Warren G Details Nearly Avoiding Young Jeezy's "Leave You Alone"
Exclusive: Warren G speaks on his new venture into the wine business, credits Above The Law as G-Funk co-creators and explains how he almost missed an opportunity with Young Jeezy & Ne-Yo.
Where time is unkind towards honoring Hip Hop’s pioneers, Warren G’s position is that of a certain yet often unspoken fixture. Far from a one hit wonder or a running punchline a la PM Dawn, his debut single “Regulate” not only introduced him as the oxymoron of a laid back threat, it also helped spearhead the legend of rugged crooner Nate Dogg. Despite signing to Def Jam instead of the dynamic Death Row home of his close associates Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, this split was beneficial as 1994’s Regulate…G Funk Era made him a household name thanks to multi-platinum sales.
Though his primary recognition stems from rapping, many have somehow brushed over Warren G’s esteemed tenure as a producer. Responsible for not only the bulk of his own albums, he has worked behind the boards with a number of icons, and in 2011 he proved continued relevance in what’s generally considered a newcomer’s game, laying the track for Young Jeezy’s “Leave You Alone.” The single would spend 20 weeks on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” chart, eventually peaking at the #51 spot. Given the West Coast vet was no stranger to the radio, this was but the latest in his already extensive run.
As the new face of Allure Moscato, Warren G is using his brand to create business opportunities completely separate from his musical legacy. Always grateful for his place within history, he maintains respect for the Golden Age’s most innovative emcees and contributions from today’s generation alike.
Warren G On Extending His Brand Outside Of The Music Business
HipHopDX: In the past few years you’ve extended your name to promote male enhancement product Affirm XL and now you’re the face of Allure Moscato. How do you determine the brands you want to do business with?
Warren G: By their track record for one; when I was introduced to the chance to be the face of Allure Moscato I had to read up on the Bronco Wine company. I seen how official they were in the wine business and all of the success they’ve had—combining with an artist like myself who’s known worldwide. I thought that would be a great collaboration. They’ve been around for a long time, since before I was born, and their track record has been good. They’re deep in the wine game, and I like wine, so it was a great combination.
DX: So it would be fair to say you’re becoming more of a businessman along with being a musician?
Warren G: Exactly. I love doing music, and I’m not gonna stop producing and being an artist, but I’m venturing out into other fields so people can not just say, “He’s a rapper and a producer.” I want them to say, “He’s also a wine owner, and he’s getting into other businesses other than from music.” Rappers tend to get stereotyped a lot as just being wild and crazy, and they’re not known to handle their business. From guys like my brother Dr. Dre, Puffy, Jay Z and now myself—we’re showing other artists you can do other things [aside from] just Rap. You can go out and be a businessman and be successful in that as much as you are in the music business.
Warren G Recalls His History With 213, Dr. Dre & Death Row Records
DX: Before Death Row existed and before “Regulate,” you formed the group 213 with Snoop and Nate Dogg. Tell me about the history of 213, how you guys started and what it was like finally coming together to do an album in 2004 after you all became household names.
Warren G: We was 213 before Snoop was Snoop Dogg, Warren was Warren G and Nate was Nate Dogg as solo acts. We formed 213 as a group back when we all wanted the same dream. We were all talented, so it was like, “What better way to do it than collaborate?” and that would be more manpower for us to go out and make a name for ourselves as a group. We formed 213, and we used to hit different clubs and tear it up…we used to show out and do great shows. Everybody was loving us, the buzz caught on, and as we got older, of course Snoop and Nate got signed by Death Row and I got signed by Def Jam. With the record companies, you have to get clearance to be able to do a song, even if it’s your friend you gotta get clearances.
Everybody was doing their thing, and the record companies was selling their records. We did a lot of collaborations, but after we had all of our success from me being at Def Jam and them being at Death Row, we decided we wanted to go back into what we started. That was 213. We wanted to give back that love and show everybody that we’re working together, this is what we do and can’t nobody stop us from working together. These is my brothers and we gonna do this regardless.
DX: In an interview with Devi Dev a few years back, you were saying that while you were around the Death Row camp, you felt a little excluded from their circle at times. You went on record saying you didn’t know if Dre and Snoop had any clue how much love you had for them. Where do those relationships stand today?
Warren G: Our relationships are still the same, they ain’t never been all funny and wishy-washy. Those is my folks; Snoop is my best friend and Dre is my brother. We still the same, and aint nothing changed. Snoop is out on the road a lot and doing his thing with Colt 45, Dre is out on the road a lot doing his thing with the Beats headphones, and I’m on the road a lot doing this Allure Moscato campaign. When we get time, we meet up at different places here and there. We just did a show together at the Staples Center for the BET Experience. That was actually an incredible show, and we all linked up again and did our thing. It was great, and I had a bunch of fun just being with my guys and performing again, because we hadn’t did it since Coachella [last year].
DX: Having been around for the creation of masterpieces such as The Chronic and Doggystyle, it’s been said that everyone around the studio contributed bits and pieces here and there. What was your role creatively in the makings of those albums?
Warren G: I was deejaying, and I used to get all the records and dig through them. What I would do was find ideas, mark them off then take them to Dre. I would tell him, “Listen to this,” and a lot of the records we used on The Chronic was a lot of the records I bought. I took the ideas to him, and he showed me how to work the [Akai] MPC-60 [sampler drum machine]. I started sampling and adding drums and I’d say, “Dre, what you think about this?” He’d be like, “That’s dope,” then he’d add some live instrumentation and some different drums and boom, there you have it.
I was like the producer/deejay/artist because I was rapping at the same time. So I had a lot of different roles, and that was some of the most fun I ever had—being a part of that era. I’m tripping now that people are calling me a young legend, and I’m like, “Wow, I ain’t that old, am I?” [Laughs] It was fun, I was glad to be a part of it and I still will be part of whatever’s going on.
How G-Funk & “Regulate” Set The Stage For Warren G’s Career
DX: You were responsible for popularizing the term “G-Funk.” How would you define exactly what G-Funk is and who were your influences in creating it?
Warren G: G-Funk came from a friend of mine and Dre’s, Cold 187um [aka Big Hutch] from Above The Law. I used to live with him, Laylow, KMG, Go Mack and Total K-Oss, and we used to call it G-Funk when we was making music. I used to be in there trying to deejay and create music when I was living with them. They started with that, and I became a part of it, so I had my own branch of it. When I did my thing, I kept the same name with my version of the G-Funk.
The way I created it was live instrumentation, heavy basslines and drums, where rhythm is life and life is rhythm. That’s my definition of it, how I did it, and it blew up worldwide. But I do credit Above The Law a lot for being some of the first guys to start with G-Funk. I’m a part of that—mine just got a little bigger—but G-Funk is a whole family. It’s Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Warren G, Above The Law, D.O.C., Nate Dogg. G-Funk was The Chronic; that’s our family.
DX: With “Regulate,” you created a song that has stood the test of time, outlasting many of the so-called classic Hip Hop records of that era. Tell me about the creation of this song in particular.
Warren G: As far as the creation, I just wanted to do something different than what everybody else was doing. I told Nate, “Let’s try something different. Let’s do some Gangsta Rap over a different type of record, like a Pop record or something smooth.” That’s what we did, and it worked. Nate was singing like no one was singing… wasn’t nobody singing gangsta shit over smooth melodies and basslines. We basically was just trying to be different from what was going on at the time. We did the same thing when we did Mista Grimm’s “Indo Smoke,” which was one of our biggest records that’s also still in rotation.
DX: In 1994 your debut Regulate…G Funk Era sold approximately 4 million albums worldwide. With the music industry having changed so drastically in the Digital Age to where it’s hard to even get a million albums purchased in Hip Hop, what challenges have you found in adapting to the state of business in 2013?
Warren G: I’m learning to adapt. Doing numbers like that kind of spoiled us [laughs], and now you really have to be more hands on these days. It’s actually not that bad; it’s all about good marketing and promotion, and if you got that you can get the same fan base to buy those records. I think that once they figure out how to stop people from just getting your stuff for free, you’ll start seeing numbers go back up again. It’s kind of like a crazy game, because nowadays artists have to give up free music for it to blow up and then do endorsements sort of like how the athletes have to do.
That’s where the music game is, but my thing is, I know how to adapt, so I’m adapting to this new Digital Era. I haven’t put anything out, but I got a worldwide fan base out there and I know that once I do drop some new music they gonna jump on it, ‘cause it’s gonna be good.
DX: I lived on the East Coast at the time, and we credited you with saving Slick Rick’s career thanks to the “Behind Bars” remix. Coming from Long Beach, what was it like to be responsible for what became one of a New York legend’s most memorable moments?
Warren G: Oh wow, I forgot about that [laughs]. Me, Snoop and all of us were huge Slick Rick fans, and then me and him became labelmates. For me to be able to produce a track for him, I was stoked and out of my mind—I couldn’t believe it. I said, “I’ma give him a banger,” and I did that. I got on there, sung the hook, and it was a Jazz sample I used. I like to do different stuff from the regular boom bap, and I’m still the same way if you hear some of the stuff that I got right now.
Warren G Explains Why He Tends To Be Slept On As A Producer
DX: You produced MC Breed’s “Gotta Get Mine,” which featured Tupac, your history with Nate Dogg is well documented and you also worked with Mac Dre. In addition you produced almost all of your own music and less spoken of artists such as Twinz. When you look at it, your importance within Hip Hop history isn’t always recognized. What would you say contributes to you being underrated from time to time as a producer?
Warren G: I think it’s because they don’t know [laughs]. I was producing the same time that I was rapping, I blew up so big as an artist, and that overshadowed me as a producer. As far as people underrating me, I don’t care. I ain’t tripping off of it, because I still show that I am one of the dopest by doing records like I just did with Young Jeezy and Ne-Yo with “Leave You Alone.” I did Shaq’s “Biological Didn’t Bother,” and that was his first gold record. I did “Gotta Get Mine,” records for the Twinz, Mac Dre, Nate Dogg, Tupac, E-40 and the list goes on.
I’ve done a lot of records with a lot of guys, and I just want people to hear my music. I ain’t trying to be one of the names all out in the limelight. I like being behind the scenes, but a lot of people recognize it, and the artists do when they see me. A lot of these cats be moving so fast that we never get a chance to sit down and collaborate so I can give them that hit they need to change the game. I done worked with everybody, and I contributed a lot on The Chronic. Doing records like “Lil’ Ghetto Boy”—I did the sample first and took it to Dre. He heard it and changed it up, then put it out. I did “Let Me Ride,” Dre heard it, re-did it and put it out on the album. The “Deez Nuts” skit was freestyled; I told them turn the mic on and I called a girl. The skit from The Mack was a record I had. I played it and said, “Listen to this, this is dope.” It’s a bunch of stuff that I contributed on that record, and it’s a good thing.
I’m just happy to have been a part of all that history, and it’s still a lot more to go. I’m not done, and I got records right now that Jay Z could get on and it would be harder than any of those records he’s bustin’ on right now. Nas, Kanye, Kendrick Lamar—any of these guys—I got records for them. They gonna get them. I don’t just get all up in people’s faces, but I’m gonna start getting out there and pressing play on them myself. I don’t want a manager or nobody in between us when I talk to them, because that’s when all the Hollywood stuff starts. If it’s just me one-on-one with the artist, we’re gonna come out with a classic hit record…guaranteed.
Warren G Says Jeezy’s “Leave You Alone” Almost Wasn’t Recorded
DX: You mentioned Young Jeezy’s “Leave You Alone,” arguably one of his biggest, recent songs. How did that collaboration come about, and what does that mean for your legacy to still be relevant in this day and age?
Warren G: The way it came about was one of my friends was locked up with one of Young Jeezy’s buddies down South. When his buddy got out, he connected with another one of my friends here in California. He told him Jeezy was coming to LA, and he was looking for some beats. I had tried to send Jeezy some beats before, and I don’t know what the communication was between whoever I sent the tracks to, but evidently he didn’t get them. I felt like I extended an invitation before and it wasn't happening, so I was like, “Fuck that, I ain’t going to him.” The guy out here was like, “Warren, just get some beats and come play them for him.”
I went down, and he was in the middle of doing a video, so we went and sat in the Phantom. I played some records for him, we chopped it up, and he was like, “Your album was the soundtrack to my life.” That messed me up. He was like, “I want some of that kind of that soulful, feel good music.” I played the tracks for him, he took three, and he was like, “G, I’ma get back at you in a week or two.” He called me about a month or a month-and-a-half later like, “G, we got one.” I said, “We got what?” He said, “This is the single to my album. I’m out here in New York, and they played this mothafucka about 15 times. They stopped and kept playing it, rewinding it and throwing bombs.” It’s been uphill from there.
I can do that with any of these artists. It’s all about getting in there, sitting down, really vibing out and getting it done instead of rushing. That’s why a lot of this music sounds like it sounds—mothafuckas be rushing instead of sitting down and really coming up with a great record. That’s what I like about Dre; he ain’t gonna just throw no shit out there. He’s gonna sit, listen and make sure that shit is right. I learned that from him. Jeezy actually put out another record I did for him called “Just Got Word” with him and YG on the It’s Tha World mixtape. That’s another great record, and a lot of people love it.
Warren G Talks Kendrick Lamar & Remaining Relevant
DX: Last year Glasses Malone’s “That Good” showed love to you by sampling your big single “This DJ.” How does it feel to still be recognized and respected by your younger peers?
Warren G: It felt great, and it was a good thing when he hit me like, “G, I want to re-do ‘This DJ.’” I told him it was all good. Glasses is a good artist and a good guy personally…a real cat. I got a lot of respect for him.
DX: As I’m sure you’re aware, Kendrick Lamar is quite a big deal thanks to his debut album and his verse on Big Sean’s “Control” in particular. What was your response when you heard the verse, and what’s your impression of him carrying the West Coast on his shoulders.
Warren G: When I first heard it I was like, “This shit is off the chain; he did his thing.” Once he explained it, I understood it better that he’s not dissing or saying he hates them or saying fuck them. He ain’t coming at them like that, he’s just saying, “This is Hip Hop, we having fun with this and bringing it back to lyrics.” He gave it up for all the vets on the West Coast, the East Coast and wherever. The music game needed something, because it’s been so dry. It ain’t been nothing out there to really blow my mind. J. Cole makes a lot of great records, and I like the way he do his thing. Drake makes some good records, but it’s just a lot of stuff out there where they ain’t talking about shit. Kendrick is saying, “You guys gotta start talking about more than just throwing up $50,000 at a strip club for a girl shaking her ass in your face. You could be giving that money to them people on Skid Row down there so they can eat. Get to the real shit; all this other stuff is playing out.” That’s what that verse was.
DX: You’re reportedly working on a sequel to Regulate…G Funk Era. What can we expect a new Warren G album to sound like?
Warren G: I’ma give you that G-Funk; it don’t stop. I’ma continue to do the music how I do it. When you change and try to be different, that’s when it don’t work. I’ma just keep giving ‘em Warren G and that smooth G-Funk sound the way I’ve always done it. I’m just taking my time with it. My 20-year anniversary is coming up from Regulate…G-Funk Era, so I want to drop a record, and I’m just gonna get a lot of people I always wanted to work with along with myself and my production, and Im gonna come out with a great project. I’m not gonna stop doing music. I’ma keep rapping—I’ma be 90-years-old still bustin’.