Michael “Harry-O” Harris, is the man who provided the initial Investment of $1.5million that helped found Death Row Records, one of Hip Hop’s most iconic Record Labels.
Before Harry-O founded Death Row Records, Michael “Harry-O” Harris grew up on the East Side of South Central Los Angeles.
After leaving Los Angeles Community College, Michael “Harry-O” Harris opened his first business which was a music studio called the jingle factory that specialized in creating radio commercials for local LA businesses whilst he maintained an affiliation with the Bounty Hunter Bloods, a street gang in Watts California.
Michael “Harry-O” Harri was in his early 20s when he made the decision to start selling crack cocaine and he quickly became a major player in the drug trade working with his younger brother. The two brothers conquered the LA market and then expanded to the entire country which made Michael “Harry-O” Harris a multi-millionaire by the age of 26.
Although Michael “Harry-O” Harris had become one of the biggest drug dealers at the time in the United States that was not his end goal he wanted to eventually get out of the drug game and go legit with a Real Estate and Limousine Service.
However, it all came crashing down in 1987 when the 26 year old Harris was arrested and charged with kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Michael “Harry-O” Harris: The Founding Of Death Row Records
Following his conviction, Michael “Harry-O” Harris reportedly hired California Attorney David Kenner to oversee his appeal and work to get him out of jail on probation around the same time Suge Knight was busy working to get Death Row Records up and running.
Death Row Records was an up-and-coming Label in the early 1990s which was badly in need of funding.
In 1991 Michael “Harry-O” Harris told his Attorney David Kenner that he had heard about Suge Knight and Death Row Records and asked Kenner to facilitate a deal with Suge Knight, the CEO of Deathrow Records who met with Michael “Harry-O” Harris in prison where they concluded a deal in terms of which Michael “Harry-O” Harris set up a multimedia company called Godfather Entertainment that would serve as the parent company of Death Row Records.
Through Godfather Entertainment Michael “Harry-O” Harris invested 1.5 million in Death Row Records in exchange for 50% of Death Row.
Harris became a silent partner allowing for only Suge Knight’s name to be on the Death Row Records paperwork.
Soon after, Death Row Records achieved massive worldwide success with the release of its first album, Dr Dre’s The Chronic reaching its zenith in the mid 90s with releases by Tupac Shakur.
Nevertheless, despite this enormous success, Suge Knight did not honour his promise to pay profits to Michael “Harry-O” Harris.
As a result, Michael “Harry-O” Harris issued a letter to Death Row Records threatening to file a lawsuit if he was not compensated for his initial 1.5 million dollar investment after which he was paid $300,000.
No further monies were paid, and in 2002 Michael “Harry-O” Harris filed another Lawsuit against Death Row Records claiming that although $300,000.00 had been paid to him, Death Row still owed Michael “Harry-O” Harris millions in unpaid profits and royalties.
Harry O was awarded a $107million dollars by the Court. However, by 2006 it was clear that Suge Knight and Death Row Records were unable to pay the full amount and so Suge Knight was forced to file bankruptcy and Death Row Records was auctioned off for $24 million even though Michael “Harry-O” Harris only received payment of $1million from the $107million Judgment.
In 2019 it was announced that after 31 years of imprisonment the co-founder of Death Row Records would be released.
Harry O has since been released and wherever he goes he will always be known as the man behind the rise of Death Row Records.