Reggie Wright Jr. was the head of security for Death Row Records when Suge Knight was in charge. He has a lot of stories to tell and of them is about the Bloods invading The Source Award ceremony in 1999.
That year Suge was in jail but, as usual, was on top of his business, having enough strong arms and business minds to run things the way he wanted to. And one of the things he wanted was to show that West Coast, and his own record label, dominated hip hop at that time. That’s the explanation Reggie Wright Jr. gave in a conversation with Panda! Chop. He insists the coastal rivalry was the reason for a standoff, but there was no beef with Eminem. Even more so, he assures that Suge Knight liked Marshall. The head of the Death Row security states:
It was about the Source Awards, it was like, y’all niggas gonna be out here, y’all gotta represent. How you gonna do an awards show in LA and nobody is from LA there, performing or anything? Y’all go there, represent, LA stand up! You are in LA, go there, be seen, be known. It was not about beef. But it wasn’t about the beef. It wasn’t even about a beef with Dre or anything. Now, they saw Em, they knew there was a problem. But there was this dude named Dean that was Jimmy Iovine’s assistant, but he was with Em. And they looked at me like, “Reggie, what’s going on?!” Suge ain’t never really had any problems with Em, to be honest. Suge always liked him, he always said he was a funny guy. He always kinda liked Em.
Obviously, Eminem could not know that. He knew that he was strongly affiliated with Dr. Dre when Suge was beefing with Dre and tried to make a move at him more than once. How did Eminem react to the situation? Reggie gives his assessment:
He just looked and said nothing. It was not like he was scared or shaken, but he was like, “Whassup?” But they didn’t jump him, they saw me. They knew I was only a peacemaker but more importantly, they knew that I needed Em, that was my key to getting to Jimmy whenever I needed to. It was like 10-20 of us sitting in there, in the auditorium, but only about three or four of them jumped around and they had about to do something bad to Em. But fortunately, they were listening to me, and they just kept walking.
How big should be the grain of salt to go with this story? Reggie Wright Jr. looked after the day-to-day operations of Death Row when Suge was locked in, he was implicated in the murder of Tupac’s rival, Biggie Smalls, but was never charged, and then later, Suge Knight accused Reggie Wright Jr. in Tupac’s murder, saying that Knight was the intended target in an assassination orchestrated by Wright.
According to this Wright’s interview, the events took place in 1999, when Eminem received a Best Lyricist award from The Source. The story about a conflict at the 2001 The Source Award ceremony paints a very similar situation from a very different perspective.
That year Eminem was invited to the ceremony to celebrate his success, both as a solo artist and as a member of D-12. Em performed the smash with D-12, but it might have been not the most emotionally charged part of the evening. Famously, the Bloods got into the audience on a special mission from Suge Knight to intimidate outsiders in general and Marshall Mathers in particular.
In 2016, Eminem’s former bodyguard, Byron “Big Naz” Williams, revealed the intensity of the evening in an interview with the Murder Master Music Show. He said:
We were at The Source Awards and we all know historically in the past, the Source Awards, someone always got shot. That was our first encounter with Suge Knight and his henchmen. Em was going to his seat. The way they had the seating was all messed up and the bodyguards couldn’t sit with the artists. I think that was by design ’cause I think they really wanted the artists to be able to network with each other, but it also gives people who got beef with other artists to get at them.
[Eminem] is beefing with all these guys in these red shirts. So I come from where I was at, I had to come back around, I noticed Em’s face changing, he’s turning like tomato red. There’s a sea of red guys around him. I had to bust through the middle man and snatch him up. Like, hey, man what the hell’s going on up here? This is exactly what they said, “Death Row, motherfucker, Death Row. Man, Suge Knight sent us to strongarm him and it’s going down”. I was like, oh man, I just inherited the East Coast – West Coast beef. I had to snatch him up, I had to call Dre and his bodyguards and tell them what was going on because they was backstage, snatched him up backstage, called the limo driver. I said, “Look, I need you all to have that car around when I call y’all”. But the way they had it set up, the limos can only stay seated for like 30 seconds at a time in front of the red carpet for security reasons. So, long story short, we ended up going backstage, Eminem did his presentation and we had to watch out for guys backstage. So I pretty much had to have him stand behind me and I just had to be on knockout mode, man. So it was me, Dre, Dre’s bodyguards, we were in beast mode the whole time. So anybody that got anywhere close trying to get an autograph or trying to talk, trying to speak, they were gonna get laid out because that was the kind of atmosphere that was set up.
You can come to your own conclusion comparing these two accounts. And you can also watch Marshall performing on stage that evening while knowing what was going down off-camera.
Eminem Performs at The Source Awards ’01