Kurupt Recalls Snatching The “New York, New York” Beat Back From Biggie
In September of 1995, Tha Dogg Pound released the first single from their debut album, Dogg Food. “New York, New York” proved to be a controversial record, even if it is rooted in a 1983 Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five single. The ’95 Death Row Records version arrived five weeks after Suge Knight sent subliminal shots to Puff Daddy, Bad Boy Records, and others from The Source Awards podium at Madison Square Garden. That night, Death Row and Bad Boy won big, and a rivalry was going public, fast.
As Hip-Hop prepared itself for what would become a West Coast vs. East Coast conflict, Tha Dogg Pound would make the next move in the eyes of some. D.P.G. had an interesting history. Kurupt was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before relocating to South Central, Los Angeles during his teens. The didactic MC would become a protégé of Snoop Dogg after an MC battle. Following Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop’s Doggystyle, the man born Ricardo Brown joined forces with Daz Dillinger (tka Dat Ni**a Daz) as Tha Dogg Pound. After two years of feature and soundtrack work, Dr. Dre and Suge Knight’s label would not let 1995 end without opening a can of double-platinum Dogg Food.
Speaking with Chad Kiser for DubCNN, Kurupt reveals some lesser-known history about the beat to “New York, New York,” and its pre-beef ties to Biggie. Produced by DJ Pooh (Ice Cube, LL Cool J, King T), the song was part of the Friday co-writer and actor’s work with Pabst Brewing Company’s St. Ides malt liquor division. Earlier that year, The Notorious B.I.G. blessed the beat in an ad spot:
Pooh himself appeared in St. Ides commercials too, alongside MC Eiht. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, EPMD, and Eric B. & Rakim were some of the artists also involved in the malt liquor marketing during the early and mid-1990s.
“I always wanted to work with DJ Pooh, personally, because he was always working with [Snoop Dogg], or I’d go to his studio and he was working on Deadly Threat’s [Sickinnahead] album and working on other things. So [‘New York, New York’] was monumental and historic for me to be able to work with DJ Pooh, [a] West Coast legend and icon,” Kurupt tells DubCNN. “Believe it or not, [DJ Pooh] did a St. Ides commercial with Biggie to that beat. He had gave the beat to me [before], because when I heard it, I said, ‘This is mine!’ I had it for a while because I wrote everything at home, and it was special to me because this is where I was going to make history for Kurupt, and finally get to show the world my true skills on the mic, and show them how much of an MC I am.”
Kurupt was committed to snatching his beat back from the booze ads. “So, the St. Ides commercial comes out and it reminded me that that was my beat, and I said, ‘I’d better go to the studio and knock the song out!’ Biggie was busting on it and I was like, ‘Biggie’s about to get my beat!’ I went in the studio the next day! It was really Daz on the hook first, freestyling and having fun. I had just laid my verse and the beat was just playing as I was going through my second verse. Then [Snoop] Dogg came in and he was singing the Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash [part of] ‘New York, New York big city of dreams, and everything in New York…’ and DJ Pooh said, ‘Stop! That’s it! Go in there and lay that as the hook.’ Instantaneous classic. It changed my career. It changed my life. And I go the opportunity to show the world what I’m best at on this mic.”
The story does not end there.
By the time Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop made the music video, beef between Death Row and Bad Boy had heated up. As rekindled in last month’s Death Row Chronicles on BET, there were reports of Biggie calling into New York radio shows, allegedly rallying hometown listeners to be upset that Tha Dogg Pound was shooting a video dissing New York in their backyard. Soon after, the group’s production set trailers were ambushed with gunfire in Red Hook, Brooklyn. While no one was killed and no arrests were made, according to a 2013 interview with HipHopDX‘s Soren Baker, that anonymous attack is what caused Snoop, Kurupt, and Daz to forever alter the music video treatment, and Rap history.
“We [originally] wanted Nas and everybody from New York to be in the video,” Kurupt said five years ago. “It was a dedication to New York, but then we got shot at it while we were shooting it. New York felt we were disrespecting them. [Laughs] The New Yorkers wasn’t going for it. They was like, ‘Oh, no. You ain’t gonna shoot this sh*t out here dissing us.’ They shot at us the next day, so I mean after they shot at us, we went back home and Snoop was like, ‘Man, f*ck that.’ Then we shot the other part of the video where we started kicking everything the f*ck over. That’s why we started kicking things over because we got shot at.”
Tha Dogg Pound would also address the conflict on “NY ’87,” featuring Threat. Shelved for years and subject to bootlegs, that song formally released in 2012 on the Doggy Bag compilation, and found Kurupt calling out Biggie, Mobb Deep, Jeru The Damaja, and A Tribe Called Quest by name.
In his latest interview, Kurupt says that DJ Pooh has been recording with Dr. Dre and Eminem in Detroit, Michigan. However, he hopes to make more music with the famed actor, DJ, producer, screenwriter, and film director. Pooh recently directed Grow House, which featured the “Inferno” video single by Kurupt and Fred Wreck.
In addition to his upcoming album with Fred, Kurupt says in the interview that he has upcoming collaborative projects with Sticky Fingaz of ONYX, and Layzie Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.