Kurupt began his winding career with Death Row Records and rose to momentary fame alongside Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, but struggled to establish himself as a successful solo artist. Born Ricardo Brown in Philadelphia on November 23, 1972, he moved to Hawthorne, CA, where he befriended Snoop and joined the roster of Death Row. He debuted on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992) and continued to contribute guest appearances to successive Death Row releases, most notably Snoop’s Doggystyle (1993). He ultimately debuted as one-half of Tha Dogg Pound, a partnership with rapper/producer Daz Dillinger spun off from Snoop’s enormous success at that time. Together with Daz and Snoop, Kurupt enjoyed sizable success with Dogg Food (1995) and its hit singles: “Let’s Play House” and “New York, New York.”
Three years later the then-A&M-affiliated Antra Records released Kuruption! (1998), the rapper’s ambitious double-disc solo debut. The album met modest success but didn’t make much of a commercial impact, nor did its tighter, more traditional follow-up, Tha Streetz Is a Mutha (1999). Kurupt’s next release, Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey (2001), aimed for crossover success, incorporating pop-rap elements as well as unlikely big-name guests like Fred Durst and Everlast, but again made little impact beyond the rapper’s following. Meanwhile, Kurupt teamed with Daz for another Dogg Pound album, Dillinger & Young Gotti (2001), which presented a much more underground sound, released independently by D.P.G. Recordz.
Meanwhile, Death Row released 2002 (2001), a collection of leftovers from Tha Dogg Pound’s mid-’90s era. In the wake of these many releases and little accompanying commercial success, Kurupt returned to the long-quiet Death Row label in 2002 and helped Suge Knight revive the infamous label. Against tha Grain, released in 2004, was the first fruits of the relationship.