Warren G Recalls Trying To Mediate Tupac & Biggie, An Untold Feud Behind Regulate (Audio)
In honor of his just-released Regulate…G Funk Era Pt. 2 EP, Warren G took the guest seat on the Combat Jack Show. The Long Beach, California MC/producer/DJ tells the show several times, that he is planning a book. This interview, (later featuring actor R. Marcus Taylor (“Suge Knight” in Straight Outta Compton) stretches beyond the two-hour mark—and it’s clear that Warren has at least one book’s-worth of stories. At a time when everybody is calling themselves “the plug,” perhaps this multi-platinum G-Funk pioneer is the plug of the 1990s. As Warren’s story unravels, he is not only half-brother to Dr. Dre and childhood friend Snoop Dogg, but that he has extensive ties to Eazy-E, Suge Knight, Tupac Shakur, Nate Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Cold 187um, Young Jeezy, and more.
In a year when Combat Jack’s interviews have been exceptional, perhaps this particular sit-down is a benchmark. Within, “The G-Child” reveals how he went to Bedford Stuyvesant to seek out Biggie Smalls when the rift with Tupac Shakur was just getting started. Warren opens up about the “little brother” complex he felt watching real-life big brother D-R-E become a solo star (with Snoop) at a label that belittled him. As he became a star on his own terms, Warren discusses how his biggest hit nearly made Nate Dogg a target on his own roster. Lastly, Warren G reveals trying to post collaborator Tupac Shakur’s bail in 1995, which may have changed the world—if only he’d reached ‘Pac sooner. Sit back, cool out, and get a story from a quiet giant of the G-Funk movement:
Here is a detailed rundown of the discussion:
The conversation begins with Warren G discussing his influences. An avid Jazz enthusiast, the LBC veteran cites (not surprisingly) Michael McDonald, Chuck Mangione, The Isley Brothers as influences. In the Hip-Hop realm, Warren talks—repeatedly—about the effect Electro-Rap artist Jimmy Spicer had on him, which he breaks down in making single “This DJ” on his debut album.
(8:00) Combat Jack asks Warren about being Dre’s brother. The G Child recalls D-R-E, then with High Powered Productions, showing him how to scratch “It’s Time” by Hashim. Notably, DJ Premier recently recalled a similar 1985 Dre routine, which is said to be captured in Straight Outta Compton, the film. Warren also recalls borrowing Dre’s clothes—including a purple satin World Class Wreckin’ Cru jacket. The aspiring DJ also discusses his older half-brother Tyree, who Dre memorialized on 1999’s “The Message.” Of his older brother (Dre), Warren summarizes, “I used to try to be just like him, with the girls, everything.”
(14:00) Warren G reveals the first time he was on a record was in fact not Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Rather, Warren’s voice can be heard on May, 1991’s Niggaz4Life album by N.W.A., care of the skit, “1-900-2-Compton.” At 16 years old, the literal G-Child was heard on N.W.A.’s last LP. He recalls Eazy-E calling him “the professor” because of Warren’s glasses and nerdier ways. Additionally, the would-be hit-maker says he knew Suge Knight since this era, which only made their later complications different. Near the 39:00 mark, Warren says of Suge, “I knew him all my life; he used to be around N.W.A. […] He was a cool dude. That’s all I can say, at that time.”
(25:00) Warren G recalls finally getting Dr. Dre to hear his group 213, which featured himself, Snoop Dogg, and Nate Dogg. West Coast Hip-Hop figure L.A. Dre made the proper push to get D-R-E to take his little brother seriously, at one particular BBQ party. Warren recalls the exact demo recording of Snoop that Dre heard, and how at Solar Studios (where Death Row Records was briefly housed), Snoop would cut a track to a beat similar to En Vogue’s “Hold On.” Presumably, Warren is referring to the James Brown sample. The producer recalls getting to the Hollywood studio session by begging a friend for a ride—with a car that would not idle at a stop unless in park. The outfit out of Long Beach was literally hungry—as Warren recalls his youth selling candy in Orange County and hustling to stay afloat.
(30:00) Combat Jack asks Warren G about the G-Funk movement. While Warren gives props to DJ Quik, he points to Above The Law as pioneers. Specifically pointing to A.T.L.’s front man Cold 187um (a/k/a Big Hutch) as a mentor, he says, “they was G-Funk, and they made me part of G-Funk.” While traveling between Pomona (where A.T.L. was from) and Hollywood, Warren says he crafted the basis of “Let Me Ride” for The Chronic—notably the breakdown heard before the chorus. G would famously appear in the video opposite The D.O.C., in a more prominent role than his other Chronic visual appearances. “It was all pieced-together already,” says 213’s DJ/producer. His older brother would add those pounding drums and orchestrate the famous vocals by Jewell, Ruben, Snoop Dogg (and allegedly Above The Law affiliate Kokane, who did the P-Funk part). Upon hearing the beefed-up rendition, Warren says, “It tripped me out.”
(39:00) Although Warren G contributed elements to The Chronic (Combat also presses Warren about Donny Hathaway-inspired single “Lil Ghetto Boy,” which began as a different arrangement on Warren’s tape, he was not a Death Row Records artist. As Dre and protege Snoop Dogg were emerging into stardom, Warren G felt he was being pushed into the background—presumably by label CEO Suge Knight. Pained, Warren recalls arrived at L.A.X. for a tour with his comrades and being the only person in the clique not to receive a plane ticket. Similarly, Warren received no Death Row jacket when they were made. After DJ’ing for Snoop at select dates, Warren says he cried in private, watching both of his 213 band-mates ascend while he was left behind. As he tells it, Warren was “back at the hood, sleepin’ on my sister’s floor.” There, he had a Numark mixer (which he owns to this day), a crate of records, an Akai MPC 60, and a turntable.
Back to work, Warren G created his breakthrough “Indo Smoke.” Writing much of Mista Grimm’s verse, Warren would be back at a Death Row/Dr. Dre session, joined by Poetic Justice director John Singleton and A&R Paul Stewart. Playing Stewart his tape in a car outside, Warren’s “Indo Smoke” was licensed to the Epic-backed film soundtrack. “That was my actual first professional Rap song,” Warren remembers. He reveals he took his first music check and bought a burgundy Buick Regal, “laced” his sister for letting him stay there, and bought a beeper. “I felt like a new man; I had money in my pocket.”
(48:00) With some money in his pocket, Warren G reveals the ills of living in the early 1990s LBC. Warren vividly recalls a shootout. This experience would ultimately come into play when Poetic Justice led Warren to working with Tupac Shakur. Recalling it was the first time he ever smoked a blunt, the G-Child says his account of life in Long Beach helped prompt ‘Pac’s writing of “Definition Of A Thug Nigga” (which would later appear on the posthumous R U Still Down (Remember Me)?). During that session, Tupac caught word that his affiliate Kato had been murdered in Detroit, Michigan. Joined by Thug Life’s Big Syke, ‘Pac asked Warren for a beat. “How Long Will They Mourn For Me?” was born. The Thug Life, Vol. 1 track would feature Nate Dogg, who Warren suggested for the evocative chorus (his own mimicking of Nate’s singing is staggering in this recollection).
Following the 1993 growth and confirmed work with ‘Pac, Warren G recalls labels showing interest. Tommy Boy, Epic, and Def Jam Records were among those at the table. Despite Warren’s newfound success, he notes that his older brother and Tha Row did not make another pass at their previous secret weapon. With his would-be act The Twinz in tow, Warren G recalls flying to New York City for the first time, after signing with Def Jam. Singing the praises of Russell Simmons, Lyor Cohen, and Chris Lighty, Warren vividly recounts staying at the Midtown Embassy Suites. LL Cool J called Warren’s room, waiting outside in a late model convertible. Warren was taken around New York City, given a tour by Def Jam’s flagship artist of the last decade. Warren recalls going to LL’s childhood home, meeting his grandmother, and seeing the star rapper’s basement closet (and a “dusty” Suzuki Samurai parked out front). With a $350,000 deal and a six-figure advance, Warren left NYC for Long Beach, with work to do. “I came home and started diggin’ for records that were different,” he says. Notably, Warren says he made a $50,000 equipment purchase at Nadine’s Music store, owned by none other than Ty Dolla $ign’s father.
(1:13:00) Upon recording “Regulate,” Warren G says that Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine heard the record, loved it, and wanted it positioned on Death Row’s Above The Rim soundtrack. “Suge was hot about it,” recalls Warren, who believes that Death Row suddenly took an increased interest in their former castaway. “I’m ridin’ with who believed in me. It’s Def Jam,” he said. However, Nate Dogg was newly-signed to Death Row, making the song a challenge. Released on Def Jam and Death Row, due to Regulate…The G-Funk Era and Above The Rim, Warren G recalls that things grew tense when it came time to perform the song at the Billboard Music Awards. It is here that Warren adamantly refutes a legend that’s made its way to books and several Death Row tales: that Suge Knight slapped him. “Not happenin’. I’m not gonna never let no mothafucka slap me,” says Warren. “I ain’t talkin’ like I’m talkin’ cause he locked up.” Interestingly, he continues, Suge Knight’s strong arm tactics could be necessary in today’s musical industry. “You need mothafuckas like that.” After Suge and Death Row had reportedly planned to attack Nate Dogg if performed with Warren at Billboard, the shy producer/MC reveals he packed two automatic guns, a .45 “and my goons,” sneaking the defense weapons in through his equipment. As an added anecdote, it is revealed that The Green Mile actor, the late Michael Clarke Duncan security was Warren G’s security that night, against Suge Knight and other Row henchmen. In this grand recollection, Warren G recalls that he had secured a home for Nate at Def Jam, only to learn his 213 band-mate had eventually signed at Death Row. Notably, Death Row would never officially release a Nate album—though full-fledged promo copies of his 1997 G-Funk Classics would circulate.
(1:25:00) Advancing the clock to another conflict, Warren G reveals his friendship with The Notorious B.I.G. During one of his New York City visits, as the tensions between East and West Coasts were escalating, Warren G recalls driving directly to Biggie’s Bedford Stuyvesant block early in the Brooklyn MC’s career. “I was like, ‘Man, let’s chop it up.” Recalling buying Private Stock beer at a bodega and talking, he recalls Biggie saying, “they trippin’ on me for no reason.” Presumably, this was around 1994-1995, near Tupac’s Quad Studios shooting. Warren says that later, after tensions were hotter, he was at Manhattan’s USA Club with Snoop, Tupac, and others, joined by Biggie and NBA star Ron Harper. While things were amicable that particular night, “shit just went a different way,” Warren says.
In that way, Tupac would spend time at Clinton Correctional Facility. There, Warren communicated with his Thug Life collaborator through Richie Rich. Rich, a Def Jam label-mate was once the front man for 415, the Oakland, California group that inspired 213’s own name. At this time, Warren G says he asked Rich to tell ‘Pac to process his bail. Saying “I had it” revolving the alleged $1.4 million bail Death Row paid to free Tupac, Warren adds,”Suge beat me to it.” Within one year of his private flight from New York to Los Angeles, Tupac Shakur would be dead.
The conversation jumps around a bit in its last quarter. Warren explains his reasoning for leaving Def Jam, following the label’s 1998 merger. He recalls signing with Rupert Murdoch-backed Restless Records. Warren discusses his appearance in 1995’s The Show. Notably, the G-Child provides background of a fight he encountered while in Philadelphia for the film taping. He traveled to New York City the same night (by train) only to arrive at a Def Jam Christmas party with Nate Dogg fighting with another LBC native Domino, over biting. Allegedly, Fat Joe and Terror Squad took sides with Nate and Warren. Warren also recalls where he was the night Tupac was gunned down, and how Snoop Dogg and him were together when the incident happened.
(1:50:00) Warren G recalls the last days of Nate Dogg. Nearly 20 years after 213 launched, Warren G clarifies what caused Nate Dogg’s stroke, and the scene at the hospital. Warren was the conduit between Nate’s family and the Hip-Hop community. He leads the discussion to trying to preserve Nate’s musical legacy, through his latest EP, and finding that sound.
The same day (August 14) that Straight Outta Compton opens to theaters, Dr. Dre’s younger brother reveals—in audio—how his own life is cinematic. The onetime Slick Rick collaborator is one damn good storyteller in his own right, remembering minutia that Hip-Hop Heads can appreciate.