You know you have been in the Rap game a long time when your earliest memories of Dr. Dre are not of a globally-known producer, but of a local b-boy.
Recalling Dr. Dre The Teenager
“I been knowing Dre since like ’80, ’81,” recalled Laylaw recently to HipHopDX of the two future producer’s initial South Central connection. “I stayed down the street from his cousin, on 76th Street, right across the street from Fremont [High School]. I played football for Fremont… and [Dre] would dance at halftime with some other brothers, some pop-locker dudes.”
“We was aware of each other,” he continued, “’cause we both had an interest in deejaying and music when a lot of people wasn’t doing it back then. So we was aware of each other. And … he was just a little cat from the neighborhood, just a regular little dude from the hood. Nothing like stood out or nothing like that, we just had common interests.”
Fast forward a few years to the mid-‘80s and the Fremont alums had cut their first record together: the Dracula-inspired “Monster Rapping.”
“Man, we fucked around,” replied ‘Law when asked if the seemingly comical cut was supposed to be serious. “I did that like as respect to my homeboy. My homeboy rapped on that first, my homeboy named Paraquise. Paraquise got life in the pen. And Dre said, ‘Man, go ahead and put ya voice on it.’ We bullshittin’ and I put it on there. And we had so much leeway at the radio station that I was able to get it played during Halloween . I wasn’t even trying to do nothing with it at all. That’s not indicative of no style or nothing like that.”
Laylaw’s short-lived career as an artist continued the following year with “What’s Your Name,” and Electro-driven dance cut produced by “The Mechanic,” which was an alias Dr. Dre adopted at the time to avoid any conflict with his deal with Epic Records, as part of The World Class Wreckin’ Cru, while working with ‘Law.
“I was a writer,” explained Laylaw of why his time in front of the mic was confined to just a couple of Dr. Dre produced 12” singles. “I was just writing. I was writing … and then, I come across Alonzo [Williams] and Wreckin’ Cru and they’re rapping. … I’m not a rapper. I’m a writer. I can write a rap, but I don’t consider myself a rapper. So, it was weird trying to figure out what I was gonna do.”
What ‘Law had already figured out on his own to do to make a living had nothing to do with making music.
“I was a hustler, man,” he noted. “Everybody knew Laylaw from getting money. I was the only nigga they knew had a Rolex. That’s why my label was Rolex [Records]. … I had money, so [Eazy-E] used to fuck with me to get money. So I knew Eazy.”
Helping Build Classics For Eazy E's Ruthless Records
The hustler/writer subsequently began rollin’ with Eazy and the rest of the Ruthless Records posse. After penning singer Michel’le’s 1989 smash “No More Lies,” Laylaw began grooming the second gangstafied group to emerge on Ruthless after N.W.A.: Above The Law.
“With [Big Hutch], we’d be doing some music and [N.W.A. would] hear it and next thing you know our music would end up on N.W.A.’s records,” revealed ‘Law. “ ‘100 Miles And Runnin,’’ that’s an Above The Law beat.”
After a few years of allegedly having credit stripped from him for songs he wrote for Michel’le, Eazy-E and others, Laylaw left the west coast’s first powerhouse Rap label prior to Above The Law’s sophomore full-length, Black Mafia Life.
“There was nothing good there,” he noted of the environment at Ruthless Records by the early ‘90s. “The public enjoyed the music and everything, but to be doing it on the other side of it, we was going through hell.”
And was the hell being created at Ruthless more the work of Eazy-E or the often criticized label co-founder Jerry Heller?
“It was both of ‘em,” replied Laylaw. “I don’t kiss nobody ass, man. I mean, Eazy was cool as fuck. I loved Eazy. I miss Eazy. But then when Eazy got schooled by Jerry [Heller] … All of the sudden I gotta talk to Jerry about shit I’ve never talked to Jerry about? Fuck Jerry, man. I’m not talking to Jerry about nothing. You couldn’t get me to respect Jerry. That was the problem. [I was like], ‘How you gonna just throw this muthafucka in the mix, Eazy? You used to buy dope from me muthafucka. I used to give you dope on consignment. Now you got me talking to this white fool about this bullshit?’”
Post-Ruthless, ‘Law kept getting that legal drug money by producing the title-track to 2Pac’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z, along with the subsequent B-side to ‘Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” single, “I Wonda If Heaven’s Got A Ghetto.”
“I was kinda fuckin’ with ‘Pac while I was still at Ruthless,” recalled ‘Law. “Me and ‘Pac was already friends. Atron Gregory was [Above The Law’s] road manager. Atron Gregory found Digital Underground …. And ‘Pac used to come around. Dude used to come down and sleep on my couch and shit, kick it, and we end up doing some music together.”
Unfortunately for Laylaw, industry rule #4080 once again reared its ugly head in regards to his work for an up-and-coming act.
“‘I Wonda If Heaven’s Got A Ghetto,’ and there’s a song called ‘Troublesome,’ I did … a couple other songs I can’t remember the titles to,” revealed ‘Law of his complete contribution to 2Pac’s sophomore album. “There’s about five songs [total I did] for Tupac. The name of the album was originally called Troublesome, but for whatever reason they pulled off all my songs except one. Like, mines was too much or some shit. I don’t know what the fuck they was trippin’ on. So, they pulled off four of my five songs and they just left ‘Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.’ So ‘Pac said, ‘Well, we gonna name the album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.’ Why? ‘Cause they raped the album.”
Unfortunately, yet again, Laylaw would see his work for 2Pac “raped,” but this time it would be in part at the hands of his old friend from Fremont.
The Real Story Behind 2Pac & Dr. Dre's "California Love (Remix)"
“I went on and played some music for him,” began ‘Law as he recalled his reunion with Dr. Dre in the mid-‘90s. “He heard a beat that he wanted, and it was the ‘California Love (Remix)’ beat. He was officially working on The Chronic 2 way back then. And that song was supposed to have been for his album. … So Dre did the song, a couple days later Roger [Troutman] come out [and] get on it. … A couple days later, ‘Pac hear it [and] ‘Pac get on it. A couple days later now it’s ‘Pac’s single. The very next day they wanna shoot the video. So within a week of us doing it, it became ‘Pac’s single.”
“So I’m like, ‘Alright, what’chu gonna do with my version? ‘Cause we have two versions of the song,’” he continued. “[Dre] said, ‘Your version’s the remix.’ I did it with my partner at the time, [D’Maq]. … [Dr. Dre] told me that he sent the credits into Suge [Knight] and Suge fucked it up. I called Suge. Suge said, ‘Dre never gave me the credits, ‘Law.’ … Mind you, Suge ain’t really worrying about putting my name on shit. So I get in touch with Tupac, and ‘Pac telling me he trying to leave [Death Row Records], he just wanna finish these extra albums and he wanna leave. So, we just kicked back and just let [the situation] marinate.”
Although he has endured his fair share of industry shenanigans through the years, Laylaw is still going strong in the business of music. The Westside O.G. is currently preparing the release of Lawhouse Greatest Hitz, a 3-disc box set of both previously released and unreleased ‘Law assisted creations for Ice Cube, 2Pac, DJ Quik, E-40, Nas and more.
“I’m getting a new one from Quik,” he noted of some planned new additions to the Hitz. “I’m getting a new one from Cube. And I’m gonna release some stuff that never came out, some ‘Pac that never came out. It’s gonna be interesting.”