The D.O.C. is undeniably one of the pillars of West Coast gangster rap. As the co-founder of Death Row Records and secret weapon behind albums such as N.W.A’s 1988 landmark Straight Outta Compton and Dr. Dre’s 1992 debut The Chronic, the Dallas native ushered in a whole new era of Hip Hop that still resonates over 30 years later. But in November 1989, just a mere three months after dropping his platinum-certified solo album No One Can Do It Better, The D.O.C. had an experience that would drastically alter the course of his life.
After leaving a party one night in Los Angeles, The D.O.C. was admittedly “high as a kite” when he eventually fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into the side of the freeway. Without the aid of a seatbelt, he flew out of the rear window and slammed face-first into a tree. His injuries required 21 hours of plastic surgery and over two weeks in the hospital. When he came to, he realized he couldn’t speak, a devastating feeling for anyone but especially a rapper who makes a living using their voice.
The life-changing incident is one of many subjects The D.O.C. addresses in the forthcoming documentary The DOC, which he described as a very “cathartic” experience. Speaking to HipHopDX in a recent phone interview, the man born Tracy Lynn Curry looked back on that fateful night. What some people may not know is The D.O.C. had already been pulled over once by Beverly Hills police but when the officers realized who he was, they let him go despite the fact he was clearly intoxicated.
“The night of the accident, it was like a 24-hour period where I had tried both cocaine and ecstasy,” he admitted. “And then it just quit working when I was driving home.” When asked if he wished the officers would have hauled him off to jail, he replied, “I did that for about 30 years. But here recently, I understand that those officers were just a part of that time. Had they taken me to jail, I wouldn’t be here where I am right now today. Now, I have insight into an understanding that allows me to help a lot of other people who are in that same space.”
But it was a long, arduous road to get to that place. For years after the accident, he drowned himself in drugs and alcohol as he continued to write for N.W.A. He ultimately left Ruthless Records for Death Row Records where he’d go on to write for Dr. Dre. But when he had his now 17-year-old daughter Puma with Erykah Badu, that changed everything and soon, he was able to start loving himself again.
“Puma, she was really great as a baby and just being a daddy’s kind of a baby,” he said. “She just loved me so hard, I just had to develop some sort of self-love. My girl, she’s super brave. Doesn’t stay down for anybody, including me.”
As a result of the accident, The D.O.C.’s larynx was crushed — but not because of the car accident itself. It took years for The D.O.C. to learn it was actually damaged by a tube inserted into his throat at the hospital.
“I found out years later,” he explained “I found out that it’s a pretty common practice, and that happened to another friend of mine, but his came back. It wasn’t as strong as it was before, but it kind of came back, mine just didn’t. It was tough, and it was just scars on my face, so I couldn’t miss it. If I looked in the mirror, I could see it. If I spoke, I could hear it.”
While the accident will assuredly be a major focal point of the documentary, The D.O.C. said it will also be the “whole story” of how he persevered.
“It’s really a great story, and that’s all it is,” he said. “I mean, it’s a lot of really amazing people that I’ve had the blessing to be able to cross paths in this journey. And they all affected me in amazing ways throughout this journey as I found out how to love myself for who I am.
“The blessing is life. When you wake up, it’s a blessing. This whole journey was a spiritual one. It started with sort of a revelation where God kind of spoke to me through someone and said that this whole accident, the accident itself was for a purpose. And I could stop blaming me for it, because it wasn’t me, it was him.”
Of course, The D.O.C. vividly remembered when the part of his melodic voice returned — and it had to do with a yawn.
“I was locked up, and I was locked up for a year for drinking and driving, and I was in one of those classes that they make you take,” he recalled. “And there was a tone that wasn’t there before. It was after years of trying to pull the vocal cords back together, they could finally touch if I did it in a certain way. So, I thought I was going to be rapping after that, but it’s still yet to pull far enough to really do anything, but it was a neat trick.”
Although The D.O.C. can’t rap like he did on “It’s Funky Enough” or “The Formula,” he knows he has a bigger mission: “I found sort of a different purpose, and that purpose needs this voice.”
The DOC is scheduled to premiere at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on June 10 as part of the 2022 Tribeca Festival. Additional screenings will be held at Cinépolis on June 11 and Village East by Angelika on June 18. After that, he said he’ll have a better idea of when the film will see a wider release. Check back with HipHopDX soon for Part II of The D.O.C. interview.