Death Row Records Co-Founder Michael 'Harry O' Harris Will Be Released From Prison After 31 Years Behind Bars
The co-founder of Death Row Records - which launched the careers of Tupac Shakur , NWA, and Snoop Dogg - is set to be released from prison after 31 years behind bars. Michael “Harry O” Harris is a former cocaine kingpin who was convicted in 1988 of attempted murder and narcotics distribution, but now he is an activist who is campaigning for prison reform.
Harris was the head of a drug empire in the early 1980s before he switched to more legitimate business practices. He invested in real estate, owned a limousine service, an exotic car dealership, a construction company, and a Beverly Hills hair salon. He even produced a Broadway play called Checkmates that featured an up and coming star named Denzel Washington.
Harris was a multi-millionaire when he was convicted (the attempted murder charge was later reversed on appeal), and while he sat in San Quentin State Prison, Knight approached him - through attorneys - in 1991 and asked for a $1.5 million investment in the label that eventually became Death Row Records.
The legendary label made millions during its heyday, but neither Harris nor his wife Lydia (who some believe is the inspiration for Cookie Lyon in Empire ) received any money despite their investment. Michael and Lydia ended up suing Knight, and in 2005 they won a $107 million judgment that bankrupted Death Row Records.
Michael and Lydia divorced while he was in prison, but the former couple has a daughter named Mykel who lives in San Antonio, Texas. When he is released, Michael will go to a halfway house near his daughter, and he plans on joining a Texas philanthropic company called 2nd Chance, which helps give struggling individuals another shot at health and happiness.
The 57-year-old will be released from the Federal Correctional Facility in Lompoc, California in mid-August, and he says he has “grown and matured” during his time in prison.
“Over 30 years ago I was part of the problem,” admitted Harris. “However, over the years I have repeatedly proven myself to be part of the solution. It's about returning to society with my new found vision, talents and insights. Giving back to the communities where my help is so desperately needed.”
He added that the moment he is free he will work to help change lives. Michael says he has experienced incredible highs and incredible lows, and he went to prison as a boy but will emerge as a grown man.
“And I can say that this next part of my life journey will be from a place of truth: the young boy that I was, is very, very proud of the man I am today,” said Harris.
As for Knight, he is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence after he pleaded no contest in 2018 to voluntary manslaughter. In 2015, Knight crashed his truck into two men, killing one and severely injuring the other.