Exclusive: On the 20-year anniversary of "Regulate... G Funk Era" Warren G revisits driving around with LL Cool J, meeting Tupac and other classic stories.
Hip Hop—both as a music and a 40-year-old culture—is slowly coming to grips with how to age gracefully. Jay Z name-drops gallery operator Larry Gagosian and the late Jean Michel Basquiat in hopes of getting outsiders to view Hip Hop through the lens of high art. Too Short defiantly wears a goatee peppered with grey hairs as if Don’t Stop Rappin’ wasn’t just the name of his debut album, but a mandate from the Rap gods on high. It’s about time. For decades, emcees have vacillated between having their landmark accomplishments honored and rebelliously pushing on to avoid the risk of being rolled out like relics at the next awards show.
As it turns out, this is the perfect time for reflection. June 7, 2014 marked the 20-year anniversary of Warren G’s solo debut, Regulate… G Funk Era. To commemorate the occasion, Warren held court in Red Bull’s Santa Monica studios with some of his mainstays—a moderate amount of California’s finest greenery, some Coors Light and at least three trunks of ADATs. The Alesis Digital Audio Tapes predate current software such as ProTools, and they’re slowly being converted to digital format. As one would expect, the tapes are filled with music and songs that helped redefine Rap on the West Coast and beyond.
“I got a lot of stuff that will be dope today,” Warren explained in a rare moment of brashness. Over the course of 90 minutes, he’s mostly jovial and soft-spoken. That shouldn’t be mistaken for being shy about his accomplishments. “People are like, ‘He back.’ I ain’t ever went nowhere. Ain’t nothing changed. The game changed. I still do what I do. I’ll serve any muthafucka out there if they force me to.”
Nobody’s forcing Warren to do anything. As it turns out, the stories flow rather freely. There’s everything from hitting the mall with LL Cool J to taping up his glasses Steve Urkel style while getting high with Tupac and recording “Definition Of A Thug Nigga.” Warren G has matured, and while the technology housing his music is clearly outdated, the songs and stories behind them are timeless.
Michael Jackson Requested A Warren G Beat Which Is In His Vaults
Warren G Says: “Well Bruce Swedien and Rene Moore had called me saying, ‘Michael Jackson wants you to do some shit for him.’ I was like, ‘Huh? Alright.’ I went up in Larrabee North Studios, and put together two tracks. He wasn’t in there, so I asked if they liked them, and It was like, ‘Shit, we love them. Do you want to go and meet Mike?’ He was at Record One. I walked in the lounge where he was at, and he was just a regular muthafucka, ‘Hey, what’s up, man? What’s going on?’ I was like, ‘Man, shit, I’m chillin’. What’s good? I just can’t believe I’m here right now meeting you.’ I hugged the nigga and everything, and I damn near didn’t want to let him go. Like, ‘God, I’m in here with Michael Jackson.’ He did the records, but they was explaining to me that when he do them, he puts them in the vault. I was just like, ‘Man, can I hear the shit? You don’t have to give me a copy. Just let me hear it.’ But I never got a chance to hear it. I didn’t want to send lawyers and shit. I was like, ‘Fuck it. That’s Michael Jackson. It will come out hopefully one of these muthafuckin’ days.’
“That fucked me up. I was like, ‘Damn I’m really something. Muthafuckin’ Michael Jackson called me. His people called me—out of all the muthafuckas he could have called—he called me.’ I just couldn’t believe it. Shaq called me, and everybody was calling me. I gave Shaq a gold record, and I gave Cedric Ceballos a gold record. All the basketball guys were rapping back then. Everything I touched back then went either gold or platinum, and I be trippin’ nowadays because these muthafuckas can’t even get 100,000 sold. It’s a different game for real, ‘cause I was sellin’ a lot of shit. Millions of records.”
Tupac Called Warren G For A Beat After Hearing “Indo Smoke”
Warren G Says: “I ain’t got that much stuff with Tupac. I actually had a version of “Lie To Kick It,” that wasn’t the version that they used, but this version was just him and Richie Rich. They was just going back and forth the whole time on it, but he had took it and put some other guys on it. So I got the original of that. “Definition Of A Thug Nigga,” that was one of the first Thug Life records that he had did. I didn’t even believe it was him calling me. Even though I had worked with him with MC Breed, you know, ‘You got to get yours, I gotta get mine…’ I still didn’t know him. He just came in and busted it. So I did “Indo Smoke” off Poetic Justice, and I got a call. He was like, ‘This is ‘Pac. Did you do the “Indo Smoke?”’ I was about to say, ‘This is isn’t ‘Pac. Who the fuck is this callin my phone?’ And he was like, ‘Nigga this ‘Pac! You did “Indo Smoke,” right?’ I agreed, and he said, ‘Man, I want you to do a record for me,’ and I said, ‘Shit, it’s all good.’
“I didn’t know if that was him really him, so he gave me an address, and I went over there to EchoSound. I walked in, and it was him just sitting there, and he had one them little beanie things that he used to wear with the little string hanging down, so we just talked. I was by myself. I had my MPC, my turntable, my records, my mixer and my .45. We just sat there, he talked and he asked me what’s going on with me. After that he was like, ‘Man, let me hear the beats.’ I started playing the beats, and I came to a sample I did of “Wind Parade” by Donald Byrd. And he was like, ‘Man, this muthafucka hard right here. This the one. Go ahead and put it in on the tape.’ So I record it to the tape and stuff. That nigga went in there, started rapping, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ Everything I had talked to this nigga about, he put that shit in the fucking song. He just wrote the whole thing, and I was just tripping. So ‘Pac is like, ‘Go ahead and add some more stuff.’ I added that scratch, saying, ‘Tis the season to be serving’ to it. And there was some stuff from “The Real Roxanne” in there too.”
Warren G Lost $10K To Shaq Shooting Dice On Tour
Warren G Says: “I was on the Budweiser Superfest, and it was a Al Haymon tour. It was a good tour, man. You know when I used to tour with R. Kelly... I used to fuck with him a lot. When he would be out there performing, I would stand right there on the side by the speaker and all the girls would get to hollering at me. He would come way over to by the speaker and start saying, ‘Oooohohohohoho.’ And I’m right there just chillin’, while they’re like, ‘Ahh. Warren! Warren!’ Come on, now. Mr. Kelly… shit. We used to have a ball. I ain’t gon’ lie. We used to play basketball and just have a good time. It was a real fun tour. The catering was off the chain. It was straight soul food, barbeque, everything. Them dudes used to really, really, really make some good food for us.
“We used to gamble like a muthafucka. Shit, my uncle bought a Range Rover off of gambling out on the road. That’s how big it was. We’re talking about flying in from New York to Cali, everywhere, but fly into our tour. We were hittin’ it. I had some dice called the Chocolate Thunders. Shaq used to get a piece of it. I used to break his ass off. I missed a few flights gambling there. I was like, ‘I ain’t getting ready to lose. I need all of this. Oh more? Let’s go. Yeah!’ I be hitting his ass. He got me though, he got me on The Chronic tour. I think we was in Dallas. He got my ass. He hit me fast for about 10 racks. I was like, ‘Damn.’”
Nate Dogg, Bun B & Jeezy Have An Unreleased Collaboration
Warren G Says: “Yeah, I got at [Jeezy] and asked him to put a verse on it. And the same thing with Bun B. I asked him if he could put a verse on the song I got. And both of them, they got at me and just sent it: boom, boom, sent it right back. Fast, too. I was like, ‘Damn. That’s how it’s supposed to be, though.’ A lot of artists… Some artists—the ones that don’t know—they be on some Hollywood shit. They got right back at me, though.
“That was between 2006 and 2007. I got a little bit of touching up to do on my verse, because I want to change a few things, but I like it. There’s just some things in there I don’t like about it, and I want to change up. It ain’t mixed yet, either. It’s just a rough of it. It’s going to be fat once I finish with it. I had my own spot called the G-Spot, back in the day, and it was plush. The original with me and Nate was done there. Those guys did theirs in their studios in Atlanta. It’s cool.”
Jeezy Crowd Tested Warren G’s “Leave You Alone” Track
Warren G Says: “[Jeezy] was like, ‘OG!’ I said, ‘Shit Jeezy, I ain’t that old. I’m not a thug or nothing like that, just call me Warren.’ He was just like, ‘Man, your album was the soundtrack to my life. Give me some of that shit.’
“I played some bangers for him, and he took about four or five of them. And, he hit me a week later like, ‘OG, we got us one, man. They played this muthafucka 15 times.’ I was like, ‘What you mean?’ He said, ‘The song. They played that muthafucka 15 times. They keep playin’ it. They won’t stop.’ I told him, ‘Shit, let’s go,’ and that record actually put him back in the game pretty good to now look at him. He got the Avion crackin’ and different business ventures crackin’, and I’m happy just to see that.
“One of the thing is, I want him to go—not saying that he’d be a sellout if he stop talking bout the trap. But you worked to get out of the trap. So if I give you this record, this is to take you up not to put you back. Just keep staying on that level and then teaching this younger generation on how to be businessmen and businesswomen. With Jay Z, Dre, Puffy—all the people really doing business—that’s a good thing for the teens and stuff...the new generation to see that. So they can not only go in, set a mark in it, really grow in it and then start businesses. They can open up other avenues for people that can’t rap or do beats and give them jobs there. So that’s what I’m trying to push. I talk shit, but I still give a lot of muthafuckas positive shit to take with them. But, don’t get me wrong, shit, I like to party. I like to look at some asses shakin’ in the strip club. I ain’t into just throwin 30 racks at a muthafucka or nothing like that. I don’t get that still. I could treat a muthafucka. I could see maybe a couple thousand...shit, they could do something with that. But 30 racks? Come on. Fuck that. Throw that shit down on Skid Row.”
How Warren G Crafted Thug Life’s “How Long Will They Mourn Me”
Warren G Says: “He had some girls coming in, man...some bad ass bitches too. I wasn’t really used to that kind of shit, so I was like, ‘Wow.’ I smoked a blunt, and I had glasses on, but the glasses had tape on ‘em. I was fucked up. My glasses used to always break on the side, and I used to be taping them motherfuckers right there. We was chillin’, and then Big Syke, Mack 10, Lil Syke, Rated R and Mopreme all came in. They came in and told us that their homie Kato just got smoked in Detroit. [Tupac] asked me, ‘You got something for it?’ I popped on “How Long Will They Mourn Me,” and he was like, ‘Man, I need somebody to sing on this.’ I called Nate Dogg, to tell him ‘Pac wanted him on the song. So Nate’s like, ‘Shit, where you at?’ He brought his butt up there to EchoSound and laid it. [Tupac] and Breed really set it off for me as a producer. From there, it just went up, even though I did help out with a lot of shit on The Chronic. This was just my own shit that I did. It was cool, man. I felt good about it. That whole Thug Life [Volume 1] album was banging, man. That shit is still banging!
Warren G Recalls Touring New York With LL Cool J & Grand Puba
Warren G Says: “I went over there, and it was open arms. Everybody that was over there showed me a lot of love. LL Cool J came, picked me up and took me to his house where he started. He had a Suzuki—a green Suzuki. He showed me his closest, and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ I ain’t never seem that many motherfucking clothes. That nigga had clothes from the top of the steps all the way down the muthafuckin’ steps and all over the basement. It was crazy. He took me to the mall, took me shopping and all kind of shit. When he first came, I didn’t believe it was him downstairs. He called me first, like, ‘This is LL.’ So I told one of The Twinz to put on some clothes and go downstairs because this nigga is saying he LL Cool J. We hopped in that muthafucka and was gone...smoking bud.
“It was open arms from Harlem to Queens to Brooklyn, the Bronx. Everywhere I went, I just went ‘cause I wanted to go. This is history. I went to they hoods, and I drove around that muthafucka. I pulled up on this one dude, and I was like, ‘Man where is KRS-One’s projects and stuff at? Where do they get down?’ He told to me, ‘Go up such and such street, and make a left. Man, you look familiar. Where do I know you from?’ I just sped off, and when I went up in the muthafucka, it wasn’t no sound. Nobody was outside. Nothing. It was quiet. I said, ‘Shit let’s get the fuck out of here. This muthafucka quiet. Ain’t nobody around, nobody movin’,’ and my dumb ass jumped out and took a leak. I went down to Brooklyn, right in the hood, and got me some Jamaican food. I kicked it with the guys in Harlem—Lucci and Benny Rat. I used to go to a famous burger spot across from the Apollo all the time and get burgers.
“A muthafucka in Harlem tried to trip on me before—a nigga in a wheelchair at that. He was talking something about, ‘Why are these muthafuckin’ West Coast niggas out here?’ He was trippin’. I went straight to the car, because that’s when you could sneak your shit on the plane. I used to pop my shit right in my shoe in my luggage, and make it look like the shoehorn. Every time I was in New York, I was strapped to the bone with my glock. But it was all love except for that one little incident right there.
“I was out there when Snoop and them was out there and they got shot at in Brooklyn. I was in the club with Grand Puba, and we were partying like a muthafucka. They hit me saying, ‘Snoop and them just got shot at.’ I told Puba I had to bounce. I met them over in New Jersey, and they was telling me what was going on and what had happened and shit. We started partying in Jersey. We hooked up with Pook, Kay Gee’s brother, and started partying. We went to the club, and we partied in that muthafucka. I had a ball. I ain’t even gon lie. I love New York. I don’t know that Def Jam was in the position they was in with my record, and I thought they had money. At that time they was going through some financial shit, and they still funded my record through credit card type shit. So it was a trip. Shit, I sold damn near 10 million records, so it put them way back into the game. They didn’t make me the president of that muthafucka yet, but shit, I should be. Let me go on and take the seat in that muthafucka, and I guarantee you I’d get talent. I know it.”
Warren G Snuck Snoop Dogg’s Secret Feature On “This DJ”
Warren G Says: ““This DJ” was like one of my favorites. I did that just by myself. There’s a lot of them...shit. That was one of my favorite ones, because I was just in there fucking around. I really learned how to play the keys by looking and just following the the guys I used to see. I took some of the notes that they would do, and I would try to match it up and make my own. That was a good record. Snoop helped me with that one. Actually, he was supposed to be on the hook, but due to Def Jam and Death Row not being on the same page, it didn’t happen. They could’ve won together. But I did it myself, and I still kept Snoop on there—that’s what they don’t know.
“If you listen to “This DJ,” you hear a voice that’s tuned real real high under my voice saying, ‘Ahhh,’ and doing little adlibs; that was Snoop. I was like, ‘Fuck! My own homeboy can’t get down on my shit?’ That’s when I did “So Many Ways.” I was talking about that shit, and I didn’t give a fuck. I ain’t runnin’. Shit, you better ask somebody...East Side!”
“Little Ghetto Boy” Was Originally A Warren G & Mista Grimm Track
Warren G Says: “I bought the record the “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” sample came from in Carson from DJ Black. I don’t know what he’s doing now, but he was at Interscope and a few other companies. I think he has his own management company now. He had told me about a store in Carson, so I bought a bunch of records, and “G Thang” came out of that. I shopped at a store in Torrance that used to just have break records, and “Let Me Ride” came out of that batch. I got all the ‘70s soundtracks. That part from “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” where he says, ‘You really don’t understand do you?’ came from The Mack. I bought all of Rudy Ray Moore’s records.
“It was just a gang of shit, like “Little Ghetto Boy.” Actually, I did that for Mr. Grimm. We got a song together, then I let Dre hear it and he was like, ‘Shit, I wanna use that.’ Dre took it, put some more drums right up under the beat, and then he put live instrumentation on it. Then he put Nate on it, and that shit was cold. I said, ‘Nigga, this is incredible.’ “Stranded On Death Row” was actually an Isaac Hayes record. I found one of Dre’s CD at the house, because I lived with him. I said, ‘Nigga listen to this...one of your CDs. It’s banging.’ He wasn’t trippin off of it, so I found the record. He did that muthafucka, put [Soul II Soul’s “Keep It Movin’”] drums under that, and that shit was hard. I was like, ‘Damn.’ We had so much fun doing that album.
“There was a gang of beautiful women, a gang of weed and a gang of muthafuckin’ talented artists with ideas. Everybody was from different crews, but my crew was me, Snoop, Nate and RBX and Daz. Kurupt, Rage and Jewell, they was from Dre. I actually did a demo on Kurupt, which made Death Row sign him. He battled Snoop at the Roxy, and I was like, ‘Nigga, give me your number. You’re hard.’ Them niggas went at it. So he came to the picnic that we did, and I told him, ‘Man, let’s work.’ We used to record at the house where I lived with Dre, and we did like five songs. I let Dre and Suge hear it, and they was like, ‘This nigga hard.’ They told him, ‘Nigga, you with us,’ and that’s how that era started. Me and Nate did a gang of shit...we had a song called “Impact Area,” and when they heard it, they said, ‘Nigga, you with us.’ It was all good. We had a lot of fun working together.”
Warren G & Wiz Khalifa Had An Epic Smoke Session With “Graduated”
Warren G Says: “I gave Wiz [Khalifa] and Chevy Woods some heat. Them muthafuckas is hard. I did one with him and Ty Dolla $ign. Actually that was a record I had, and Ty Dolla $ign was on it already. It originally featured Dom Kennedy and Casey Veggies. I was like, ‘I think this would work for Chevy, plus Ty Dolla $ign is associated with them too.’ Then he did one called “Graduated.” At first I was lookin’ at him because he wasn’t saying no words. I was looking at him like, ‘What the fuck is this nigga doing? Is he gonna do something to it?’ Then he came back and got the whole muthafucka turned up. I said, ‘OK, Wizard...now I see.’ He’s a real cool cat, and he didn’t smoke me out. He probably thought he was going to smoke me out, but it was neck and neck. You can’t put me down. Some people went down, and I won’t say names [laughs]. But it was major people going down, and I got the pictures. I could get you but I’m not. I had fun with all them people, man.”
Additional reporting by Andre Grant.