Tha Dogg Pound's Daz Dillinger is a character. He speaks bluntly and with authority, just as he sounds on record. As he talks on the phone, the producer for 2Pac, Snoop Dogg and MC Eiht has side-discussions with a crowded room. At one point, Daz signs paperwork to purchase a Mercedes Benz S430, and casually tells the interviewer, "I just bought a car," with a chuckle. The glory days are still alive for the Long Beach, California native, even if independence may have led some people to believe otherwise.
This week, Daz joined partner Kurupt in releasing Tha Dogg Pound's 100 Wayz, the group's anticipated fifth studio album. Yesterday afternoon, Daz spoke to HipHopDX about 100 Wayz, appearing with Snoop Dogg on tour for Rock The Bells, and receiving six-figure checks lately from his former home, Death Row Records.
Having just landed in Los Angeles from his Georgia residence, Daz spoke to DX at a rehearsal with Snoop Dogg to kick off this weekend's Rock The Bells festivities. There, Snoop and the Pound will perform the 1993 multi-platinum classic, Doggystyle. Asked about that release, Daz said, "I just got a check from Death Row [Records] from [Doggystyle]. Man, I love that album!" There is no word on who will take the stage from the ensemble cast featuring Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G, Dr. Dre, RBX and Bow Wow, among others. Daz continued, "[Snoop Dogg and others] have been rehearsing, this is my first day at rehearsal when I popped up on 'em today." The producer and co-writer of "Serial Killa" and "For All My Niggaz & Bitches" thumped his chest about his closeness to the acclaimed project. "[Interviewers have] been asking everybody else in the crew how did it feel to make [Doggystyle]. They can't really explain it, 'cause they didn't really make it. It was only me and Snoop that wrote that album. I'm here now, and it's a good thing. It's a good thing to see people come out to hear us do that album of 13 - really 14 tracks." The debate about the track count relates to "Gz Up, Hoes Down," which was removed from additional pressings, due to reported sample clearance issues.
With a lot of Rock The Bells concert goers in their teens, Daz was asked about how post Los Angeles Riots themes about early '90s west coast slang sit with '90s babies. "A lot of young people tell me they grew up on that album. When I walk the streets, young kids come up to me like, 'Is that Daz?' It's a good thing to be appreciated in the Hip Hop world and still be relevant around here."
On to his own 100 Wayz album, Daz revealed that the label that released Tha Dogg Pound's own platinum album, 1995's Dogg Food helped prompt the group's fifth official album. "I had just got a check for like $100,000 from Death Row Records - the new Death Row. They're paying royalties on all their music. [Former Death Row Records CEO and President] Suge [Knight] wasn't trying to pay us our money. Now they're payin'." Daz continued that he wanted to use the royalties to further the DPG legacy. "So I take their money, and bein' hungry with the game, I just grabbed Soopafly and Kurupt, dropped them off some money, and said, 'Damn, let's make this happen.' Money-makin' mothafuckas do whatever, ya dig?"
With the album initially planned for early 2009, Daz, Kurupt and Priest "Soopafly" Brooks realized that the material was too big to rush. "[100 Wayz] is really gonna put a dent in the game, 'cause people think we fell off. So this one really has to go through, and we really had to put our all into it. Then we started workin' on it, and I thought to myself, 'Damn, I don't want to drop this yet,'" revealed Daz, who dropped the limited distribution LP That Was Then, This Is Now since completing 100 Wayz. "I gave them two albums, before I gave them the original album."
Last month, a song from 100 Wayz "I Fears No One" appeared on HipHopDX. With a great listener response, Daz was asked if he was undergoing a lyrical and production renaissance. "I [based] that song 'I Fears No One' off of what we did on [Dr. Dre's] The Chronic on 'Lyrical Gangbang.' It's the same [type of] beat. I hooked it up a little bit harder [with] Soopafly. That's where we got the idea from." After an interruption to purchase a German luxury car, Daz then revealed that the beat was intended for a N.W.A. member, "That was one of the first songs we did [for 100 Wayz]. Originally, I made that beat for Ice Cube. But I didn't get the chance to lay it down. Then I had Kurupt come over, he laid it down. That's why I started thinking about that first verse from 'Lyrical Gangbang' [repeats verse]." Speaking of his longtime keyboardist and production partner Soopafly, Daz said, "We're a production team, man, and this album sounds like we're hungry." Moving from art to industry, he quickly said, "The fact is, is that it's independent. We own the [masters and publishing], and we get paid off of every unit of that mothafucka."
Daz thanked his decade-long distributor, the Tennessee-based Select-O-Hits for getting his material in stores at the time of declines. While powerful retailers like Fat Beats close up their doors, Daz' breed of Gangsta Rap is prevalently sold at swap meets and barber shops, reveals the veteran. "Labels don't give a fuck about you. I'm tryin' this Rap game like I treat the dope game. I'm about keepin' my money." The CEO of DPG Records admitted that his distribution split, was 95/5 in his favor.
With the ability to negotiate lucrative deals, Daz Dillinger at 37 years old is sharing his expertise with others. "I sit down with about 40 people sometimes, and teach 'em class, on how to get this independent thing started. Ain't nobody gonna give you a dime around here, you gotta make up your own shit. Once you make it on your own, then they'll respect you better." Speaking from experience, Daz continues, "Right now, I don't need nobody. I can just go into my [home studio] and make me 12 brand new tracks, create new songs, mix 'em, and get 'em up."