LARA LAVI (September 2009) | Interview By: Chad Kiser &
Dubcnn had the honor and privilege of getting an exclusive interview with
Lara Lavi, the new owner of Death Row Records. As many of you know,
WIDEawake/Death Row just released Dr. Dreís The Chronic Ė Re-Lit, packaged
with 7 unreleased Death Row songs and a DVD titled From The Vault earlier
this week. So, in true Dubcnn fashion, itís only right that we catch up with
Lara Lavi to discuss her feelings about the aforementioned release, how much
involvement Dr. Dre may have had, her thoughts on Daz and the Neu-Ro
situation, as well as what the plans are for the future releases of former
Death Row artists like Lady of Rage, Crooked I, Danny Boy and even MC
We also talk about the upcoming Snoop Doggy Dogg Ė The Death Row Lost
Sessions release, which is scheduled to drop in October, what
WIDEawake/Death Row is actually able to release of Dr. Dre material, and the
break down of what the companyís new ownership entails. You definitely donít
want to miss out on this exclusive interview!
As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave
feedback on our forums or email them to
Interview was done in August 2009
By: Chad Kiser &
Dubcnn Exclusive Ė Lara Lavi
By Chad Kiser & Jonathan Hay
Dubcnn: WIDEawake/Death Row just released The Chronic Re-Lit to stores,
what are your feelings upon the release?
Well, Iím excited because this is the first new title in the history of
Death Row since before the Bankruptcy. We really wanted to make it a
special tribute to Dr. Dre. John Payne, who was a part of the very early
experience of Death Row, was responsible for all the production, song
choice, and handling all the mixing and mastering. He only did that for
this first release, itís company policy that all future releases with go
to ďBig BassĒ Brian and Bernie Grundman.
The Chronic has been re-released a bunch of times, but they never really
did much. What we did was we took the original 16 songs, digitally
re-mastered them, as well as packaged them with a DVD called From The
Vault. The DVD is a collection of video, a never-before seen 30-minute
interview with Dr. Dre in the studio, and 7 previously unreleased songs
from the artists who had featured on The Chronic, as well as some very
rare CPO stuff on there.
To celebrate this release even more, and I believe more is more, fans
can go to
Deathrowmusic to enter to win a free trip to Los
Angeles, CA and have the opportunity to download 6 more songs that are
rare and unreleased. And on top of all of that, for the producers out
there, thereís a remix contest that we launched on Sept. 1. On the
website, you click the spinning vinyl icon, enter & opt-in, download the
acapella to Nuthiní But A G Thang. From there, complete your remix and
submit it to email@example.com. We have a panel of judges from
across North America consisting of DJís, producers and so on, led by
Canadaís own Starting From Scratch and that panel will pick the top 5.
Those top 5 will appear along with the original song on collectorís
edition, promo only vinyl, distributed to all the top clubs in North
Is there anything much different about the packaging and booklet for The
Weíve added a lot of extra stuff in there. Chi Modu, who was doing a lot
of photo-journalism back in the day with the original Death Row, has
exclusively licensed some things from his private collection of photos.
So there will be some new photos of Dre, Snoop & Dre in the studio both
in the digipak and booklet; thereís liner notes from QDIII, who was
there in the beginning of the NWA and Chronic days, and who worked on
the 2Pac projects as well. Itís cool stuff!
How much involvement, if any, has Dr. Dre had to the project?
Well, that the challenge. We bought the company out of bankruptcy
because the original owner didnít understand the concept of fully paying
royalties and paying taxes. So, you have an army of artists, and Dre is
one of the most, whose mental association with Death Row as a brand
right now is ambivalent at best, and negative or hostile at worst. Dr.
Dre is the type of person who only wants positivity in his life, so my
guess itís more about ambivalence and not exactly closure. Weíve reached
out to him through his attorney, but we know itís going to be a slow
process. We think that once he starts to receive royalty checks and he
sees that weíre keeping our promises that heíll come around. I think in
time, all the artists will come to understand that this is not business
as usual with Death Row, we are intent on doing the right thing.
Speaking of Dr. Dre, thereís been some question as to what Death Row,
even under the previous owner, could actually release from Dr. Dre since
his departure from the label, as far as unreleased music involved. Can
you speak on that at all?
I think there is a clause in his settlement agreement that references
that, but itís unclear what the scope of that is. Thereís some ambiguity
about it because what defines unreleased? And what defines Dr. Dre? I
think what it probably means is anything that is Dr. Dre as the artist.
It canít possibly mean Dr. Dre as the producer or anything like that.
Weíre trying to work through that issue. I know John Payne has hoped
that weíd be able to put out some unreleased Dr. Dre, but everything
takes time. As a lawyer, I know thereís no such thing as an agreement
that canít be re-negotiated or redefined, but itís simply about trust.
My mission is to get everybody to the level of trust, and once we get
there and acknowledge mutual interest, then we have something to talk
Has the original owner tried to contact you at all?
No. I think heís moved on. Some of the people who have worked with him
have contacted me, but himself has not. I donít expect he will.
Has anybody contacted you negatively since you received ownership of
No, not at all. In fact, people are looking for work and wanting to
offer insight on the history, contracts and Iíd say people are being
very, very patient and kind with me and the company. We have our hands
full, and weíre not going to get it right, perfectly, until we get a
system going, but weíre trying hard to honor this amazing collection of
On all the previously released projects on Death Row, the executive
producer was the original owner, will he still be credited as executive
producer on these new Death Row releases?
No. Not on anything thatís unreleased. Anything that weíre issuing that
he was executive producer, of course we will credit him. But weíre now
moving on, and weíre putting out material from the vault that he was not
participating in, so we wonít be referenced for that.
Will he receive any compensation, royalties or publishing on those
Nope, we bought the publishing and the masters. He didnít pay his bills,
so he lost the company and we bought it out of bankruptcy debt free and
unencumbered. There is no tie to him any more with Death Row, itís over.
So, after The Chronic Re-Lit album, youíre following that up with Snoop
Doggy Dogg Ė The Lost Sessions Vol. I. What can you tell us about that?
It includes the original Doggystyle that didnít make it on the original
album, as well as a bunch of other unreleased things. We took everything
to Big Bass Brian Gardner and Bernie Grundman, and thatís our policy
from now on. That project will sound great!
The artwork is incredible, too. We went back to his videos and pulled a
bunch of really cool stills. The cover is a very, very film-oir portrait
of Snoop, and in the shadow itís a Doberman. There are also some really
cool liner notes for the Snoop project that gives you some insight on
the history of some of these songs. Itís a lot of fun!
Do you plans to re-issue the Doggystyle album as you did with Re-Lit?
Yes, but not until after the first of the year. Weíre still getting our
bearings. Weíre open to suggestions; in fact we love it when fans send
us suggestions. We pay attention to everything.
I know you said youíre still getting your bearings straight, but what
about some of the other Death Row artists like Tha Dogg Pound, RBX, and
Lady of Rage? Are there plans to bring out that music as well?
Absolutely! Only about 10% - 15% of this content ever went to market. We
have thousands upon thousands of the Danny Boyís, Crooked Iís, Daz,
Left-Eye, MC Hammer, CPO, Snoop, Outlawz, and it goes on and on. We have
projects and pieces that weíll be making ring tones out of, exclusive
Death Row mixtapes; we have a plethora of material. When you go to the
vault, it looks like youíre walking through the end of the first Raiders
of the Lost Ark movie. Donít worry, weíll be at this for a while.
Do you have a legal mess on your hands to be able to put all this
No, we own the publishing and the masters for everything but the
publishing of 2Pac. We have the same administer as 2Pac, so clearance is
literally done within 24 hours.
So thereís no red tape, youíre going to be able to bring out everything?
No red tape. As long as on the 2Pac material that Afeni and I agree,
weíre fine. So far, we agree!
Can you speak on the recent developments about Daz and Neu-Ro?
Yes, I can. For the record, I probably have more of a beef with his
attorney than I do Daz. As an attorney myself, I understand the way you
translate what is said to you back to your client can make you either a
deal maker or a deal breaker. Iíve always been a deal maker. I met Daz
and everyone from Tha Dogg Pound; I went up to see their show with Snoop
and Slightly Stupid in Vancouver about a month or so ago. I told them
that I wanted to work with them and what I had in mind. Dazís attorney,
Brett Lewis, wasnít communicating back with him that we were getting
some where, so I get a frustrated e-mail from Daz, which his attorney
tells me to ignore. Iím thinking to myself that before we do any huge
deals, letís get our feet wet. Letís do something little together to get
used to each other.
I suggested that we do a little project for about fifteen grand, as
weíre discussing a bigger opportunity with Tha Dogg Pound. We were
working on evaluating their stand-alone value, I was talking to people
about doing a Death Row tour starring Tha Dogg Pound, and just looking
for different ways to monetize with them. Itís not that easy and itís a
little bit work, which Iím not afraid of, but it takes a while. Somehow
that got translated to Daz that I was only offering him $15,000 a
record, which is not what I said. So, apparently that upset him and I
saw him go into negotiations with Ron Winter to form Neu-Ro. The door is
always open for Snoop, Daz, Lady of Rage; I love Lady of Rage! I think
sheís a special person and a special talent. But with Daz, as with
everyone else, itís about the time it takes to build trust. Itís not
happening over night, and it shouldnít happen overnight.
This acquisition is nothing but a good thing for these artists like Lady
of Rage, RBX, Danny Boy, Crooked I and so on who never got to release
their projects to be able to profit from this, right?
I think so, and I hope they do.
So, there could be a Crooked I solo album finally out, right?
I saw Slaughter House the other night at B.B. Kingís, and Crook was on
fire! He was great! I love Crooked I and Iím planning on doing a lot of
cool things with him. He has another project with King Tech, which Sway
is supporting from MTV. Crook knows that I totally have his back.
What other artists have you spoken to about their material?
Snoop, Daz, Kurupt, Lady of Rage, Soopafly, Kurt Kobain, 2Pacís people,
Left-Eyeís people, Danny Boy, Crooked I, and some of the Outlawz. We
talked to a lot of the artists. I donít want this to just be some legacy
catalog that we just rehash and regurgitate. I want to take this brand
and actually do something with it.
Dubcnn: Thanks For your time.