Being a new artist is challenging for anyone -- but when you come from a celebrity family, the stakes are just that much higher. Curtis Young would still rather embrace his bloodline -- his father is Dr. Dre -- than hide from it. Young is working to etch out his own lane in music.
Young displayed his rap skills headlining the "Cali Spring" tour at Avec nightclub in Hungtington Beach., Calif. last Thursday night (March 28), and explained how his father influences his music. "His whole creative mindset -- he's a trendsetter," Young tells Billboard.biz. "That's basically how he inspired me."
For Young, performing on the "Cali Spring" tour, spearheaded by his manager, Tiffany Gaines, was a show of support for the woman who is "like family" to him. Once on stage his vocal likeness to his father is unmistakable. Running through singles "Illin," "Leader of the Highway" and "Night is Young," the music of Dre's eldest son is a sonic dedication to classic West Coast rap beats. "It's just a balance of new and old school, that's what I came to bring. So you get a little bit of the 'old' West and a little bit of the 'new' West -- Curtis Young, and what he came to bring."
From left: Producer Jelly Roll, Chris Pringle of CM3, manager Steve Lobel, Young's manager Tiffany Gaines
Aside from Young and rapper Joe Moses sharing the bill, the eight-city trek is providing a platform for a select number of up-and-coming artists to perform directly in front of the industry executives and tastemakers that they may not be able to reach under different circumstances. Among the names on the guest list included longtime music manager Steve Lobel (Run DMC, Iyaz, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Eazy-E, Fat Joe, Three 6 Mafia) producer Jelly Roll (Snoop Dogg, DJ Quick, The Game, Xzibit), and Chris and Anita Pringle of independent record label, CM3.
"A lot of new talent don't get to prove themselves," Young says. "I think it's cool to have things like this because it gives them a chance to give it all their might."
"If you don't believe in yourself nobody [will] believe in you," Jelly Roll adds, speaking of the aspiring artists on the amateur portion of the tour. In addition to lending his ear to the performers, Jelly Roll personally committed to donating a track to the winner.
From left: ODM, DJ for KGGI 99.1 and "Cali Spring" winner Chris Ness
Lobel, whose career spans more than two decades, is focused on teaching new artists the business side of the things. "I'm trying to educate these new artists that come out. They don't know anything about the music industry," he explains. "They don't know the legacy, they don't know where it started from. If you don't know who Tupac Shakur is, go home. If you don't know who Run DMC, Slick Rick [and] Public Enemy [are], go home."
Curtis Young performs
Speaking of history: In Young's case, he learned that Dre was his father as a pre-teen, and didn't meet his dad until he was 21. "He's an underdog, like me, so that always sticks out," Jelly Roll says of Young. "The underdogs, we always come out on top. This is really his passion. If it's your passion, then you get a chance to stick out further than most because it's in you, not just what you think you can do."
Curtis Young, right, with 'Cali Spring' winners Chris Ness and Aungel Adams
In addition to performing on the tour, and prepping the release of his long-delayed Product of My DNA debut, Young is linking with other children of hip-hop stars for the "Seeds of Hip-Hop" reality show. The show features Young, Lil Eazy-E (son of Eazy-E), Jason Mizell (son of Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay), Waxxie (son of N.W.A's MC Ren), and Droop E (son of E-40), and is currently in production. "It's about us stepping out our father's shadows," he says. "I think [stepping out of my father's shadow is] easy for me. I had to get past the part of knowing Dre's my pops. Once I got past that point, it was easy. To everybody else [he's] Dr. Dre, but [he's] Andre Young to me."
Regardless off Dre's legacy, or his colossal net worth, Lobel followed in Young's sentiments, noting that the rapper's relationship with his father is not about his career feats. "At the end of the day as a child, as a son, you just want to make your father proud, and be as successful as possible."