Warren G / Photo by 23FIFTN, courtesy of Warren G
If you were just scanning music headlines over the past couple weeks, you’d be forgiven for wondering if suddenly the early 90s were happening again at warp speed: Everyone’s talking about N.W.A., Dr. Dre just put out a new album, and Nate Dogg is singing all over a new EP from Warren G. That EP, Regulate... G Funk Era Part II, is exactly what it promises to be—a slice of classic G-funk—and it’s great.
“Musically, it’s still the same. It don’t age, it don’t change. It still sounds good,” Warren G told me about his output past and present. And it’s true. While plenty of music from two decades ago can sound a little dated, the songs that Warren G and his contemporaries like stepbrother Dr. Dre and former 213 groupmates Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg made—songs like "Nuthin' But a G Thang" and "Regulate"—still feel current, channeling a smooth, laid-back, timeless funk sound.
“The way I do my music is stress-relieving, and it sounds good,” Warren G said. “You can dance to it, smoke to it, make love to it, travel to it. You could do anything.” Much of the credit for that vibe can be given to Warren G’s most consistent collaborator, Nate Dogg, whose smooth voice has dominated California radio for decades, even though he passed away in 2011 (unlike many places in the country, LA’s reverence for their local classics remains strong). Nate Dogg is all over this new project, and, even though these songs were never released during his lifetime, they don’t feel like outtakes. “A lot of people miss him doing songs,” Warren G explained. “So I had songs so I put them on there, I didn’t want to put them on there if it was sad mourning type of stuff. I did it as like he was still alive. Just keeping his legacy alive.”
Between this EP and the release of the N.W.A. movie Straight Outta Compton, right now is a perfect time to think about the musical legacy of Southern California in the early 90s, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. It’s rich, it’s timeless, and—even though it still burns bright for those who were around at the time—it’s easy to gloss over in an era of constantly refreshing streams of new music. But your favorite Soundcloud producer probably wouldn’t exist without Dr. Dre’s contributions to music, so let’s all just slow our roll, roll our blunts, and take a moment to appreciate some of the songs that shaped hip-hop as we know it. I asked Warren G to break down the stories behind and reactions to some of his favorite West Coast rap classics, and this is what he came up with:
World Class Wreckin Cru – “Surgery”
That was before he was Dr. Dre. He had a song called, “Surgery,” which was a record that I helped out, that I really liked a lot. I wanted to be just like him, telling me how to be. I wanted to be a DJ, so just him scratching and doing all that stuff was so dope to me. I asked him if he could show me how to do it, and he showed me. Actually was my introduction into the hip-hop game as far as producing or DJing, stuff like that.
N.W.A. – “Compton’s N the House”
“Boyz-N-The-Hood” was the first one, then they had another one. They had “Compton’s N the House.” It was dope! Plus you had that same feel of EPMD had, what was the name of that song? Get Down, Get Down! [beatboxes the beat]. It had that same drum pattern “Compton’s N the House” had. It was just good to see them talking about where they came from, the history: “This Is Compton.” That’s what made me love it man.
Noisey: When NWA blew up did that have an impact on you guys?
Warren G: It had an impact because it was different. There wasn’t nothing out there like it. They wasn’t scared to speak how they felt. That was a trip, listening to them hearing them say “Fuck Tha Police,” that shit’s crazy. That’s out nationally? That’s why people loved them because they did the music how they wanted to do it, they didn’t have to follow no format of a record company telling them to make something. They did what they felt. That’s what we loved about them. It was different.
Ice-T – “Colors”
Once again it was talking about the lifestyle in California as far as gangs, a lot of people didn’t know what the gang situation was in LA until they seen “Colors.” Once they seen “Colors” they was like, “Wow, LA is really a wild place.” It showed the things that we would go through as young teens and living in an urban community. It was a form of gangbanging, that gangster lifestyle, the type of stuff that was going on in the neighborhood. That was just incredible to me.
Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – “Nuthin' but a G Thang”
I was there. I was the guy rolling the joint in the video. We did that record at the house, it was me, Dre, Snoop and D.O.C. It was a rainy day, and we was just going through music, and we came across the Leon Haywood sample [“I Want’a Do Something Freak To You”], and Dre put that mothafucker together. That was pretty much it from there. It was different. We tried to do different music to make shit come out dope, ‘cause that’s what wins. It was everywhere. Radio was constantly playing it, I was like, “Wow, this is crazy. This is huge.”
Snoop Dogg feat. Nate Dogg, Kurupt, and Warren G – “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”
We did that. Dre did the beat right there. He asked us to put some verses on it. Everybody put their verse on there. I was last because it took me the longest to write. So I was last one to go, which was pretty dope. It was cool, man. Around those times, we used to be around a lot of beautiful girls and stuff like that. It was like damn, ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none. It was just having fun and partying.
Mista Grimm - “Indo Smoke”
It was the first time that two guys, kind of did the same format as N.W.A., but we talked about what we liked doing. And that was smoking bud. But we broke it down and talked about it to a way where it was cool, it wasn’t just about abusing it. It was what we liked to do. We liked to blaze. It was one of those cases once again, of freedom of speech. That’s what people loved.
Warren G feat. Nate Dogg – “Regulate”
It was dope to write about some experiences from people that you know. It was just great to be able to rock with a guy like Nate going back and forth and then putting it out and us not knowing that it was gonna blow up like it blew up. It was just amazing. It was a fun time, man. People were blown away because it was an 80s smash hit record that wasn’t super huge, but we made it bigger than it was then. Now it’s known. People think that it was our record when it was a Doobie Brother, Michael McDonald’s [“I Keep Forgettin’”]. It was great to take a record like that and really make it a success. A total success. That was cool.
Nate Dogg feat. Warren G – “Nobody Does It Better”
We did another record called “Nobody Does It Better” where we used a sample from Atlantic Starr called “Let’s Get Closer.” Once again that was one of those records that wasn’t a huge record back then, but after we did it, it turned into a monster. We were just glad to resurrect the artist that [came] before us, and it showed them that they were doing a lot of good work for us to sample. Then I blew it up, and it puts money back in their pocket. It’s like a thanks for all the good music that they brought all throughout the years.
Nate Dogg – “The Hardest Man in Town”
I thought it was just totally genius the way he did it because he was talking about himself at the same time, then he was telling the story from the perspective of a gun talking to him. That was just genius to me. He said, “Load me up, and put me to his dome. I got a lot work to do, so toss me and be gone.” It wasn’t just about the gun, he was saying, “Put me up to him, do what you gotta do and then toss me away and be gone.” Then, “You're a big man now… The hardest man around.” When I heard it I was blown away, I was like, “this dude is incredible!” It was incredible.”
2Pac - “I'm a Soldier”
That was the shit. He was just breaking down the way the young teens was living, and breaking down the Black Panther movement at the same time. That was different because we didn’t know too much about the Black Panthers, except my parents—like my dad was kind of in that movement, but he would tell us about it a lot. But hearing it from someone the same age as you was a trip.
Snoop Dogg feat. Nate Dogg - “Crazy”
“These streets beeeee… crazy! Long Beach to Comptoooon! Always up to no good! Craaaaaaaa!” That was a dope record, they play it on Pandora still. He was talking about from Long Beach to Compton, about how it’s the same pretty much. It’s damn near the same city; they’re right next to each other. There’s one street that separates us, it’s called Greenleaf. [Raps Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride”] “Bodies being found on Greenleaf with their fuckin head cut off / motherfucker I’m Dre”—and that street he’s talking about, Greenleaf, it’s one block that goes down pretty far east and west, but north and south it’s just a block. That’s what separates—you walk right across that block it says “Welcome to Long Beach.” You walk past the other way, it says “Welcome to Compton.” It’s all the same, all the Compton guys live in Long Beach, all the Long Beach guys live in Compton, it’s one big giant pot.
Kendrick Lamar feat. Dr. Dre – “The Recipe”
When he did the record that he came out with Dre—women, weed, and weather—that record right there was so dope because it described the West Coast lifestyle and how we do it out on the West. People can relate to that everywhere. If you’re not raised in the West Coast, but the same type of situations happen in their neighborhoods, coasts, stuff like that.
Warren G feat. Jeezy, Bun B, and Nate Dogg – “Hustlin’”
I like all of [the songs on my new EP]. They’re all my favorite. “Hustlin’” is standing out most to fans and radio. It’s just talking about being a hustler, as far as hustling the right way to survive and support your family and support yourself, get out of any situation where you’re in a financial situation and you’re trying to keep it going. Hustling to be able to have a good lifestyle.
Jeezy, like me, is a hustler. His rap style is tough. I just knew that he would fit perfect on that record. Same with Bun B, coming from Houston, the way they used to rap was that hustle lifestyle, so those two guys were perfect for the record, for what we was talking about.
Kyle Kramer is an editor at Noisey. Follow him on Twitter.