Rap mogul Suge Knight (Getty)
Rap mogul Suge KnightGetty

Gangsta rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight is one of a few hip-hop stars whose life echoes the shocking violence depicted in today's rap albums.

The 49-year-old star, who shot to fame in the early 1990s after co-founding the pioneering Death Row Records label with rapper Dr Dre, is as notorious for his run-ins with the law as his commercial success.

Not only is the embattled rap mogul a former convict, he allegedly has connections to the drug underworld and Californian street gangs, and has also been implicated in a number of crimes ranging from homicide to domestic violence.

Just like Don Corleone in The Godfather, Knight is influential, divides opinion and is, most importantly, feared.

According to police, his latest crime involves killing a man in a hit-and-run incident. His beleaguered lawyer, James Blatt, claims it was an accident, which happened when he ran over the man at 3pm EST on Thursday 29 January.

"He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men and in an effort to escape he unfortunately hit two [other] individuals. He was in his car trying to escape," Blatt said in a statement after Knight turned himself in to police.

Serial offender

You do not reach kingpin status without some jail time under your belt and Knight definitely has that base covered with his colourful rap sheet and legal woes that go back more than two decades.

It all started going downhill in 1995, when he entered no-contest pleas to two counts of assault after a 1992 attack on two rappers at a Hollywood recording studio and was put on probation. That same year, he pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to commit a drug-related offence and conspiracy, and was sentenced to a month in jail and three years' supervised release.

Despite the slap on the wrist, just months later he was given nine years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. He was released in 2001 after spending just five years behind bars.

Not one to learn from his mistakes, Knight would return to prison two years later for violating parole by assaulting a car park attendant in LA. He received another 10 months in prison.

In November 2014, Knight pleaded not guilty to a robbery charge filed by a celebrity photographer who accused him and friend Katt Williams of stealing her camera in Beverly Hills. If convicted he could face up to 30 years in prison because of prior convictions.

Near-death experiences

Like any good gangster, Knight has cheated death multiple times with Oscar-winning flair.

In September 1996, he was at the wheel when his passenger, Tupac Shakur, was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Surprisingly, Knight only suffered minor wounds despite the BMW being riddled with bullets.

In the seven years to follow, eight of Knight's closest associates were killed in gang-related shootings, prompting investigators to believe the Death Row CEO was the ultimate target.

But, despite the attacks, Knight insisted he feared nobody.

"The only guarantee a man has in life is that you are born to die. I'm from the ghetto, where black men get killed every day," hesaid in May 2003.

"It's like Jesus. Anyone who reads the Bible knows Jesus was no punk. He didn't hide from nobody. The threat of danger didn't stop him from doing what he had to do. That's how it is with me too. I fear no man. Only God."

In 2014, his enemies made another attempt on his life and he was shot six times at a Chris Brown-hosted party in Hollywood. He was rushed to hospital were he received life-saving surgery. Luckily for him, he made a full recovery.

Money woes

Tupac's death was the beginning of the end for the Death Row label. A combination of Dre's departure in 1996, frustrated artists and Knight spending time behind bars meant that by 2006, the former boss was forced to declare bankruptcy and auction off the company.

His 8,272sq ft Malibu mansion was subsequently sold for $4.56m (£3m) in bankruptcy court and he is now worth an estimated $200,000.

Did Suge kill Tupac and Biggie?

Conspiracy theorists have claimed Knight, who ruled his rap dynasty with an iron fist, may have been behind the murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace.

Former LAPD detective Russell Poole, who was one of the officers that investigated Tupac's death, famously suggested Knight killed the Changes rapper because he wanted to part ways with the Death Row label and then conspired to kill Biggie to divert attention from himself in Tupac's murder.

"Suge Knight ordered the hit," Poole said in a 2001 interview with VH1 and in controversial documentary film Biggie & Tupac."I think I was getting too close to the truth. I think they feared that the truth would be a scandal."

Other fans claim Knight had Tupac killed because he wanted to gain access to all of his protégé's unreleased material.