When you think of the pioneers of West Coast rap, there are a handful of names that come to mind: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, 2Pac, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too $hort. Arguably the most deserving name, however, is consistently glossed over. Warren G, as both an artist and producer, is one of the most important names to the culture, and you might not even know why.
The pioneer of the G-funk era not only ushered in a new musical subgenre, but was personally responsible for introducing Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Daz Dillinger to Dr. Dre, along with being instrumental in helping to shape the sound of Dre’s first solo album, The Chronic.
Billboard was able to sit down with the Regulator to discuss his YouTube Originals documentary G-Funk and his influence on rap.
When I saw this documentary, there were so many details and so many stories that I had never heard before and that I just didn’t know. And it blew me away. What made you want to tell those stories now?
I mean, I been had the stories. I wanted to do a documentary as I, you know, started to grow and [become] more of a veteran in the game. I wanted to help [but] they wanted to change it. They wanted to change a lot and I didn’t want to change nothing. I wanted to keep it 110% real.
So I just left it alone for a long time [until] one day I had a show in Orange County at the Observatory and that’s where I met [director] Karam Gill. He asked if he could film my show. He was just a young kid in college [and it was] like probably [for] a project for class or something.
So, I let him film it. He rolls with me for a while [and] he did a great job on editing the video. So he rolls with me and was documenting footage and doing shows and stuff so I asked him, “Would you be interested in doing a documentary and can you film one?” And he said yes. From there, I just told him about my whole story and then what we did was we [put] it together.
We had everything there but I was trying to decide, “Ok, am I going to do this shit all out of my pocket or do I need to get investors?” That’s [when] I met Gary [Ousdahl].
Without you, hip-hop as a whole wouldn’t be what it is today. How hard was it for you to sit on your accomplishments?
Back in the day, the networks that were doing those stories on a lot of artists never asked. That’s one thing that made me say, “You know what? I’m gonna do it myself.” They never got at me to do it. I’m seeing everybody’s stories that I was apart of but I never got [mentioned]. Nobody never knew nothing about me or what I’ve done.
It wasn’t like I was bitter but I want the culture, the hip-hop culture, and West Coast hip-hop culture and the young hip-hop culture to know that I was a factor in this shit here. I’m not saying I’m the one who did everything over here because I’m not, [I] just [want people] to know who I am and what I contributed to hip-hop. That’s it.
One of the most interesting things about this documentary is that Kurupt said, and I quote, “Warren wasn’t scared of Suge. He said, ‘Fuck you,’ and did his own thing.” I think that says a lot, because in that era, everybody was scared of Suge. It didn’t matter how hard you were or how hard you thought you were. How was that time for you?
I’m gonna tell you like this: At that time, we had went through an era of nothing but murder. Nothing but murders, killings, shootings, [and] going to jail. I’m used to this already. I’m not gon’ be scared of no man. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care how much of a killer you are or how many people you done killed. That don’t mean nothing to me. I ain’t trying to be hard but I ain’t gon’ let nobody back me into a corner.
I got love for everybody. I ain’t got nothing against Suge, I don’t hate him. Shit, I just don’t deal with it. I just go to my own lane, away from that. So if somebody come picking with me and they asking for that, then you can get that. And like with that situation, it just was what it was. You know, I bounced out and did my own thing. What else am I supposed to do? If he ain’t fucking with me [then] what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and keep begging on my knees and crawling and shit? Hell nah, I’m gone. I ain’t tripping.
I remember the ’94 Billboard Awards, watching you coming down from the audience with Michael Clarke Duncan in front of you and Nate Dogg coming down on the other side.
Don’t nobody even know that [Michael Clarke Duncan] was my security, man. That was my dog right there.
What I didn’t know and what I don’t think anybody knew was the tension between you and Suge and Nate Dogg doing the show despite Suge not wanting him to.
It wasn’t no tension with me. The tension was that they was saying that Nate couldn’t perform. And that was not gon’ happen. That’s my homeboy. Ain’t nobody gon’ tell him he can’t perform, he with me. I mean he’s a grown man. And he getting paid. I just said, “Nate come do this show. Let’s get it done. You getting paid, ain’t nobody getting ready to fuck with you up here. We doing the show.”
Something else that isn’t widely known is your influence and involvement with The Chronic. What where those days like? You were doing the sample hunting, you were doing those original sample chops for tracks like “Lil’ Ghetto Boy” and “Let Me Ride” that were interpolated differently. What was that process like?
Just going out digging for records, man. That’s all I wanted to do with all of them. [I] was digging for ideas and shit that sound good and feel good. But Dre taught me. He taught me how to produce. He taught me how to work that motherfucking MPC60 and after that I just started going into my own zones trying to help him however I could help. That’s all I wanted to do. That’s my guy even though we haven’t talked in a minute. He been busy, I been busy, but that’s my dog.
Seeing as how Dr. Dre is your brother, you were around during the beginnings of N.W.A.
Yes, indeed. I didn’t do nothing production wise but as far as skits, yes. We did the “1-900-2-Compton” skit on the Niggaz4Life album. I was the guy in jail and I was like, “Man get your motherfucking hands up off me.” I had did that. They groomed me, man. Dre, N.W.A, Easy E, all them groomed me, man. Them was the guys I looked up to. And I still look up to them. I’m off they family tree. I’m a branch from the tree and from my branch comes everything else.
Your influence is so wide-reaching. You can hear G-funk in music from Louisiana in old Big Tymers albums to Detroit with the way Denaun Porter sings hooks. You can hear YG’s music is heavily G-funk influenced. Your sound has spanned generations. What does that mean to you?
It’s dope, man. The guys who started me off, who made me part of G-funk, was Above The Law. 187, KMG, Go Mack, Total K-Oss, and Laylaw took me in as a young kid and groomed me also. When nobody didn’t want to work with me, they took me in. When things started going the way it went [for] them with Ruthless, everything kind of faded away a little bit but I kept the name alive. I’m a part of that so I kept that alive and then I took it worldwide. But them are guys who put me in G-funk and I took it to another level. I’m the G-funk era.
I know a lot guys think [success] happens all of a sudden but then you won’t hear from that artist in the next year. But when you grind from the bottom, and you take it slow all the way up and it start building [then] that’s when you create a legend. You gotta go through all these different steps, trials, [and] tribulations.
Some of these dudes shot to the top and they ain’t never went through the things that we had to go through. In our day you had to be really good to get put on. Nowadays anybody could do anything. You could fart on a song and put it on a beat and loop it and say some words to it and these motherfuckers will take that shit and be like, “Oh, that’s dope.”