere online. The music I did find certainly does not embody the Death Row sound made famous by Dr. Dre in the mid-90s.
While not much is known about Gina or her music career – pre- and post- Death Row – her father made quite a few headlines during his day. Lawrence "Larry" Longo was a decorated attorney who worked as a prosecutor in LA's district attorney office for 26 years. "Larry Longo is a straight-ahead guy who in 20 years of trying felonies has never had a not-guilty verdict, not one. His position has always been to try and convict," his attorney once told the Washington Post.
In fact, Longo tried Suge Knight's 1995 assault case, where Knight was accused of firing shots, pistol whipping and then forcing two aspiring rappers to strip down to their underwear in 1992. The employees in question were George and Lynwood Stanley, who accepted a $1 million recording contract with Death Row as settlement in the civil case – at the suggestion of Lawrence Longo, the brothers claimed. In February 1995, Knight pleaded no contest to the assault charges in criminal court, and gladly accepted a nine-year suspended sentence with five years of probation. The prosecutor who cut the deal was none other than deputy district attorney Lawrence M. Longo. Longo was also to oversee Knight's probation.
A year later, Longo's daughter Gina was signed to the label, and Suge was living in one of Longo's beachfront properties in Malibu – rented by Knight's attorney David Kenner for a cool $19,000 per month. A conflict of interest? You could say that. The district attorney's office agreed and fired Longo in February of 1997 citing that "his family's financial ties to rap mogul Marion 'Suge' Knight created the appearance of conflict of interest."
These revelations against the LA district attorney's office came to light just days before embattled District Attorney Gil Garcetti was up for reelection. Gil spent most of his term in turmoil thanks to Rodney King and OJ Simpson's respective trials, and narrowly defeated his challenger John Lynch who accused Garcetti of trying to bury the Longo investigation until after the election. Needless to say the DA had enough of Knight's antics and sentenced him to nine years in prison for violating his probation the night Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas – an event that would bring down the entire label.
With Pac dead, Knight in jail and Longo out of a job, Gina Longo's career floundered – despite having a reported eight songs recorded for her debut album. Death Row employees stopped returning her calls after Knight went to prison. Gina told the Las Vegas Sun in late-1996: ""I feel angry, but even more than that, I feel hurt. ... My dad is a great person. I am a talented singer. Why would the media want to take this and twist it into something that it's not?""
One can only imagine what Death Row's first and only white artist's album would've sounded like. However, it sits comfortably in the eternally shelved Death Row albums hall of fame alongside the likes of MC Hammer, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Petey Pablo.