You had to be one hell of an interviewee to stand out amongst your co-stars in drug dealer-turned-Death Row Records financier Harry-O’s surprisingly well-done documentary, Welcome to Death Row. But one former Death Row inmate managed to do just that, as singer Jewell Caples arguably stole the show with her fearlessly honest (and at times cleverly humorous) observations about the rise and fall of one of the most successful, and perpetually controversial, record labels in music history.
A little over a decade after her film debut, the well-preserved 49-year-old mother, author and performer (who began her career in the mid-1980s as part of a performance troupe for the nation’s original Hip Hop radio station, Los Angeles’ KDAY) spoke to HipHopDX on Labor Day 2011 (courtesy of Hoopla Media Group) with shockingly even more eye-popping candor than her on-camera confessional.
As she prepares for the October 25th release of her memoir, My Blood, My Sweat and My Tears, and its accompanying album (which will precede the release of her long-vaulted Death Row debut by WIDEawake Entertainment), the hookstress heard on 2Pac’s “Thug Passion,” Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day,” Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” and several other timeless tracks from the G-Funk’d 1990s discussed with DX the “intimate secrets” in her book, including the premonition that might have saved ‘Pac’s life, and maybe most notably, the seemingly never-ceasing rumors regarding Dr. Dre’s sexual preference.
HipHopDX: We could start off by talking about “Woman To Woman,” or “Harvest For The World,” but I wanna talk about the true apex of your career, “Smoke Enough Bud.” [Laughs]
Jewell Explains The Breakdown Of Death Row Records
DX: Is it still frustrating to think how big that song could’ve been if it had been released?
Jewell: No. The thing is, I was very angry and bitter at the way things had happened, as far as Suge [Knight] treating the artists on the label [badly] and how they did business. …
A couple of people – [Dr.] Dre, Snoop [Dogg] and Tha Dogg Pound – they were able to still do some things [post-Death Row Records]. [But] then some of us just kinda … lingered. I, on the other hand, was introduced to people as Suge’s sister back in the day. So a lot of people thought we were really related, like blood-related. So when Death Row [Records] broke up, and Suge went to jail, it was very difficult for me to work with people and secure a deal for myself because they didn’t wanna deal with him.
DX: I interviewed Danny Boy last year, and in addition to a lot of eye-grabbing topics of discussion during that interview, we talked a bit about the impressive lineup of R&B artists some folks forget were housed on Death Row, including yourself. So did Suge just not see you, Danny and Nate [Dogg] as being as important as the rappers on the label? Is that why you guys didn’t get to release your solo projects?
Jewell: No, I don’t think it had anything to do with that at all. It had nothing to do with the talent, it’s just … he mixed the streets with business, and that doesn’t work.
DX: I’m just a little puzzled as to why he wouldn’t wanna capitalize on – like, especially you and Danny Boy after the Murder Was the Case soundtrack, why he wouldn’t wanna hurry up and put [solo] albums out?
Jewell: Well, the hardest thing was, if you have a label where almost every artist that you signed has the potential to be just as great as the ones that put out an album before [them, what do you do?] So, that’s difficult [in deciding what to prioritize]. … I was supposed to be next [after Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food], but when you’re on a roll, and things are happening, then you kind of – if you’re not ready for it, it’ll take you by surprise and you can’t do two things at once. Now me, I multitask … but unfortunately, I guess Mr. Knight couldn’t. So he just dropped in one artist in one category at a time. And that to me [was] frustrating, because we should have been a full operative label that released Rap records, R&B … but everything was like one at a time. And you had to wait for this, and wait for that …. But we were all so talented, it’s just he wasn’t ready for it. I don’t even think in the beginning we were ready for it.
DX: In the commercial for your upcoming book, why does a song with the lyrics “I was sleeping with the enemy” play when Suge Knight is shown?
Jewell: [Laughs] That’s something that when the people edited it … that’s how they did it. When we gave them the video clips and the songs we didn’t give ‘em in any specific order or anything like that. So when they edited everything and put it together, that’s how it was on the commercial. And I loved it. I was like, “This is hot!” [Laughs] My concept was he’s angry that I’m finally getting my just due, and it’s killing him so much that he’s smoking, he’s on fire, he’s hot, oh, he’s burning himself up! [Laughs] So that’s how I looked at it; I loved it.
DX: You know we gotta address the “intimate secrets” in your book you brought up during that video. Without giving away the book for free here, I just want you to say what you can in response to these questions you posed in the video, beginning with “Who really killed Tupac?”
Jewell: Oh, they gotta read it. [Laughs]
DX: [Laughs] Yeah, I know that. But try to dance around a little bit, just kind of explain like what you’re saying, why you brought it up …
Jewell: Okay, the title of the book is My Blood, My Sweat and My Tears. We did a soundtrack that’s gonna be released at the same time as the book. And the songs will coincide with the book. It’s not a solo project on Jewell; I have some artists that I been working with from the D, from the city of Detroit. … Bobby Sealz, Picasso. … You get the book, you get the CD, they go hand-in-hand and you’ll understand what’s going on. I can’t really get on the dance floor with you when it comes to that, because once you open it up and I talk to you about one thing it’s gonna lead to something else, so … I plead the fifth. [Laughs]
Jewell Explains Her Dream About Tupac’s Murder
DX: [Laughs] Well, I do have to ask … you weren’t in [Las] Vegas when [Tupac] was shot were you?
Jewell: No, but there were – I had a dream. I was actually recording in the studio, but I was supposed to go [to Las Vegas]. And, Tupac and Suge called me at the studio. That night it was me, [producer] Demetrius Shipp, Hammer was there … I wanna say Eric B was there. And Nate Dogg had came by to pick up his [unreleased] album, ‘cause it was being mixed and mastered, and I guess he wanted to listen to the songs before he was going to Vegas or on the way to Vegas. But, I was supposed to be there. And, it’s funny ‘cause Suge’s cousin, Rochelle, she was my road dog. His family was sorta more like my family. We all hung together. I played dominoes with his daddy. And [at] the holidays, I spent [time] with his family. So, it was funny ‘cause she and I, we both had different dreams in regards to [Tupac] being killed.
It was kind of a scary thing, because [Tupac] called, and he was supposed to do a song that I had called “Money, Sex and Weed.” So [the concept] was [having those] three wishes …. And he was supposed to come and do the song before he went to Vegas. But, they was doing some other things and they were just calling me to let me know after Vegas they were gonna – Suge said he’s gonna come to the studio and do it. So, he put ‘Pac on the phone and ‘Pac was like, “Jeweeeeeell.” I was like, “What’s up.” He was like, “I got you baby girl, don’t worry. I’ma be there.” And I’m like, “Okay, so you’re on your way?” And he was like, “Uh … no. We’re gonna go to Vegas first.”
And so, I began to talk about my dream. And I begged him not to go. I begged him. I was in tears. It’s funny because, I guess for a long time Suge might’ve thought that I set them up. Because, what happened in my dream was very close to what happened in the incident. And, I began to tell ‘Pac, “If you do it, you’re not coming back. If you go to Vegas, you’re not coming back. Please don’t go.” So, he like, “Aw, Suge, Jewell trippin’.” So he put the phone down, and he put Suge on the phone and I was like, “Look, please don’t go to Vegas. You guys are not gonna make it back.” And he was like, “Jewell, I ain’t afraid of no bustas. What’cha talkin’ ‘bout?” I was like, “If you go to Vegas, why don’t you just watch the [Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon] fight at the house – get some girls, some bitches, some drinks – [but] just don’t go out in public.” So, they thought that I was trippin’ ‘cause I was literally in tears. And I got so overwhelmed that [Demetrius] had to get the phone, and he was talking to Suge. He was like, “She just woke up out of a nap and she’s hysterical.”
So I can’t say everything, everything that happened, but it was very scary that warning does come before destruction. And I can’t say that Tupac wouldn’t be dead today, but I can say at that particular time if they would of listened to me he would of still been alive.
Jewell Reveals Her Opinion Regarding Dr. Dre Gay Rumors
DX: One of the other questions you posed in that video that I do need some sort of comment on is the salacious query, “Is Dr. Dre really gay?”
Jewell: Is he? [Laughs] Do we know for sure? Hmmm. I mean, there have been talks about back in the day with the tight, glitter pants, when he was wearing eyeliner and stuff like that – I’m just [telling] some experiences that I went through when I was on Death Row that I’ve seen with my own eyes. So, that’s all I’ma say about it. It’s in the book. Get it. Read it. Understand it. Absorb it.
And people are like, “Well, why would you talk about Dre like that?” It’s like, I’m not doing anything – This book that I did, that I wrote, was not designed intentionally to hurt anyone. But sometimes when you’re doing a self-cleansing – Because, I talk about my life, [and] Death Row was an interesting part of my life. And I’m an honest person, so I don’t beat around the bush. I tell it like it is. I’ve always been like that. So in doing this, coming clean about myself, I had to come clean about everything that was around me at the time. ‘Cause it had to be included, I couldn’t just say, Well, I’ma tell all this on me and I’ma leave this part out. You can’t do that when you’re writing a book. When you’re writing a book, and you’re going through the phases and the times and the chapters, then you have to say what is. … You have to get the book and read it. You’ll understand not only me, but what was going on at that time and what we were dealing with.
And a lot of times you do things that you wouldn’t necessarily do, based on situations that are happening around you. Because, I was the little, naïve church girl that got turned into the singing gangster. [Laughs]
I [became] mad at the people that was handling the business. We would put down who wrote a song, who performed on it and turn it in, and Suge and the office would turn the information into ASCAP and put different people on there that were never anywhere close to the studio, wasn’t on the song, didn’t perform it, didn’t write it. So they weren’t doing good business. They were being very shiesty to the artists. … People always say, “Well, you shoulda handled your business and your paperwork.” We had paperwork. Death Row wasn’t honoring the paperwork. They weren’t honoring what was in black and white. So you’re being … punked, in a sense. And I’m like, I don’t care if I have high heels and two breasts, you’re not gonna punk me and I’m supposed to just take it. So I left. … No one’s gonna mistreat me. My mom didn’t raise me like that. You’re a human being, you have feelings. Be fair with people. If a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat. Well, we worked, and then they took food from us – not only from us, but from our children. Our children should’ve been able to live off what we created: our publishing and stuff like that.
And I just wanna say rest in peace, Nate Dogg. And big-ups to Snoop, because he started a foundation, The Nate Dogg Memorial Foundation, and you can give donations to that at SnoopDogg.com. And he started a trust fund for Nate’s kids at BlackCelebKids.com. It was unfortunate that we did lose Nate Dogg. … When he passed, he wasn’t financially stable. And that’s sad. With everything we created over there, he shoulda been straight.
It’s painful to know [the value of] what we created and someone just come and say, I’m gonna rape you for it. You don’t have a choice. Bend over and take it. [Laughs]
DX: Well, I can understand documenting those grievances, writing about that, but just respectfully, I don’t understand pulling people out of the closet.
Jewell: I mean, people pull they self out of the closet. But if you say what was going on at that time, because you’re doing a cleansing of yourself and certain incidents happen to [be written about], you’re not targeting anyone. You’re just telling what happened. ‘Cause one thing ties into the other. You can’t just say, I’ma leave this part out. ‘Cause certain situations affected your current situation.
I’m not gay, or anything like that. But, I’ve had a couple of run-ins with people coming on to me and … sticky situations that morally, if I wasn’t raised the way I was raised, I woulda got probably engulfed in it, caught up in it. You have to be very careful, that’s a thin line. And it’s a lot of that stuff going on in the music industry. And, I’m not pointing the finger and saying, Oh, I’m better than this person or that person because they’re different than me. But let me know what I’m dealing with. If I’m dealing with a man, I wanna know that I’m dealing with a man. If I’m dealing with a punk, let me know that I’m dealing with a punk.
Sometimes you gotta cater to people’s egos. [But] when you’re dealing with a real man, you don’t have to cater to nobody ego. They gonna do they business, you gonna be straight, they gonna be straight, you shake hands, [and] at the end of the day everybody’s happy and they go they separate ways. But, a lot of feelings and emotions was in our business, and that’s not good.
So, am I saying Dr. Dre is gay? Read the book! [Laughs] He’s talented. I mean, to me, he’s a dope producer. It’ll take you a year to get a track from him, but when you get it, it’ll make the difference in your project. So [what I write in the book is] not to discredit him or take away from his talents. Oh no, by no means and in no way will I ever do that. I’m not trying to hurt anyone here. But sometimes the truth hurts.
People think, well, they’re gonna sue you for slander. And I tell people, if I was there, and I saw certain things with my own eyes, that’s not slander. I have a right to tell what I saw. I have a right to tell what I was involved in and what happened to me, as well as others that were around me at [these] certain times in my life. So, ya know, I sorry. [Laughs]
DX: So beyond the book, what’s the next step for Jewell? Is this a full-fledged comeback?
Jewell: This is really … My Blood, My Sweat and My Tears, the book as well as the soundtrack, is a testimonial of what I’ve been through. So it’s sorta like, feel my pain, understand me. Unfortunately, it is some people that I had to talk about. Like I said, [I did that] because that was during the time of everything that was going on. … I didn’t do it to target Dr. Dre, or The D.O.C. – ‘cause I talk about a lot of [songs] they put him down for that he didn’t write. And he got publishing that he know he shouldn’t have gotten. So it’s just that, people weren’t honest. And if you wanna do business, at least be honest. Say, Nah, man, y’all put me on that but that’s not me. So he took the publishing. I can’t be [blaming] him for taking it, but … do honest business. And we were all treated unfairly. But God is good, because as long as you have talent and you create something, you’ll always have an opportunity or an outlet to do it again.
What I did, I got very angry, very bitter, and it affected me, not only as an artist but as a person. [But] if you keep crying over [spilled] milk, and you keep doing the same thing, there’s a saying you’ll keep getting the same results. So I had to leave. My background was the church, so I went back to my roots. Because, my mom used to tell me, “God didn’t give you that voice for you to be singing on those records.” … I did some soul searching like, Hey, what happened to Jewell? ‘Cause I sort of got lost in the sauce as well. … So I left, I regrouped, I asked God to forgive me for some of the things that I did that wasn’t right – ‘cause Jewell’s not perfect. And in the book I let people know everything that I did. I don’t keep nothing out, and make myself like, Oh, I’m better than everybody. My mistakes and my experiences [are] gonna be a learning tool for these young people not to make the same mistakes. So I told on myself. If you got told on in the process, that’s ‘cause you was around me. [Laughs]
I told on myself. I told the things that I did when I took weed. I was taking Ecstasy. I was drinking. … It was guys I probably would of never dated if I would have been sober. I talk about the abuse. I was raped. It’s a lot of things that’s in there, and I think when people read the book they’ll realize, Wow, she wasn’t doing this to hurt anybody, she was letting us know what not to do, and the reasons why she made certain choices and decisions. So, kudos for me for being honest. I’m not scared of anybody. The truth is the truth. And the truth hurts, but it has to be told.
DX: Well … today on HipHopDX, the lead story ironically enough is about Game giving his two cents about closeted gay rappers. He seems to have a problem with rappers not coming out of the closet. And, it just feels like – No matter what your views on homosexuality are, once you get a little bit of age on you, a little bit of maturity, a little bit of life experience, you realize that some of this talk is just immature.
Jewell: Well, I’m not against – I didn’t do this because I wanna gay-bash anybody. I’m not against people’s life choices. The best person that ever did my hair, he was gay. And probably still is. I liked him as a person. But, if a snake is a snake and I don’t know it, it’s gonna bite me, unexpectedly. So, with these life choices that we make comes certain attitudes in the way you have to deal with people. So let me know from the jump how you are so I’ll know how to deal with you. [Laughs] Basically, that’s all we’re saying. That’s your life choice, but don’t force it on me. Don’t bring certain things around me.
In the beginning my son was with me everywhere I went – my oldest son, who’s now in the Army and married with children. So, I’m bringing him around certain entities, [and] you have to be careful. But if you don’t know, then they’re at risk. Pedophiles, they exist. And most of the time it’s somebody that’s closest to you. So just let me know what I’m dealing with. … We at least should have that right. I lived in Hollywood, for maybe four years. And I took my son to The Hollywood Theatre, and we’d be standing in line and I’d have two grown men tongue-kissing down in front of us. And [my son] was only like eight, nine [years-old]. So, okay, if they’re gonna do that, then I have a right to leave. I don’t have to stand there and watch it. Then I have to explain to my son, Well, God did make woman to be with man, but some people – That’s too much to have to explain to a child when they’re not ready. So, okay, if that’s how you wanna be, be that way, but have some consideration for other people that’s morally correct.
I don’t care how you look at it – “I was born this way,” okay, alright, but don’t force it on other people. ‘Cause the way I was raised, that’s an abomination before the Lord. I’m spiritual, but God says don’t judge people. So I’m not gonna hate you because of it, but let me know what I’m dealing with. Because I don’t wanna be around it, to be honest.
DX: Well, like I said, I wasn’t trying to get into what you talk about in the book regarding Dr. Dre but I felt like we needed to explore that topic a little bit more, so …
Jewell: Like I said, it’s a tell-all on myself. And unfortunately, I was in some places and spots and I was on the – And I must say, I do thank Suge, and Dr. Dre, for allowing me to be an artist on one of the most successful Rap labels in the world. For the experience that I got, I couldn’t have paid for this.