Over the course of 20-plus years, Warren G’s career has taken some strange turns. By most accounts, the 20-year anniversary of an album certified as triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America should be a time for reflection. And—make no mistake—there are times when Warren G looks back wistfully on his debut album, Regulate… G Funk Era. He’ll think back to shrugging off sample clearances for Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’,” saying, “I blew that muthafucka up, and he still getting checks. I know he down with me.” He’ll even reflect on his easy chemistry with the late Nate Dogg, but June’s unofficial anniversary of Warren’s debut is more about looking forward than looking back.
During the final installment of Warren’s two-part Q&A session at Red Bull studios in Santa Monica, he premiered a new song with Wanz of “Thrift Store” fame, and revealed he’s sitting on more tracks featuring Bun B, Jeezy, Wiz Khalifa and more. Warren G has executive aspirations, which isn’t surprising given he’s one of the few artists who can legitimately lay claim to helping Def Jam tread water through their lean years. He’s logging time with the likes of frequent Aftermath hook man Kobe, Adrian Marcel and his younger neighbor Mike Slice. Add in the fact that Warren wants to return to his crate digging ways, and all the elements are in place for a G-Funk renaissance.
Warren G Says Offspring Of ‘80s Babies Gave Him New Fans
HipHopDX: What prompted the digging up of all these files?
Warren G: The 20-year anniversary [of Regulate… G Funk Era]. I just transferred everything over because I got a lot of stuff that will be dope today. I’ve still got them all on these [DAT] tapes and stuff. There’s a lot of stuff out there…a bunch of different artists and stuff, like that.
DX: At what point did you decide on what you wanted to do for the twentieth anniversary, as far as new stuff versus a retrospective?
Warren G: I just wanted to just do some dope music to let these muthafuckas know…shit. People are like, “He back.” I ain’t ever went nowhere. Ain’t nothing changed. The game changed, but I still do what I do. I still make good music, and I’ll serve any muthafucka out there if they force me to. I ain’t the aggressive type, and I don’t start nothing with nobody, but I ain’t no scrub. So I’m just giving back and letting the new generation know who I am so they understand what I contributed to the game. A lot of them already know. My manager Keith don’t think the kids know me, but I be trying to tell him, “Keith, the kids know me. I’m tellin’ you, you got to come to the hood. The kids know me.” I’m just still getting it out, even the ones that may not know.
Most of their parents already turned them on to me. So they like the records, and that’s why I think records like “Regulate” are still in heavy rotation. [It’s] because the parents that grew up in my era let the kids listen to it. You know how they do it, “This is good music, right here.” Then they play something and the kids start liking it, and they play it for they friends and they kids. Next thing you know you got a whole bunch of kids and a whole generation playing it all over again. So it’s like its brand new again, and I’m like, “Damn. I didn’t ever think that the record was going to get this big… any of my records.” I got more than just “Regulate” that have been pretty big. I didn’t know that it was going to be that successful. I just loved the music and I wanted people just to hear me—just around from where I was from—L.A., Long Beach, Compton, Watts, whatever. I didn’t know it was gonna go worldwide, and it did. It just tripped me out. I didn’t let it get to me. I just kept working, and was like, “Shit, if this is how it is, let me make some more of it.”
How Bun B, Jeezy, Wiz Khalifa & Others Partnered With Warren G
DX: So at one point—whether you were in your apartment or even in the studio Kelvin had in V.I.P. Records—when did you start saying, “I might have something here?”
Warren G: Shit, when I was on tour. I had had some success when I was on tour in ’94. I was with R. Kelly, Heavy D, Coolio, Da Brat, Jermaine Dupri; we was all on tour. It was a bunch of us. When I first got a royalty check, I was like, “Oh, so this is what I get for doing this? So I should make some more of these muthafuckas! Let me keep trying to make some more.” That let me know that it was real. It just opened up a whole new thing for me, just being able to support my family and help out with whatever I could help [with] as far as my neighborhood…giving back and stuff like that. It was a trip, but I still didn’t let it get to me. I just kept going hard. I’m still like that to this day. Now if I get a Dr. Dre deal then I might trip out a little bit. But if I trip out, everybody gonna have a ball [laughs]. We gonna do it big, everybody. It’s cool. I’m still the same.
DX: Before we get too far back, what can you us about your track with Bun B?
Warren G: Yeah, it’s me Nate Dogg, Bun B and Young Jeezy. I got a record with Problem. I got me and Wiz [Khalifa]—I’m waiting for him to get back here to L.A. He’s been in Africa and some other places. Actually, I just did a whole bunch of stuff for him and Chevy Jones, and it’s tight too. Me and him are going to collaborate. I don’t want to just do a basic record with him. I want to do one of those records that’s going to be like an anthem. I heard a lot of records that he did with other people where he just do songs. I want to do some shit that’s going to be big. I got some shit, and I just want to see how he feel about it. I got E-40 and Too Short. I got them on the record.
DX: What particularly would you want to see out of Wiz? Would you want to see him on the “Black And Yellow” mode or like Kush and Orange Juice? What would you want him to tap in to?
Warren G: Ahh, more like that “Black And Yellow,” because that’s that shit that’s gonna last. I want to do a record that’s gonna last. And every time…say it’s that “Black And Yellow.” I want one of them records. I got a lot of people; Adrian Marcel is even on there. He’s a young guy, and I met him before at his beginning stages. He’s really beginning to catch a buzz right now, and I think he’s gonna be one of the tightest out there. He looks a little bit like Chris Brown. He’s a dope artist though. I really like him, and he can sing; he’s got vibrato.
Like I said, I got more people on there. I can’t really get it all together with all of them. I got a record with Butch Cassidy that’s dope too. I got one I did last night, I don’t know if you guys ever heard of Kobe? He dope as fuck. I told him, “I’m fuckin with you. We gotta get you some work, get you crackin.’” I don’t know if he signed to nobody or not, but I’m fucking with him. I think, “Shit, he could be one of the dopest in the game right now, because he can really sing.” I mean, I got records man. I still got a few things to touch up.
How Warren G & Wanz Teamed Up For “To Nate”
DX: How many Nate records do you have that the public hasn’t heard yet?
Warren G: I had a bunch of them. I can’t even count, and it’s a lot, ‘cause we was just workin’. We would go in, and he would say, “Nigga just write a verse. Do a hook, and let’s go to the next one.” So we kept doing it like that. We kept coming up with a gang of stuff. Whatever we really was on, we would just sit there and say, “Hold up, let’s finish this one.” We would finish it and go to the next one. We done a bunch of those. I got some cool stuff that we did, a lot of stuff that we did together. It’s a trip because it’s still up to date. I got one with me, him, E-40 and Too Short called “Saturday.” That nigga E-40 was bussin’. I ain’t gonna lie.
DX: Who ended up contacting who in terms of getting with Wanz on “To Nate?”
Warren G: He hit me. Actually we was at SXSW last year, and we met through this cat.
DX: Another unreleased song, “Looking For Trouble” has some similarities with “Regulate” in terms of you interacting with a woman and later getting set up. How much of it is a continuation?
Warren G: That’s just normal shit that be going on. I mean, it ain’t really a continuation to “Regulate” or nothing like that, it’s just a story. I just wanted to do it like how Dre and them used to do it back in the day. Like they had, “Lesson One…homegirl and homegirl,” that type of shit—the story type stuff. I tell you who does that shit, it’s J. Cole. He tell stories, and he make you get into his story. That’s just having fun with that kind of stuff like we did back in the day. I know that stuff from Dre, Eazy and them and N.W.A back in the day, because I was a real young guy just around them. They taught me a lot. I’m a little older now, and I’m ready to just get major. I’m getting ready to go back, to get back in that mode—[the] “Indo Smoke” days mode. I’m a get back into that mode real quick before I go behind the scenes and start working with a whole bunch of artists and help them build their careers. That’s what I’m about. I’m about helping. I’m not stingy. I want an artist that I’m with to be bigger than me. Shit, we gonna both get paid. You gonna be able to be successful and set for life. That’s how I am, man.
Warren G Shares Business Aspirations & Why He Chose Def Jam
DX: What gave you that perspective?
Warren G: I just wanted to grow more than muthafuckas. I did an interview earlier, and he said, “You sold drugs.” And I told him, “Look man, I don’t want to…it ain’t no disrespect. I just don’t want to talk about that shit all the time.” Everybody got a story about how they sold drugs and all this shit. I ain’t trying to do this shit; I just want to talk about some shit that’s moving up forward. I went through what I went through, doing what I did because I had to survive. But I don’t want to glorify that shit, because muthafuckas think they could try it, and then it could change. You gonna either get your ass bumped or you gonna go to jail. Ain’t nothing else to it. I just choose to just keep going forward. I wanted to get bigger, because the bigger I got the more shit I could see. The more places I could experience. All the homies I brought with me overseas, ain’t none of them in jail or killed something. They’re all trying to do something to better themselves because they seen that side of life.
DX: In terms of a business, Russell Simmons said how instrumental you were in helping Def Jam tap into the West Coast. What were those convos like? You could have picked any label and you went with Def Jam.
Warren G: I just had to look at it like it was history man. There was a lot of companies that was on me heavy. I looked at the history, and I was like, “This the shit I grew up on: Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, The Beastie Boys, the Fat Boys, Run DMC, Slick Rick, LL Cool J—all the muthafuckas that were in Krush Groove. And then with just the artists on Def Jam that I loved, I was like, “Should I do this or get with this shit that’s history?” Everybody that been on that muthafucka blew up. So I went over there with Russell, and I was like, “Should I come up with y’all? I don’t give a shit who, I’m coming up with y’all. I’ll deal with all of that extra shit later.”
Why Warren G Hopes To Return To His Crate Digging Ways
DX: Switching gears a bit, in terms of your production, what was your process like? Were you a crate digger?
Warren G: Major. I’m kinda mad at myself right now, because I haven’t been at that formula. That’s when I’m at my best, and need to get back into it. I want to get that feeling back like when I did “Indo Smoke,” “Definition of a Thug Nigga,” and get back into digging like I used to. I felt like I was the coldest muthafucka digging for records in the game, because I had a lot of shit they just now finding. I’m like, “I had that shit 10 years ago.” I had a lot of shit—damn near everything you hearin’ as a sample. Let me see, I just heard a record from, “Diamonds Are Forever,” but I been had that shit. I got that record overseas.
That record J. Cole did—[“Can’t Get Enough”]—it was one of the big records. I dug a lot of records on The Chronic. I bought a bunch of ‘70s soundtracks from a store called As the World Turns or As The Records Turn. I swear to God they had at least a million records, if not more. There was records from the floor to the ceiling. They’d tell me where to find Italian Soul, or French Soul or English Soul ‘cause I basically went through our shit. I wanted to go through they shit and find out how they shit sound. I used to do dope ass shit. I found The Side Effect, a gold record overseas, it was see through and it was very antique. I think I paid 100 bucks for that muthafucka. It had the horns on it, and that shit was hard. I dig a lot, and it’s a couple of store in Long Beach that’s good. I hit the beat swap meet. I got to hit Fredwreck ‘cause he knows… They do shit where they just pop up, so I got to go to the next one. That’s when I’m at my best when I’m digging.
When I would dig in New York at the Sound Library, it would be me, Q-Tip, [Posdnuos of] De La Soul, all of us would be right there because they had the little counter. They had the turntable and headphones sitting there. I used to hit this little bodega with Cuban food. I would go there, and they would give me this bomb ass chicken over the rice. I hit that muthafucka every time I hit New York and I’d get a 22 ounce of Coors. I’d hit my little joint and just sit there and go.
That’s what I used to do. I used to dig for records, and I gotta get back into the mode again. Now you can just pull up the Internet and YouTube, but I gotta get out of that and go straight to the real shit. There’s shit that ain’t on YouTube that’s in the store that can change your life. I looked at it like this, “Fuck it. I’ll spend a hundred dollars on a record to make a million..fuck that.” Spend 20 dollars to make 50 or 60 thousand. As long as you find an idea that works, so what if it’s somebody’s shit. Just re-do it, like I did “Regulate.” I did that shit better than Michael McDonald, and that was just an album cut. I blew that muthafucka up, and he still getting checks. I know he down with me. That nigga getting checks. I can imagine what he getting. Shit, they owe me that.
Additional reporting by Andre Grant.