He questions the absence of many well known rappers...

DEATH ROW RECORDS founder MARION ‘SUGE’ KNIGHT took centre stage at Thursday’s West Coast Hip-Hop Summit in LOS ANGELES (February 14), questioning the absence of his peers at the event.

The music mogul, who arrived several hours into the program, caused a stir during his speech when he addressed the absence of many well known hip hop stars including Dr Dre, who was originally scheduled to appear at

the summit but did not, Outkast, Will Smith and Puff Daddy.

Controversy began when a woman identified as Joelle, a former recording artist for Death Row, interrupted Knight’s speech to speculate that the reason for the artists’ non-attendance was due to unwelcoming messages made in the lyrics of rap songs. Joelle’s interjection caused an unidentified woman in the audience to continue the line of inquiry, at which point various members of the crowd including rival gang members from the area began arguing.

According to witnesses, the gang presence caused dozens of attendees, concerned about the escalating situation to exit the conference room of the Four Seasons Hotel. Tensions we’re quickly eased though by Def Jam founder and co-organiser of the summit, Russell Simmons who noted that the reason many of the artist were not present was because the conference was aimed at a West Coast audience.

“We had an East Coast summit and Puff Daddy came, Redman, Method Man, a bunch of people came,” he said. “There must have been 15 -20 artists there. We will have another summit in Atlanta and Miami and we’ll have a National summit.”

The purpose of the gathering, which earlier featured a key note address by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, was to make progress on the theme explored at the East Coast summit – taking back responsibility. A myriad of artists including former NWA. member The D.O.C. and Mike Concepcion addressed the congregation which included Kurupt, DJ Quik and the Boo-Ya T.R.I.B.E., pitching their ideas for ways to target issues facing the hip-hop community.

Knight himself called for more unity and the development

of a musician’s union to represent the interests of artists.

“In music, there’s no union. There’s no retirement. There’s no pension,” he said. “Everybody keeps saying keep it real. I want you to stop keepin’ it real for yourself and start keeping it real, seeing what you can do for others and make a difference, because until there’s union, [the major labels are] gonna stick together .If we don’t own nothing and we don’t have control and we don’t support each other we’re gonna be out.”

Hip Hop summits are currently being scheduled in other cities.