West Coast hook master Nate Dogg has never strayed too far from the spotlight since "Regulate" -- the singer's 1994 hit with Warren G -- introduced a hip-hop nation already smitten with the laid-back

West Coast hook master Nate Dogg has never strayed too far from the spotlight since "Regulate" -- the singer's 1994 hit with Warren G -- introduced a hip-hop nation already smitten with the laid-back feel of Dr. Dre-fashioned rap to the duo's even smoother G-funk sound.

But Nate says business started to get pretty intense about a year ago, shortly after Rawkus released "Lyricist Lounge 2" featuring the Nate Dogg, Mos Def, and Pharaohe Monch track "Oh No."

"Once I did that," Nate says, "the flood gates opened. People on the East Coast gave me a little bit more respect. Before ['Oh No'], I think everybody just figured me as being one-dimensional, like, 'Oh, he's West Coast.'"

Nate says that since the release of "Oh No," he has averaged about three calls per day from other artists eager to tap his pipes for their own albums. The 32-year-old, Long Beach, Calif.-based singer (born Nathaniel Hale) has obliged many in the past year and prior to that -- guesting on tracks by Dre, Snoop Dogg, Master P, Kurupt, Fabolous, Ludacris, and others and making 16 appearances on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart during the past five years. These days, though, Nate's second solo effort -- the forthcoming set "Music & Me" (due Dec. 4 via Elektra) -- has his full attention.

"It's going to be tight," he says. "I'm trying to make a big statement-that I'm not just a hook singer."

Helping to support that statement is production work by Dre, Bink!, Megahertz, Jermaine Dupri, "Fredwreck" Nassar, and others. Returning vocal favors on the 14-track set are Dre, Monch, Snoop, Fabolous, Ludacris, Kurupt, and Xzibit. The Eastsidaz and Lil' Mo also make appearances.

The ghetto tales on "Music & Me" -- led by first single "I Got Love," the video for which is now receiving amore from BET's "106th & Park" -- came together rather effortlessly, Nate says. "I really didn't even pick producers. I just picked beats, except for Dre -- he's the only producer I knew I wanted to work with. A lot of people just send me beats, and I pick the ones I like. See, once I said I was doing my album -- because I know everybody and they mama -- everybody just got in touch with me."

Up until this point, Nate says, he didn't fuss over which artists to collaborate with. "I was like, 'OK, if you want to do [a song], let's do it.' But I own a record label [Dogg Foundation] now. So I can't just jump up and do something. But I still have the freedom to."

Although some tag Nate as just a "hook singer," it's not a label he, nor Elektra A&R VP Jay Brown, are too concerned about. "You have to remember: The hook is what got him where he is now," Brown says. "Because of that, he's built up his own fan base. His fans wait for his part, and they sing along."

With the "East Coast showing me love," Nate says, the timing seems right for "Music & Me," the release of which was delayed as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. In fact, he's just one step away from being "everywhere": "The South side loves me -- I've got a song with Jermaine Dupri -- and I've got songs on the East Coast and songs on the West Coast. Now, if I could just find me a rapper from up North..." he says with a laugh.

Nate says that Dogg Foundation will have a gradual launch. "Right now, I want to concentrate on building my relationship with Elektra, before I try to fill the bag up -- ya know, turn to them and say, 'Here, take this too.'"

And fans can expect the artist to continue guesting on peers' records, which have recently included appearances on Fabolous' "I Can't Deny It" and Dupri's "Ballin' Out of Control."

In the meantime, Nate hopes "Music & Me" will deliver him two things. "No. 1: respect," he says. "And No. 2: a platinum plaque on my wall that says my name on it."