Clemson players channel Suge Knight, Death Row Records to celebrate Dabo Swinney

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What’s the first pop-culture phenomenon that comes to mind when thinking of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney?

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It’s gangsta rap, right?

Nah. Not so much.

Tigers look to Suge Knight to show love for Swinney

But a pair of Clemson players dug deep for a pinnacle moment of the 90s East Coast/West Coast hip-hop beef to show their love for their head coach while making a recruiting pitch after trouncing Alabama in Monday’s national championship.

The moment that took place on stage as ESPN’s Rece Davis interviewed members of the victorious Tigers.

Davis had just finished interviewing defensive tackle Christian Wilkins when his linemate Clelin Ferrell met him at the microphone. The two joined for a tribute to Swinney.

“If you want to come to a program where you gotta worry about your coach all up in the locker room, dancing, come to Death Valley,” they said.

The exclamation was an ode to the relationship they have with their head coach.

What’s the reference?

But for alert ears in tune with their hip-hop history, it was also a shout-out to an infamous 1995 speech from Suge Knight, executive producer of Death Row Records that featured Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur.

The speech took place at the Source Awards when Death Row’s “Above The Rim” soundtrack won an award for best motion picture soundtrack. 

Knight challenged hip-hop artists to join Death Row.

“Any artists out there that want to be an artist and want to stay a star and don’t want to have to worry about executive producers trying to be all in the videos, all on the records dancing, come to Death Row,” Knight said.

Historic music beef

The speech drew a chorus of boos from the New York crowd that recognized it was a shot across the bow of East Coast rap and Puff Daddy, who was the hometown executive producer of Bad Boy records, which was best known for helping launch the career of The Notorious B.I.G.

The two sides were at the center of rap’s most infamous beef, and Knight’s speech was seen as a serious escalation of the conflict.

Clemson players took the unexpected route of referencing 90s hip-hop beef to celebrate head coach Dabo Swinney. (Getty)
Clemson players took the unexpected route of referencing 90s hip-hop beef to celebrate head coach Dabo Swinney. (Getty)

All love from Clemson players

There was a lot more love in the reincarnation of the speech given Ferrell and Wilkins Monday. In this instance Swinney would be Puff Daddy, who Knight chided as showing up too much in his artists’ work.

But Ferrell and Wilkins welcome Swinney “all up in the locker room dancing” and want potential Clemson recruits to know about the culture in “Death Valley.”

It was a cool moment in a time of joy for the Tigers. It was also an impressive understanding of music history from players who weren’t born when Knight gave that speech.

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