Hip Hop’s most accomplished ghostwriter, The D.O.C., has ended his working relationship with Dr. Dre.
Speaking exclusively to HipHopDX on Wednesday (January 26th), the mind behind rhymes for Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and several other artists within the Ruthless Records, Death Row Records and Aftermath Entertainment camps over his 23 year tenure in the music industry explained to DX why he has ceased contributing to Dre’s long-delayed Detox.
The author of arguably the greatest debut album of any solo artist in Hip Hop history, (whose powerful voice was reduced to a raspy whisper after a car wreck fractured his voice box just two months after his platinum breakthrough, 1989’s No One Can Do It Better), elaborated in an at times vague, but clearly personally pained way as to how his historic “Formula” with Dr. Dre has been poisoned by greed and ego.
[Writer’s note: The portion of Q&A presented below picks up at the point in D.O.C.’s discussion with DX after he reveals the stem cell surgery he is planning to have performed by an Italian doctor soon to restore his voice. That portion of Q&A will be presented in full in a forthcoming DX news feature]
The D.O.C.: I started talking to this [doctor] a couple of years ago. I was thinking about having this surgery to get my voice back. And maybe do a record, and continue with a [recording] career. But at that time, I was so settled in to helping [Dr.] Dre do his thing that it wasn’t really necessary for me to make records. Because, I can get the messages I wanted to get out through Dre. Detox was coming. In my mind Detox was supposed to be a departure from where we were. We were getting high, so now it’s time to detox. [And] now that we’re 40-plus…it’s time to start talking about some more shit [than what we used to talk about]. But we just have a difference of opinion where that’s concerned. So maybe I should get my voice back, I started to think again. Because I got a lot of shit to say, and it just don’t sound right coming from anybody else but me. Because of the differences in opinion [with Dre], I told you I reached out to [Jay-Z] last week. Jigga’s so far beyond what Rap is on a regular level. He’s an international kinda guy. And, I really need somebody powerful to be some wind at my back to pull everything off the way I want to.
It’s been a lot of negative shit that’s happened to me trying to give in this Rap shit. A lot of it at Ruthless [Records]; a lot of it at Death Row [Records]… All my time [during] my 20 strong years in the game was [spent] helping build two classic fuckin’ labels. Even though…by a long-shot I didn’t get what the fuck I was supposed to have. Niggas got wealthy and damn-near just turned their back on me, and it’s kinda hard to accept on a certain level.
I’m a G-O-D kid. Cash don’t rule everything, God rule everything around me. So when it’s time for me to stand up and speak, I know that that shit is gonna happen. I know that I got this voice for a fuckin’ reason, otherwise I’d a been dead on that freeway ‘cause ain’t no fuckin’ way you get to live through no shit like that unless there’s a reason.
DX: Let’s just clarify real quick before we go any further, are you saying that you’re not working with Dre at this point?
The D.O.C.: I’m saying that I did all I could do for Dre on this particular record. And I don’t even know if any of my work will be there, because he’s got his own ideas about the way he wants it to go. And you gotta respect that. Even though I played the second set of ears on every muthafuckin’ thing else, now we at the stage where he don’t really trust what I’m saying. And I gotta respect him. I love him. So I gotta move back and let him do what he doing. And whatever that is, I’m going to respect it and ride wit’ it – whether or not it woulda been something I would of chose.
I believe that the point we are in the game as far as Hip Hop is concerned, we at a stage in the game where the music itself has become so powerful. Being in the information age, being able to get on Twitter and your site…record labels in 10 years will be obsolete. You won’t need them. So the power is being shuffled around. And those in the most powerful places, they not fin to just let they shit go… They’re going to grab a hold to the niggas with all the money, and they’re going to pull them niggas in a room and rub these niggas on their booties and make ‘em feel like it wouldn’t be shit without them.
I always tell muthafuckas, anytime you get a classic record, no matter who sings on it, it took at least five muthafuckas that are really good at what they do to make that record. And that’s real shit.
But back to the subject at hand, what I planned on doing was building an album – actually, two albums – and a reality show based around this stem cell operation [I’m going to have] over in Italy. I was gonna take these four or five artists that I got here in Texas, and this one female from New Orleans [with me] – all of which are the shit: two 23-year-olds, a 19-year-old white kid, and a little 9-year-old black kid from [my childhood neighborhood of] Oak Cliff, who was on [The Ellen DeGeneres Show] I think a year or so ago. And all these kids are really good. I know this music is about the young folks. It’s not about a 40-year-old nigga that’s trying to make a fuckin’ comeback. That’s not what I’m here for. My shit has always been much bigger than that. I’m always into helping the next muthafucka be great, instead of concentrating on myself being great ‘cause when I came into the game I was already so far ahead of a lot of these other muthafuckas that it made me feel good to help them [and] bring them on up in it.
So when Eazy-E first started the fuckery, it was shocking. Because, without me, Eazy don’t have a lot of that shit. [So] why would you fuck me? Same thing with Dre. Dre, why would you fuck me? Without me you wouldn’t have a lot of that shit. Why would you do that?!
DX: Can we just clarify once again? ‘Cause I wanna make it 100%, a 150% clear where your stance is with Dre as of this moment.
The D.O.C.: I love Dre like my brother. There’s nothing that you could do, or he could do really, to take away that feeling. Money isn’t what make – We been through too much; we did too much. I did too much wit’ him to be like, Aw, fuck him. But, it’s not where it’s supposed to be. It’s not where it’s supposed to be after all of that. It’s not supposed to be like it is today between me and this guy. He’s surrounded himself with people that [agree with] what he’s trying to say today. And I don’t agree with that shit, so it’s really no need for me to be around it.
DX: Can you cite a moment [where this separation happened]? Was it the “Kush” record, [or] was there something before that where you just knew you had to part ways?
The D.O.C.: Nah. And I haven’t parted ways with this guy. I told you I love this guy like he’s my brother, but creatively it’s just not where it used to be. We don’t see things on the same level from a creative standpoint. I may not have agreed with “Kush” as it stood. I may have thought something else [would have worked instead], [but] I don’t have enough power anymore in that camp to really pull strings like I used to. Them niggas used to listen to every fuckin’ word I said. Now it seem like they don’t do that no more.
It used to be all about the love of helping these guys come up. But, shit, they up. I always thought that once they got up, I’d be up – especially after I lost my voice. But that don’t seem like that’s what that is. I don’t need to have a hundred million…I don’t need all of that. It’s not necessary for me to feel like I’ve accomplished something. The art is important to me. It means a lot to me. I didn’t go through all of this shit for nothing.
What I wanted to do was do an album with this voice that I got right now, go over to Italy and have the operation with this doctor, do a subsequent album after I rehab the old voice back, film everything and put that shit on TV Some real reality. And every time that they poke me and prod me and stick me, and every time that shit hurt like a muthafucka, I’ma holla. [Laughs] On some real shit. And at the same time, Americans will get to see some of those beautiful-ass Italian birds walking around. Some good shit. That’s the kinda shit that frees your mind.
But [for the time being] I’m laying in wait. I’m back in Texas right now. I’m not in Cali anymore. I’m laying in wait to see what’s gonna happen on the Detox record.
DX: What do you mean waiting to see – just, which songs they decide to put out?
The D.O.C.: Yeah. I’m waiting to see which songs that he chose, ‘cause he already know which ones I like.
DX: Sir Jinx told me that the stuff he heard, that Dr. Dre played for him, was similar to the song in the Dr. Pepper commercial. Do you know if that’s the stuff that they’re looking at trying to put out?
The D.O.C.: The Dr. Pepper commercial, that’s one of the tracks, but that one was leaked already. That was the one with T.I. on it I think, [“Shit Popped Off”]. And that’s not a bad one. I like that rhythm; I like the groove. I’m laying in wait, I wanna see. I’m a fan just like you.
I worked for four years on that record with that dude. It didn’t used to take us that fuckin’ long. We’d go in, and it was a couple of years maybe [and] we’d have what we needed. But, the game has changed. All the pieces of the puzzle ain’t there no more, ‘cause the money has fucked up niggas’ minds. Everybody gotta be the big dog with the big dick. And that’s not how you create records. It’s gotta be love, and happy and fun and diggin’ it. The 2001 record was one that we had all got a chance to get together [for the first time] since the first Chronic record, and that shit was fun. It wasn’t really even about making music, it was just about, “Man, I can’t wait to get to the studio ‘cause all my little niggas gon’ be there. We gon’ smoke weed all day. We gon’ drink. Dre gon’ play some drums, and then whatever comes out comes out.”
But it’s a new day and time now. The kids is taking the Rap thing over. That’s why I really applaud Jay-Z, because he stayed so far above the clouds where the bullshit is concerned. He allows himself to be as great an entrepreneur as he ever was an artist. He allows himself to be a great human being first, an artist second, an entrepreneur and businessman third. And you gotta respect a man who’s strong enough mentally to be able to make all these power moves and do it on a low-key level where he don’t need that shit to blow himself up.
DX: And you’re saying you think he can help you with these projects that you’re trying to get out: the albums and the TV show…?
The D.O.C.: Well, I’ll put it to you like this, if I can get Jigga – And I would’ve never reached out to him, because I’m not really good at that kind of thing. I’ve always just…I leaned on me understanding that once my boys got to a certain level it wouldn’t be about pushing them up anymore, it would be about pulling the rest of us to a level where we can all just kinda relax. But, that never really happened. It seemed like…it just went bad. But, getting back to your question, [back in 2003] Jigga put my name in a record, [“P.S.A.”], and everybody including my mother – who I don’t know how the hell she…a 60-something-year-old woman is trippin’ on a Jay-Z song [and] started calling me talking about, “Jigga put your name in a record.” And I thought that was really cool. And then [recently] I heard he put out a book, [Decoded], [and] there’s a picture of my old album cover in his book. Somebody said it talks about how influential the record was. So [that] gave me the nuts enough to reach out to this guy thinking that maybe…for the sake of nostalgia he’ll understand where I am and reach back. Because if Jigga says, Doc, I’ma fuck wit’chu, then that means I have a full catalog of every artist and producer in the Rap game who will be willing at the drop of a hat to do whatever the fuck I need. And if he’ll give me that, then I’m gonna build an album that’s gonna fuck you up.
I got the young kids: the little girl from New Orleans is so fuckin’ cold blooded. The young white kid from a city called Granbury, Texas – there was about seven black folks in his whole little country town. It goes down like that. But the guy was so addicted to Rap music that all the country lovers – it’s a country music town down there, all the high school kids, they line dance and shit. And they used to get on him real tough and [so] now he’s really serious. And he’s got the skill set to do it. There’s another kid named Dewaun J. And, I forgot this little nine-year-old guy’s name, but when I heard him rappin’, he’s doing what I would call booty-club music, what the Wacka Flocka [Flame]’s are doing these days. But he does that damn-near better than those guys and this kid is only nine-years-old. He sounds like a fuckin’ grown man.
So, this is my crew. And what ties them all together is my knowledge of how to produce great music, great records, with content – not just “I gotta hit the club, and my wheels is shinin’, and my gold is blingin’, and I’ma get me some pussy” and all this ol’ shit. Which is cool, don’t get me wrong, ‘cause we all like to bling, we all like to get ahead. God bless it, it’s such a wonderful thing. But, there’s also other shit going on in this world that muthafuckas need to be aware of, whether you are 21 or 41. The world is changing, and black people in particular that are involved in Hip Hop music need to know how much power you got.
DX: Let me just interject again, ‘cause you keep saying this, and I know what you’re saying: Why doesn’t Dre, and even Em, why don’t they just go to Jimmy [Iovine] and basically put the gun to his head and say give us everything we want or else?
The D.O.C.: I’ll put it to you like this, when Death Row started there was actually a corporation called Future Shock Records. This is what Dre wanted. I hated the name, [but] I had to ride wit’ it. During those days I owned that company. I owned 35%, so did Dre. [The founder of SOLAR Records] Dick Griffey owned 15%, so did Suge [Knight]. That’s how it started. Now during those days, this was right after my accident – Now keep in mind, Future Shock was put together because I saw the fuckin’ that [Eazy-E] was doing. If Eric is fuckin’ me, then he gotta be fuckin’ Dre. Dre is my brother, let me go put him up on it. Dre finds out that he’s getting fucked too. Now, me and Suge had already been talking at least a year or so before then about doing something else. But now I got Dre, Suge. How do we need to proceed? Suge was saying we all go to Griffey and start putting this shit in motion. But, The D.O.C. at that time, I’m still reeling from that accident. I lost my voice. I can’t do it. The pain is fuckin’ me up. So now I done got all off into the wrong shit – way before Dre and them was on, “I’ma take an E tab.” The white girls had already put me up on that shit. I’m in Huntington Beach with the blonde chicks just losing it. And the further I fell down, everybody just stopped giving a fuck [about me], I guess. So by the time the shit flipped from Future Shock to Death Row, [I didn’t know what was going on]. It happened like in a day. I didn’t know what the fuck happened. I went to Dre [like], “Man, what the fuck?! What’s going on?” Dre says, “I think you might need to get a lawyer.” [I’m like], “Wait a minute, dude. You my brother. We doing this.” But by that time niggas had already started bringing around all [their] I-just-got-out-of-prison-ass niggas, and the whole scene started to change. And now that Dre don’t got my back no more I’m feeling like, Damn, I’m stuck in a hole [and] I don’t know what the fuck to do. So I never got – To answer your question, I never got into the Jimmy [Iovine] world. I always disliked Jimmy, because I thought Jimmy knew that these niggas fucked me and nobody would stand up and say what about this guy?
Even during all of that fuckery [during the early days of Death Row], I still had to take [Snoop Dogg] under my arm and [be] like, “Snoop, we’re not just making street raps no more. We’re building songs now, and this is how you do it.” I’ll give you a for instance, [“Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”] was a street rap [originally written by Snoop], and I said, “Snoop, this is what we gon’ do, we’re gonna take this line right here that’s dope as fuck, we’re gonna erase this part down here, [and] I want you to try this part again. We’re gonna move this part up to here ‘cause the flow sounds better. And I want you to write a whole ‘nother second verse [for Dre]: start the second verse with this line, then go down to here, and then [have Dre] end the whole rap with my name.” Now, that’s [technically] called producing. That’s actually called writing. But I never asked for credit for that; never got credit for that. Never got a dime for it. Because it’s all for the family. We’re doing this so that we can all blow up.
To get back to your question, I don’t know why those guys [won’t stand their ground with Jimmy Iovine] – well yes I do, they’re rich! They don’t give a fuck. They’re rich, and Jimmy Iovine’s rich. Iovine wears Beats [By Dre headphones] everywhere he go. He’s not wearing them Beats ‘cause it’s Dre’s company. Jimmy’s no dummy.
My timing was just bad. I gave a fuck about the music and not the business, thinking that my niggas had my back when they didn’t.
DX: Post 2001, [after] that album, what were you expecting to happen? Like, what did you want either Dr. Dre to do for you or just the situation to [create]?
The D.O.C.: You know what I wanted? I never stopped believing that my nigga was gonna wake up one day and say, You know what? When I didn’t have shit this nigga was doing. He wasn’t doing it for money, ‘cause I didn’t have shit to give him. When I had money, this guy was doing. He wasn’t crying about money.
I thought Dre was me. The situations could not be reversed and be like it is now. Now this is the crazy part, Dre and I are [still] brothers. And I know that nigga love me like I love him. So when we argue, it’s the kinda shit earthquakes is made out of… So, we have to give each other space. But, it ain’t the same [this time]. It really ain’t the same, ‘cause dude got all the power.
But like I said, I really do love and respect him, and I know he feels the same way. That’s why I’m just anxious to see what [Detox] is gonna do. I’m anxious to see what you’re gonna do, where your mind is, where your head is, which way are you going, [and] how the fuck are you gonna dig yourself out of this spot? Because now the whole world is watching. They’re waiting.
Stay tuned to HipHopDX for the remaining portion of our bombshell conversation with The D.O.C., in which he reveals additional details of the disintegration of his working relationship with Dr. Dre. The pen behind countless classics also takes a brief stroll down memory lane, recalling his history with Eazy-E, Jerry Heller, Ice Cube, Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg, and his more recent history with Eminem.