For most fans, a formal introduction to Kurupt came along with khakis, Nike Cortez sneakers and all the classic memories of Death Row during the label’s peak in the ‘90s. And as much as his fire and brimstone style helped power tracks such as “New York, New York” and “Stranded On Death Row,” he was much more of a purist than most critics (and some listeners) were willing to admit at the time.
“At 16, I moved to California,” Kurupt explained from his spacious “studio house.” “I brought that skill over here, and that’s when Dr. Dre and [Snoop] Dogg taught me how to make records. I just wanted to Battle Rap all the time. That was my thing. Philly gave me my skill, and California critiqued it.”
California critiqued it, embraced it and various media outlets used that diverse skill set to turn individual beefs between Suge Knight, Sean Combs, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. into an East Coast versus West Coast feud. Whether it was a confrontation with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, DMX and Foxy Brown or his former label mates Snoop Dogg and Daz, loyalty is the common thread between both some of his most heated battles and their ensuing reconciliations. Some 20 years after helping reshape the template for Hip Hop in California, Kurupt looks back on his initial dealings with all participants involved and how those encounters influence how he moves today.
Kurupt Recalls Creating Tha Dogg Pound’s “Dogg Food”
HipHopDX: One of my favorite joints on Dogg Food is “Reality…”
Kurupt: Oh, wow…very real record. That’s talking about some real, real things that I was going through at the time, business-wise, friends, and with my family. I wrote the chorus, and it gave me an opportunity to see my words stretch out and become something. When we wrote “Reality,” I did the chorus, and Daz liked it. A lot of that record gave me the opportunity to expand as a writer as well as an artist.
DX: What were the times like when you were making that album? I know things after that album seemed to go crazy after Dogg Food came out. What was it like going into that project…the chemistry between you and Daz and the fact it was the first album Dr. Dre didn’t produce?
Kurupt: It was the first album for me and Daz, and it was our transition from just rapping to becoming stars. When we did Dogg Food, that was our opportunity to have our own album. During that time, The Lady of Rage was supposed to come out next. She had “Afro Puffs” out up there at number one. Me and Daz just went for it. We were ready and started playing records for Suge [Knight]. He said, “Okay, let’s do it. Are y’all sure y’all want to do it now?” We were like, “Yeah, let’s go.” It was a very big time for me and Daz in 1995 working on that album. There were a lot of trials and tribulations during that time, transitioning from being a kid to a man, having our own things, a lot of money we messed off…but it was fun as well.
DX: You were 20, 21 when Dogg Food came out?
Kurupt: In 1994, I was 21. With Doggystyle in 1995, I was 22, 23.
How Death Row’s Early Success Impacts Kurupt’s Current Outlook
DX: You guys talk about that in a lot of interviews. There’s a lot of talk about how the money wasn’t right and if you had to give anybody advice, you said, “Be happy and make good business moves.” Most 22-year-olds don’t think about that kind of stuff…22-year-olds are drinking legally for the first time.
Kurupt: It’s crazy, because they used to always card me before I was 21. The first time I went to the liquor store to show my ID—because I had just turned 21—the nigga ain’t even card me. I got offended. He carded me all the time before I was 21, and now that I’m 21, you just give me the beer? This ain’t right. Look at my ID, man. I worked hard for this. Back in those days, life expectancy for a black man was 25. The majority of young, black youth wasn’t making it past 25. To be successful, as hard as I’d been working at rapping, people are telling me I’m a dime-a-dozen, not realizing I’m a Poltergeist.
Then I finally get the opportunity and actually win; I’m with one of the best producers ever and one of the biggest artists ever. I was around Snoop [Dogg] before he made it. Just watching him gave everybody so much inspiration like, “Wow, he’s the biggest artist in the world,” in five seconds. One record, “Deep Cover,” and he was gone. The experience is indescribable. At that age, you just run through it. You’re not really tripping. You just go with the flow and slide through it. Next thing you know, 10 years have passed, and you’ve made history. You’re on a different level and still don’t know how to take it.
That’s why I say you gotta do good business, because 10 years flew by so fast, like boom. Within that time, history was made, money was made. Those 10 years go by, and you look back and think, “Man, where did all the money go?” Now, you have a reality check. That’s why this next go-round is real important, because I’m seasoned. I know what to do with the money now and how to spend it…how to save and have a good team behind me. I know what to do with the success; I know how to handle my business with people.
DX: What’s the mission for this go-round? What’s the vision?
Kurupt: I want to live. At none of those times were we really living; we were just running. We were running through the game and ain’t really had time to enjoy it, because we were running so fast. We ain’t had time to enjoy the stardom, enjoy being on that level, to enjoy the records we were making. When Tupac came, he taught all of us about work ethic. Before then, we had no work ethic. We were just there, and whatever happened, happened. When ‘Pac came, he taught us that work ethic, getting in the studio and knocking down four, five records before you leave within an eight-hour period. Now, just apply all that education and experience. I’m seasoned now. I know how to make a good record, and I know how to spend my money. I have children now. Without my children, I’d probably be dead or in jail by now.
DX: Following the East Coast/West Coast…I guess leading up to it, it was double-disc era. Everybody was putting out $27, two-disc projects. In 1998, you released Kuruption! Was that a product of the work ethic you learned from Tupac?
Kurupt Explains Philadelphia’s Importance In Hip Hop History
DX: The album cover of that was a newspaper, and on the sidebar, it was announcing Antra Records. It said, “The first bi-coastal Hip Hop record label located in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.” Was that a true statement?
Kurupt: Totally. It was the whole purpose on Antra. I’m a bi-coastal cat. I’m born in Philly, where I got all my skills for rapping and being a part of the real Hip Hop era. At 16, I moved to California. I brought that skill over here, and that’s when Dr. Dre and Dogg taught me how to make records. I just wanted to Battle Rap all the time. That was my thing. Philly gave me my skill, and California critiqued it. It turned it into making records. That difference between rapping and making records—total difference.
I wanted my label to be that type of label. I wanted to concentrate on the East and the West Coast, because that’s who Kurupt is. He’s a product of the East and the West. As you can see, it shape-shifted the entire West Coast. The way people rap, you hear a lot of East Coast influence in their raps nowadays from Game to—everybody has skill now. Back in the day, everybody didn’t have too much skill. It was more subject-oriented. Now, they’re rapping like they got a little bit of East Coast in them. That’s what I wanted the label to be based around.
That’s why I did the double disc. I gave it up for my new journey of my solo career. The first thing I wanted to do is pay homage to the two places that helped create Kurupt, which is the East Coast and the West Coast.
DX: Back in the days, it was all about flows…coolin’ listening to T La Rock and Micstro.
Kurupt: Did you say Micstro?
DX: Did I misquote you?
Kurupt: Oh okay, that was me. I thought you was up on Micstro.
DX: No, I know who they are.
Kurupt: A lot of people aren’t up on Micstro.
DX: That was your joint, “The Life” off of Kuruption!
Kurupt: “Through rain through shine / Even a blizzard, everybody knows that I’m the mic wizard / I’m the M-I-C-S-T-R-O, I go by the name of MC Micstro…” They don’t understand, back in the day, a lot of live music and a lot of bands—Sugarhill Gang was live—live bassline…bass guitar, live drums. That was before the era of sampling and the SP1200, the MPC, and the MPC60. Before all of that, there was a lot of sampling guitar riffs and things of that sort which Rick Rubin, Russell [Simmons], Run-DMC, and Beastie Boys really put in the game. The whole Def Jam era. Before that, it was a lot of live music. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, a lot of people don’t know Teddy Riley did “Showstopper.” Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh. That’s my era. I’m a ‘72 baby. I was a part of that real Hip Hop era. I had an opportunity to experience it, because on the East Coast, you got New York and the next real Hip Hop place was Philly.
DX: I feel like Philly doesn’t get enough credit. You can trace graffiti back to…
Kurupt: It was New York, and then it was Philly. Then it was Jersey. But Philly was always number two when it came to Hip Hop, breakdancing, deejaying and all that type of stuff. Philly had the number one DJs. That’s the one thing we had locked.
DX: Who was the number one DJ out of Philly back then?
Kurupt: [DJ] Jazzy Jeff. He was vicious, but then you also had DJ Cash Money…he was killing them. But yeah, Cash Money and DJ Jazzy Jeff were the main two. They were killing them at all the DJ contests…whooping them bad. Then there were the best emcees. You got Ruff Ryders and Roc-A-Fella. I think Swizz Beatz and Jay-Z made a bet on who had the hardest emcees. When you really look at it, what’s amazing about it is that both of them chose Philly to represent their New York-based labels, because it was Freeway and Cassidy that battled…they’re both from Philly. It goes to show you the influence of Philadelphia.
Our rhyme style is just totally different. We were real slick with it. As you can see right now, one of the number one artists is from Philly—Meek Mill. [Meek] is killing them. I mean, when he was young, with braids, he was killing them. We were born into Hip Hop. Our whole format of rapping is strictly about slickness. We were real slick with our words and the way we say it. I don’t think Philly gets the props it’s supposed to get in Hip Hop as well.
Kurupt On Battle Rap And His First Hip Hop Experiences
DX: Do you watch Battle Raps? Do you pay attention to it now?
Kurupt: Not at all.
DX: It has come out twice in this conversation so far.
Kurupt: Yeah, I mean, that’s my specialty. I’m too busy serving people to even concentrate on who’s serving who. I’m older now. I’m into making that good music. There’s a lot of good artists out there nowadays. It’s not easy to Battle Rap nowadays. Everybody has skill, where back in the day, not too many had that skill. My thing was freestyling. It’s hard to beat somebody that comes off the top and raps about relevant things, but they’re good and it sounds written. Battle Rap is a little different nowadays. Everybody is rapping written raps and not a lot of freestylers. Back in the day, you had to earn it. You get to rapping that written rap, and the other person will start to talk about what’s going on around you, and you’re gone. You lost. It was a little bit different.
DX: Do you remember the first moment where you’re like, “This is it. I’m going to be an emcee.”
Kurupt: Yes, sir. I was eight-years-old. I wanted to be like my cousin Skippy G. He was in Germantown, and that’s what got me into Hip Hop. I’d just go to the corner and kick it with them. They seemed so cool, so fly, busting their little raps and doing their routines. I knew from the door that’s what I wanted to be. Even my first rap, I was rapping, tapping, zippidy-zapping all the way down the street, rocking to the beat—my first rap ever.
DX: Sometimes artists remember their first rhyme, but some cats can’t even remember when you talk to them.
Kurupt: Yeah, you know, you gotta understand it’s different when you’re rapping just because and when you’re rapping because you think you’re going to get paid. Back in the days, we rapped because we loved it whether we got paid or not. Nowadays, everybody raps because they want to get paid. I think it’s the same, too. They rap because they like it. It’s cool. It’s all about being cool and having fun. That’s why I’m going to rap until I die. I’ve always made records.
Kurupt Details The Collaborative Writing Environment At Death Row
DX: What was the reaction like as soon as you stepped outside the booth after recording “Stranded On Death Row?”
Kurupt: That was my first record. It got me in the game. It’s called opportunity. Dr. Dre gave me the opportunity. We were all around there. It’s like a healthy competition for all of us. RBX, Rage, Daz…Snoop was the one already. For us, we had to make it. Once they put you in front of that mic, that was your opportunity. You either make it or break it. The first record Dr. Dre gave me to do was “Stranded On Death Row.” He gave it to me like, “Alright, Kurupt. Here’s the record right here. We’re going to record it tomorrow.” Excellent.
I went home, wrote the rap, came back and bust it. Once you see Dr. Dre smile, you know you made it. When The Chronic dropped, nobody was signed but Rage, Jewell, Michel’le and Snoop. All of us were free. The Chronic was more or less an album to see who Death Row wanted to sign. If you made it, you’re in there. The public is going to tell Suge and Dr. Dre who to sign. We all made it.
Dr. Dre just gave everybody the type of record they can excel in. “High Powered”—RBX, “Stranded on Death Row”—Kurupt…put RBX on that as well. Dr. Dre, Snoopy and D.O.C. constructed the whole thing. They give us writing opportunities. A lot of people don’t know RBX wrote one of the verses on “Let Me Ride.”
DX: Which verse?
Kurupt: First verse. Second verse was D.O.C. if I’m not mistaken.
DX: Wow. I thought D.O.C. did that whole joint.
Kurupt: RBX wrote one of the verses. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember the first or the second verse, but RBX wrote one of the verses, and D.O.C. wrote the other one. Snoopy wrote the majority of everything. That’s how Daz got in the game. Snoop wrote his verse, and after that, Doggystyle was coming, and John Singleton wanted Snoop. Suge was brilliant with his tactics of creating the artists and selling these records with Jimmy [Iovine] and Dr. Dre. Suge was like, “Well, we got Snoop’s album dropping, so he can’t be on nothing but his first single, “What’s My Name.” We can give you Snoop on the chorus. They gave him the record, “Niggas Don’t Give a Fuck,” Snoop’s record. He was like, “We got this new group called Tha Dogg Pound. We’ll give you ‘Niggas Don’t Give a Fuck’ with Tha Dogg Pound on there and Snoop on the chorus.” John was like, “Anything with Snoop on there is good.” We utilized the Dogg to get me and Daz in the game.
So I did Snoopy’s first verse, Daz did Snoopy’s second verse, and then me and Daz wrote our own third verse together. We were in the game and had our first record as Tha Dogg Pound. “Niggas Don’t Give a Fuck” was a Snoop Dogg record. We used to do it like that. When we worked on albums back then, everybody gave their best material to that one project. “For All My Niggas & Bitches” was for Tha Dogg Pound, but it was Snoop’s album time. Me and Daz were working on records for our own thing, and when it’s Snoop’s turn to drop this album, we just get records. We were like, “This is for our shit. Let’s get this to Dogg.” That’s why Dogg wasn’t rapping on it. It was all me and Daz…another opportunity. When we made records, sometimes a nigga would do the chorus on his own album. One of the other artists would be the main person presented on there, breaking the album to present what’s next.
DX: You mentioned ‘Pac earlier. Buckshot did an interview recently with us, and he was talking about how on ‘Pac’s One Nation album, Buckshot was going to be on there, Smif-n-Wessun…
Kurupt: [Buckshot] was one of the first ones whom ‘Pac grabbed from the East Coast. Buckshot showed up from the door. He was one of the first ones on the One Nation album.
DX: Who else was supposed to be on it?
Kurupt: Smif-N-Wessun, a couple other people. I can’t remember all off hand, but Buckshot was one of the first ones who did a record with ‘Pac on all that controversy.
DX: What’s that feel like? You’ve been in a lot of feuds at different points in your career. The way they talk about feuds and conflicts now versus back then.
Kurupt: Back then it was serious. We were very serious. You don’t say fuck somebody unless you’re ready to fuck them up. We were serious, so when we said, “Fuck you,” we’re coming to get you. We’re going to see you and address you. That’s the difference. Nowadays, you see people who are supposed to have beefs in the club together and sipping champagne after just finishing saying fuck each other…didn’t matter. Back in the day, if somebody said it, it was over. That’s the thing about the West Coast. You really didn’t see a lot of that in the East Coast.
They would more or less diss each other, and it wouldn’t be a real, personal thing where people would want to hurt each other. But then we got into the game, and we changed it. Once we were into it, we’re taking it all the way. That’s the difference. When ‘Pac said “Fuck you,” he meant it. It’s not a game, and he’s not saying it for Rap. He’s saying it because he really doesn’t like you and wants to whoop that ass. We said, “Fuck you” and we meant it. We’re going to have to get down.
DX: You’re an East and West Coast cat. What’s the difference in the mentality from your perspective?
Kurupt: Yeah, the East Coast is Hip Hop…battling, dissing each other wasn’t as serious. In the West Coast, dissing each other means you were going to fight. It was real serious. West Coast added gangbanging into Hip Hop. The East Coast was strictly Hip Hop. That was really the only difference.
DX: I guess it had to be the culture of the two places.
How Kurupt’s Personal Life Inspired “Calling Out Names”
DX: What I thought was the weirdest one was on your 1999 album, “Calling Out Names.” That seemed a bit late for the East Coast/West Coast beef.
Kurupt: It never was an East Coast/West Coast beef…it was Death Row and Bad Boy. It got turned into the East Coast/West Coast, because the East Coast was staying down with Bad Boy. We felt disrespected going after Bad Boy. They all rose for Bad Boy, and the West Coast rose for Death Row. The media turned it into East Coast/West Coast, when it was really between Suge and Puffy, ‘Pac and Biggie. My thing was personal. I was engaged to Foxy Brown. DMX and Foxy did their little thing, and I got offended. As you can hear it, Kurupt said it. Not the East, not the West. None of this got anything to do with it. It’s between me and these particular individuals that I felt disrespected me at the time.
Before I released it, I went to Dogg, and Dogg was like, “Don’t do it, Kurupt. Things are just settling down, and it’s not going to be a good look.” I said, “Okay, cool.” I did it anyways. I was real upset. But one of the main things I made a clear point is that this had nothing to do with the East or West coast, and not that this is me against world. That’s my point. It was serious…it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t for record sales. It wasn’t to do anything but let people know I don’t like you. When I see you, we gotta get down. It was serious. It wasn’t a Hip Hop battle. When the West Coast makes records, we normally make records about reality and what we’re going through in real life, experiences we went through or experiences we heard of, the homies tales that we’ll put into raps. It was about real life. “Calling Out Names” was about real life. I don’t think it was the wisest decision to do that, me personally, but back then, I didn’t give a fuck.
DX: Would you put it out again if you had the opportunity to take that off that record? Would you do it?
Kurupt: I think I would. “Calling Out Names” terminated that album. It had the opportunity to sell millions, and calling out names limited that record. It took away a lot of support. Nobody wants to be around all that negative shit. Then again, it also became a classic on the coast. It’s a part of what makes Kurupt and the coast. It’s a double-edged sword, but I don’t think I’ll put that on there now that I know this business, because I didn’t understand by making “Calling Out Names,” I made an enemy with Def Jam. Every artist I’m smashing is a Def Jam artist. If I were to eliminate their career and stop the money for Def Jam, Def Jam isn’t going for that. So now the record label is involved who had power to shut down your project. I didn’t catch that then. Instead, I sold 500,000 instead of selling 1.5 [million], which that album had the opportunity of doing.
DX: That was also lyrically, one of your most incredible tracks. Your approach to it was innovative.
Kurupt: That’s the double-edge sword. It kind of cut me in a negative way, but it also helped shape the career of the person.
DX: Would you describe yourself as underrated? People describe you that way. Would you describe yourself that way.
Kurupt: I’m a humble cat. I like where I am, and if I like the respect I have for being an emcee—when we were working on The Chronic, we didn’t care about the money. All I wanted to be was known as one of the greatest rappers on the planet. Once Biggie got on BET and said the greatest freestyle he heard thus far was Kurupt, I thought I matched that goal. When I dropped “New York, New York,” lyrically, it just put me on the plateau of being a great emcee, I think I kind of lost the thing about rapping because I already met my goal. My goal was to be known as one of the greatest emcees on the planet, and I got that opportunity. After I met that goal, I got nothing. That’s why you got records like, “Calling Out Names,” and all this other shit, because I already matched my goal of being named one of the greatest, instead of just creating a new goal. That’s youth.
Kurupt On Snoop Lion & Being Rejuvenated By Hip Hop
DX: How long did it take you to get rejuvenated again?
Kurupt: It took me a while. That was that transition of learning who I was as a man, which I found that a lot of people live the artist. They forget who they are as a man. They don’t even know who they are as a man or as a woman. They’re too busy being the artist 24/7. I literally lived Kurupt. I didn’t even know who Ricardo was, and all I knew was Kurupt. During those times right there, that was the transition of me learning who I was as a man, which kind of took away from the lyrics. It took away from making records, because I was in a confused place with the transition between being a man, being the artist and being the father—the whole ball of wax.
DX: It’s interesting to hear you describe how you felt after getting acknowledgement and recognition. Nas said something similar a couple years ago at SXSW in an interview with Steve Stoute. He said they made a list of all the things they wanted to accomplish in the ‘90s, and he looked up and they had accomplished that list. He was like, “Yeah, we can chill.” Steve Stoute was like, “No, we gotta keep banging them over the head.” Nas was like, “Nah, I think I want to chill now.”
Kurupt: I met my goal. I served the world. What more can I do? Now it’s time to make records. Now it’s time to be a star as well as be a man. It’s hard to be an artist. Money and power can be a poison or it can make you as a person. The majority of youngsters break something, and you lose your mind with all that power and money. You don’t save, you just go crazy. Next thing you know, you feel invincible. Nobody can touch you, and the next thing you know you feel that you’ll be able to do this forever, and you take that hiatus. Once you take that hiatus, you get replaced. There’s always somebody else more hungry than you. For every bully, there’s a bully.
DX: You and Daz were doing some press around 100 Wayz. I always thought that album was dope, because you were coming from a different perspective on it. You were trying to show people how many ways there is to make money.
Kurupt: Several. That was the purpose of that record. When we made that record, we were more or less trying to find our new selves. Even me, Daz and Snoop got into it, separated and went our own separate ways. When we got back together, it was hard to transition after so much bad blood amongst each other to get back in rhythm together. You got these records where you’ll see we’re trying to get our rhythm back. We definitely getting that now. We’re there now, but it took some time. We’re not all the way there yet. We are when we’re on that stage, though.
DX: I saw you at the adidas Originals joint with Snoop.
Kurupt: Dogg was supposed to do his classics, but when me and Dogg get together, it takes a life of its own. As you can see, we freestyled the whole thing. You know Dogg had to feel good. L.T. was over there ready to press the button on that record, and Dogg was like, “Play another beat.” He kept going. Dogg was feeling great. That’s Dogg’s thing. He freestyles, too. We’re Hip Hop. We’re all about that mic. Adidas was a reflection of who Snoop Dogg and Kurupt is. We’re the dynamic duo.
DX: What do you think about Snoop Lion?
Kurupt: I love it. Lion is about consciousness. It’s the conscious Snoop. All of that is Dogg. Snoop Lion, Snoop Dogg—all of that is Snoop. There’s different sides of a person. Snoop Lion is about consciousness. Snoop Dogg is about the streets.
Kurupt Talks New Music & Post Death Row Works With Dr. Dre
DX: Was it a difficult decision going back to Death Row when you took over as VP?
Kurupt: Very difficult. I was going through a change in my life, and I actually didn’t want to rap anymore. I wanted to be an executive. My speciality is training emcees. That’s what I do. I really wanted to work, make money, train these emcees. I told Suge, “Let me come over there. I’ll get Crooked I right. I’ll get Eastwood right. I’ll get them all right.” I’ll make some of these real records with them and give them that flavor. I just wanted to be at the desk. I was tired of rapping. I think “Calling Out Names” and all these feuds really just burnt me out. It wasn’t easy to do any of that. In life, especially back then, when you make a decision, you gotta ride it out.
DX: Was that really the source of some of the conflict with The Dogg Pound back then with you, Snoop and Daz?
Kurupt: That was all that it was about. I can’t lie, and Dogg was right. You gotta ride it out. A person that’s talking about harming one of us, and then you end up there with him, is really not cool. I just really didn’t care. I wanted to slow it down, and if they really love me, they wouldn’t get mad at me for what I’m doing. It was an illusion. Of course they were going to get upset. I would’ve gotten upset too if they rolled off with my enemy. I learned some from that as well. You can’t make logic to something that’s illogical. I tried to put logic with it. I wanted a regular job, I wanted to relax and I’m not into this or that. But that’s not real. That’s not what we were taught when we were young, so it was something I had to pay for, because it really put a damper in me and my team. Snoop is just a different kind of person. Over time, we got over it, and that’s Dogg’s heart. He always takes you back. That’s one thing I learned about Dogg, and it’s the same thing with me and Daz.
DX: You didn an interview in 2008 and this was around 100 Wayz. You were talking about how Daz was flipping houses in Atlanta, and you were in the real estate game. That was right before the real estate market crashed in the next year. Are you still in real estate?
Kurupt: Nah, I’m no fool. It’s just like my acting. Right now, I just want to concentrate on the music. I want to get me and the homies back on a push. I want to get back on the machine, releasing these records. I want to get my career back up flying and music first. Then, I’m going back to acting and jumping back into that game. Real estate isn’t my thing. I love the mic. Part of learning who Ricardo was meant understanding and respecting what I really wanted to do, which was music.
DX: What are you excited about with putting music back out? Is there an artist you’re working with that you’re feeling or in the zone right now? I love “LA Here’s 2 U.”
Kurupt: You do know that. My main thing is really getting me and the homies back in motion, musically. As you can see, Snoop is Snoop Lion, and I plan on being a part of bringing the Dogg back. That’s what Snoop is a part of as well. He did Reincarnated, and he’s going to do Dogg Pound albums. He’s going to go back to doing Snoop Dogg albums. He’s going to go back to doing Snoop Lion records. That’s what music is about. There’s no certain guideline to making good music. We all learned that.
DX: Who else are you working with?
Kurupt: A lot of new, young producers I like. I like the new West Coast and the new music that’s coming out. Working with Notch, Derrick Jerkins, Daz, Soopafly, League of Stars, DNYCE…you know, working with a lot of new talent. I love the new talent, and I love their hustle. I love how adamant they are about music, and I remember at one time how we were like that. When we did Dogg Food, we were on fire. You can hear it in the music, the lyrics, and the delivery. That’s where I’m trying to go. I’m staying around a lot of the new artists coming around and doing their thing, and I stay around the originals. [Ice] Cube and all of them. I’m back to making music for fun.
DX: Kendrick’s good kid m.A.A.d City and Dogg Food are two of the few albums Dre put out where he didn’t produce on them. You ever talk to Kendrick, Dre, TDE about that? That’s an outlier to me. I think it’s interesting.
Kurupt: Well, you can’t put your finger on Dr. Dre. He’s always going to surprise and shock you. He might just mix it, he might just make some music for it. Dr. Dre is a fan of music. If you make an album, and Dr. Dre don’t produce on it or he just mixes it or just accepts it, then you’re in the game. You’re doing well. It’s not easy to satisfy The Good Doctor. He’s never satisfied at all.
DX: Earlier, we were talking about Dr. Dre. “Ho’s a Housewife,” that’s the dope song that was made twice.
Kurupt: It’s from Kuruption! Dr. Dre loved that chorus. He played that beat and was working on it, and I started saying the rap. He didn’t even hear it on Kuruption! He was like, “What is that?” I said, “That’s for Kuruption!” Dr. Dre said, “I don’t give a fuck. Put that on there.” Then we twisted the game. We talked to Dr. Dre, and I said I gotta have that for my album. This song is banging. He said, “Cool. I just made a different version with mine.” I dropped Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha and didn’t understand the power of that record. One of the greatest records I’ve made in my life. Dr. Dre was supposed to drop 2001. My date was before his date. Dr. Dre said we were going to drop it on the same day. I said, “Wow.”
Business was real good during that time. I’m the first one to leave Death Row from Tha Dogg Pound. First, Dr. Dre left, and then Kurupt left. Snoop and [Daz] stayed. I’m out of this motherfucker. ‘Pac is dead. I’m outta here. I just got with Inga [Foxy Brown], and they couldn’t tell me shit, because Inga was so hot. I really felt like a star then with a star girlfriend. A lot of people be messing around with each other, but they wouldn’t go global with it.
Me and Inga broke the game. We went public. First, we were messing around, but then I really fell in love with the girl. I really loved Inga to death. I think we started off a whole new era, because after that, everybody started getting together and being public. Before us, we had Prince Markie Dee and Pepa. That’s about it. Everybody else was on the low. After that, you see all kinds of star couples nowadays, which is a good thing.
Kurupt Details His Relationship With Foxy Brown
DX: Where were you when she told you she first started losing her hearing?
Kurupt: I was concerned. Even though we weren’t together, I got a genuine love for Inga and her entire family. I was concerned, but me and Inga are fire. Whenever we get together, we just blow up. I couldn’t really call her, because we can’t go five seconds without getting into a little bit of an argument. I was concerned. She’s a good person most of the times. She can go crazy. She’ll pop you, and you don’t know why. That’s one of the things I loved about her, though. I never had a girl fight over me. Inga tried to beat up on my fans. [Laughs.] Girls be like, “Hey Kurupt. I love you!” [And she’d say], “Woah, woah, woah. Do you know who this man is? That’s my husband.”
That used to excite me so much! I would say, “She is such a rider. I can’t even leave her. I never had a girl like this before. She really likes me.” She would just take off like [makes popping sound.] I’ll be like, “You can’t just beat the fans, Inga. What is wrong with you?” I was lit up, like, “Damn, I really like her.” This is the shit. Wow.
“C’mon Inga. Let’s get the fuck up outta here. What’s wrong with you? Beating up the fans. What’s going on? I love you so much.” [Laughs.] She was vicious. We did the boat cruise in Puerto Rico, and they were telling me stories and they said, “Foxy did one of these.” I said, “How long before she got kicked off?” I just knew it. He said, “Shit. Like two days.” Went to the nail lady and the nail lady said, “Wait, I got clients. I can’t do you.” Inga beat her up. Jesus Christ! They kicked her off the boat cruise as soon as they got to shore. I knew it.
DX: That was a hard record to make, I’m sure.
Kurupt: Which one?
DX: “Calling Out Names.”
Kurupt: I was pissed. It’s all learning experiences. Like right now, me and Earl and very good, cool friends. I seen him in the airport, and we squashed our differences. I found out he’s a good person. He’s a good nigga. That nigga is a good nigga. We had a good talk, had a couple shots. It was real cool. I was like, “Wow, I met [Ruff Ryders co-founders] Dee and Waah. These are some good niggas.” We all just tried to get this money, feed our families and make some good music.
I found that a lot of times through disagreements, you meet some of your best friends and family. Me and Lazyie [Bone] is like brothers. During the Death Row [Records] era, we were ready to tear each other apart. Now that’s one of my best friends. Right now we’re fixing to be working on a Thug Pound album with all of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and all of Dogg Pound. Snoop [Dogg], Daz [Dillinger], myself, Soopafly, Krayzie [Bone], Wish [Bone], Bizzy [Bone], [Flesh-N-Bone], Layzie [Bone], the whole ball of wax. These are new works.
DX: You have DJ U-Neek working with it?
Kurupt: I ain’t talk to U-Neek at all. It’s a work-in-progress. I’m definitely fucking with it.
Kurupt Reflects On Clashing With Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
DX: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are my first favorite group of all time. I personally think Layzie is one of the illest emcees in the crew. You guys did a show the other night together.
Kurupt: Yessir, Krush Groove on the 19th and the 20th. It was classic to get Tha Dogg Pound and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on the same stage after all we’ve been through in our lives. They were with Eric [“Eazy-E” Wright], we were with Dr. Dre. We were just defending the people who gave us these opportunities.
HipHopDX: Krayzie is opening his second apparel store now. Does the level of entrepreneurship we see now in Hip Hop surprise you at all?
Kurupt: Not at all. Hip Hop is about creativity, and it’s a good thing people are getting theirs out of it. You’d be shocked at the talents people have besides just being on the mic…the aspirations they have, the different things they want to do, and the goals they set for themselves when they go out there and actually really do it. Look at Puffy. He’s an amazing businessman. His clothing line is all that. Look at Russell [Simmons] and all he did with his clothing things…50 Cent.
I think the generation after us was more business, and their business was good. Rest in Peace to Chris Lighty. He opened so many different doors. He was excellent. I got an opportunity to see how Chris Lighty worked through Inga. Inga was with Chris Lighty as well, and it showed me that game. It’s all about your team. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you ain’t got the right team, it’s irrelevant. They go hand in hand.
DX: Are you looking to sign a label deal at this point or put your music out through a label?
Kurupt: Definitely. My whole objective is to get back to this machine. I’m ready to be with this machine. I wasn’t too much ready before. I took things for granted. Now, I’m seasoned and I’m ready to be with the machine. I’m ready to work. That’s my main goal.
DX: How has it changed as you go through this process now as opposed to before?
Kurupt: In what sense?
DX: People talk about whether you even need a record deal or to be with a label anymore.
Kurupt: Record labels create a brand. It’s not just about selling records. It’s about creating a brand. Tha Dogg Pound is a brand. Kurupt is a brand. I want to be with the brander to make the brand expand. Doing the independent works well for some. Me personally, I want to be with the machine.
DX: You always sounded wise beyond your years. You can go back and listen to the records, and it didn’t sound like someone who was 22-years-old when you first started out. There’s a serenity to you now. Maybe it’s the mountains in the background, or maybe it’s because you’re at home and comfortable. But there’s definitely a clear outlook that resonates in the conversation.
Kurupt: God is good. I’m still here. In my day, life expectancy was 25 for a black youth. I survived that. I’m 40-years-old. I got beautiful children and a beautiful life. It’s definitely a form of growth. I look forward to being an old man. I am an old man, but I’m still young and vibrant. That’s not easy to come by. A lot of people give up, and the stresses of life break them down. Me, Snoop and Daz are still here pushing strong and making records, getting this money and enjoying ourselves. We’re still able to do it. A lot of people weren’t able to do it. ‘Pac is gone. Biggie is gone. Big L is gone. Pun is gone. I think we all have an appreciation of what we’re doing right now.
DX: What are your weekends like?
Kurupt: The mic. What else is there besides the kids? My weekends is wake up, six in the morning, go to the mic, record myself, surround myself around music, my family, good people. That’s what it’s all about.
Videos shot and edited by Brooklyn Martino.