Death Row Records Founder Is Out of Prison; Who Is Michael ‘Harry-O’ Harris?

Death Row Records is famous music from the dozens of rap artists associated with the label. The label is also equally as infamous for its alleged drug ties and use of violence. Co-founder Suge Knight is currently sitting in prison serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of a friend.

Death Row Records Chain
Death Row Records chain | Ken Lubas/The LA Times

As it turns out, the label’s other co-founder, Michael “Harry-O” Harris, was also in prison on murder and drug charges. Harris was recently pardoned and is a free man for the first time in over 30 years.

Michael ‘Harry-O’ Harris spent over 30 years in prison for attempted murder and drug crimes

Harris was convicted of attempted murder and kidnapping from cases dating back to 1988. Federal authorities also allege Harris to be the head of a massive drug business, ranking in millions of dollars in profit and trafficking from coast to coast. 

Harris’ attorney alleges Harris spent 23 years in state prison over the first-degree attempted murder conviction. The alleged victim until recanted his testimony in 2011 and Harris was to be released as a result. But instead of going home a free man, Harris was transferred to a federal prison to begin serving a 253-month sentence for drug crimes. 

Throughout his incarceration, Harris maintained his innocence. 

‘Harry-O’ Harris co-founded Death Row Records in 1992

Per The Daily Mail, Harris co-founded Death Row Records in 1992 by giving Suge Knight a $1.5 million investment. He helped to run the company as it became the largest and most feared record label in the early 1990s from his jail cell.

His love for entertainment began when he was a child. The Daily Mail notes Harris had a musical upbringing and was classically trained by a next-door neighbor. Harris joined the high school band as a trombone and drum player. His love of acting came in college when he began taking acting classes.

Source: YouTube

Related: Did Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes Date Death Row Records Owner Suge Knight?

Harris gave other arising performers their chance at potential stardom when he funded the opening of a theater company. Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington performed in the theater at the beginning of his career.

Death Row Records helped to popularize the West Coast rap sound with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

Snoop Dogg lobbied for Harry-O’s release from prison

Recently pardoned Alice Johnson, who received help from Kim Kardashian West, was made aware of Harris through another colleague thanks to Snoop.

“The president knows how much this case means to me,” she said. “In reviewing Michael Harris’ case, his story, and what he’s gone through, this is such an unfair case…He should have been home a decade ago.”

Source: YouTube

Harris’ successful pardon campaign began in Dec. 2020 when Snoop asked for help from former music producer and federal prisoner Weldon Angelos. Angelos was also pardoned by Trump in December.

Dogg and others were able to sway Donald Trump to giving Harris a pardon due to Harris reinventing himself as an activist while jailed. Doing so, Harris has spent his time campaigning for prison reform.