Suge Knight and Kanye West face off in NYC over lawsuit

Battle-scarred rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight and volatile hip-hop star Kanye West faced off yesterday over an argument involving a bullet — with a conference table between them.

The two rap titans were there for West to answer questions about a celebrity-packed Miami Beach party where an unknown gunman shot Knight in the leg. West hosted the 2005 fete at the posh Shore Club before the MTV Video Music Awards, held that year in Miami.

Knight — who promoted some of rap's biggest acts in the 1990s but has been beset by legal and financial troubles — has sued the Grammy Award-winning West and the Shore Club's owners, saying they didn't provide enough security.

Knight said yesterday he had hoped a face-to-face encounter with West — and their lawyers — could settle the matter, but he got few answers.

"I figured I could sit him down, man to man, and get this resolved," Knight said after the six-hour, closed-door session at a Fifth Avenue office. "I'm disappointed."

West said he wasn't involved in the security arrangements for the party, said Knight's lawyer, Marc Brumer.

West briskly left the building afterward; his lawyers didn't immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages left yesterday evening. In court papers, West and the Shore Club ownership have denied Knight's claims of negligence.

No one has been arrested in the August 2005 shooting, which erupted in a club full of partygoers, including Jessica Alba, Eddie Murphy, the Black Eyed Peas and Paris Hilton. At least six shots were fired, police said.

The shooting shattered Knight's femur and left him with $200,000 in medical bills, Brumer said.

Knight said in his lawsuit, now being handled in Miami federal court, that West and the Shore Club should have realized the party could produce a "dangerous environment" because of a widely known history of sometimes violent feuding among rap figures.

"My whole thing is: I'm not here to put nobody behind bars," Knight said, saying he mainly wanted to put the spectre of rap-related violence to rest.

"It's time for more positive now," he added.

The burly Knight, nicknamed "Suge" for Sugar Bear, founded Death Row Records and was one of the most powerful music figures of the 1990s. His stable of rappers included such superstars as Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in 1996 while riding in Knight's car.

At the time, the Los Angeles-based Knight was publicly clashing with New York-based Sean Combs' Bad Boy label. Bad Boy's top artist, the Notorious B.I.G., was gunned down months later in Los Angeles. Relatives of B.I.G. have accused Knight of being involved; he has denied it, and police have never named him as a suspect.

Knight, who was jailed for five years in the 1990s on an assault conviction, has continued to have brushes with the law in recent years. Most recently, Los Angeles police sought assault charges against him after he was suspected of pointing a gun at a man in May, but prosecutors declined to file charges.

Knight, 45, made millions in Death Row's heyday, but he filed for bankruptcy in 2006, spurring an auction of the label's assets and sale of his mansion in Malibu.

He's seeking more than $1 million in damages in his lawsuit, but he would have to share the money with a bankruptcy trustee and the Internal Revenue Service if he prevails.

West, 33, rose to become one of rap's biggest stars in recent years, though he also has become known for impolitic outbursts — including an episode in which he interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech during last year's MTV awards to say that Beyonce should have won Swift's award instead. West later apologized.

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