The 1990s were an all-day, all-night house party for hip-hop music. The air hung thick with the sticky yellow-green smoke of the chronic, the kitchen-island bar only served gin and juice, and the DJ… well, shiiiiiit, depending on the time of day, he’d be spinning a new record every hour on the hour it seemed. Public Enemy. Big Daddy Kane. Run-DMC. LL Cool J. Coolio. Eminem. It was a great time to be a fan. It was an even better time to be an artist.
One of those lucky young rapper-producers was Warren G, who came from a famous family and lit up the charts like a Christmas tree with his April 1994 hit ‘Regulate.’ Cut in the grand tradition of G-funk—basically Barry White meets gangsta rap—the song featured Warren’s pal, Nate Dogg, his soul-singing brother from another mother, and the two quickly became the toast of the LBC (Long Beach, California, that is).
Warren G was practically destined for musical success. It was in his blood. His older brother, Dr. Dre—whom he was quite close with growing up (“We slept in the same bed!”)—was a major early influence. Dre first co-founded seminal Cali gangsta rap outfit N.W.A. Then he produced 1992’s The Chronic, which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with series of hits like “Let Me Ride.” One of the most influential rap albums of all time, it launched the careers of Warren, Nate and their buddy Snoop Dogg—a hip-hop clique they dubbed “The 213.”
“You’re in elementary school, and a dude comes up to you, and you have some Now and Laters. He snatch your whole thing, and now he’s going to take off runnin’. But you gotta react on that to go and get your Now and Laters. You gotta do what you have to do to get ’em. And that’s what you do when you ‘regulate.’ Get your Now and Laters back.”
His star on the rise, Warren G—with the help of Nate Dogg—soon got to work on his own masterpiece. The dozen tracks he’d co-write and produce would end up Voltron-ing into his debut album, Regulate … G Funk Era, which sold 3 million copies. It got a nice jumpstart from the popularity of ‘Regulate,’ which featured a nod to “Let Me Ride,” appeared a few months earlier on the Above the Rim soundtrack and peaked at no. 2 on the Billboard 200. (Bonus: The YouTube video has nearly 39 million views.)
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Regulate … G Funk Era was reissued earlier this month, with a trio of remixes accompanying that wealthier-by-the-dozen original track listing. We had the distinct pleasure of talking with Warren G about the album, its legacy, and its career-defining hit single.
Does Regulate … G Funk Era feel and sound 20 years old to you?
Not at all. It feels and sounds like a brand-new record to me every time I hear it, and what trips me out is that it’s still in heavy rotation. It’s still a brand-new record, because the new generation is being turned on to it. I feel real good about it. So I’m just tryin’ to keep workin’ hard, bringing more good music to the masses.
This must be sort of a bittersweet anniversary, because Nate Dogg is not around to enjoy it with you. What sort of influence did his life have on you as a person and a rapper?
He had a big influence on me. Like I always tell people, we were like Batman and Robin. He was the lyricist and the vocalist, and I was the guy that felt the music part of it. He knew me so good, and I knew him real good, so it taught me how to blast through my music. When I come to the studio and I’m working on a beat and I’m finished, I’m like, ‘Nate Dogg would’ve killed this.’ He’d keep me up on my toes when I’m slappin’ or slippin’. If I’d be slippin’, he’d be on my ass about gettin’ things done and makin’ sure we doin’ things right. I miss that. That was my dog! I’ve got some unreleased music; I may release one or two songs here and there with me and him. You know, let the world hear us together again. So it’s all good. It’s a 20-year reunion for him, too, with ‘Regulate.’ So that’s a celebration for not only me as a solo artist with my album and the single, but for him also.
Speaking of G Funk Era, it went three-times multi-platinum back in 1994, when artists still made quite a bit of money from album sales. What was your first baller purchase when the album and single blew up?
Well, the first two things I did right off were buy a studio and help my family. After that, my birthday came around, and I went straight to the first Mercedes dealer and I bought a two-seater 600 SL and dropped the cash right there. And I bought a house.
Let’s talk about ‘Regulate.’ As a middle-class white kid from upstate New York, I never understood what “regulating” meant. Please explain.
OK, I’ma put it to you like this: You’re in elementary school, and there’s a dude that comes up to you, and you have some Now and Laters. He come up to you and snatch your whole thing, and now, he’s going to take off runnin’. But you gotta react on that to go and get your Now and Laters. So when you go get those Now and Laters, you gotta do what you have to do to get ’em. And that’s what you do when you ‘regulate.’ Get your Now and Laters back.
Do you remember exactly where you were when you wrote this song? Was it you and Nate Dogg, or just you alone?
I remember it as vivid as a rainbow. It was at my apartment on Long Beach Boulevard and San Antonio [Drive]. I had a two-bedroom apartment, so it’s me and my dog. And I had shit all over the floor, but I had a studio and one little bed. Me and Nate. I called Nate over to come and do the song with me. And I said, ‘Nate, let’s do somethin’ different.’ I figured if we did hip-hop with a song over it, it would be different from what everybody else was doing. I started it off, writing the first four bars, Nate wrote four bars, I wrote four bars, he wrote four bars. We did it ’til we got to 16. So, from then on, we just kept it going, and that’s where it all started right there. Right there. And then as a song, I listened to it more, I wanted to add more. So I said, ‘This might need an intro.’ So I put an intro on it: That’s where I found the part from the Young Guns movie. I heard that that was part of the movie, and it’s one of my favorite quotes. I was like “Oh … my … God. I have got to use this!”
The 213: Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg. And a dog.
Forgive me if this sounds stupid, but Nate Dogg strikes me as having a really pretty-sounding voice. Did he ever sing professionally before getting into the rap game?
Nate is straight out the church, man. That’s why it’s so soulful. He was straight out the church. He had sung all his life as a kid in the church in the choir, so that’s his roots, his background.
That last verse is interesting, because you talk about “the G-funk era” and its sound and define it for the listener. Why do you think that sound has withstood the test of time?
Because it was music that makes you feel good. And when you feel good, you want more; you want to feel good more. So that’s what G-funk is. That’s what it does. If people want to feel good… ain’t nobody want to feel sad, you know, so it’s chords, strings, we bring, melody, melody is a good feeling. You know, it’s not a diminished sound. Melody is all about goodness and soulfulness. That’s what my music is and it’s about.
The song appeared on the Above the Rim soundtrack, and in fact, a few of your biggest hits were on movie soundtracks. Do you think your stuff just naturally works well with films?
Yes, it did. It worked well with films, and it worked good just as far as regular radio and people. I don’t know how it got this chemistry; there’s somethin’ about a movie soundtrack that really works together with my music. And that’s what I’m getting into now—scoring and producing tracks for commercials. I’m doing more music, but beyond [it] also. Along with creating new hip-hop sounds with brand-new artists. Like the artist I’m working with right now, Mike Slice, who is an incredible artist, a young kid out of Orange County, California, that I feel that he got it. He understands how to make good records. If you go to DJBooth.net, they just grabbed [his] song and put it up there. The song is called ‘Faded.’ He’s going to be something special. That’s my Eminem.
In the ‘Regulate’ video, Tupac shows up a couple times. Do you remember where you were when you heard that he had been murdered?
I was at home at my house in Long Beach, and you know, actually, Snoop told me he was going to the fight. I was at home by myself. I was a bachelor, I didn’t have no girlfriend or nothin’, so I told him to come over and barbecue. He was, like, ‘Naw, I ain’t comin’ over there; I gotta go to Vegas and go to the fight.’ So I was like, ‘Man, come hang with me, man.’ So he was just, like, ‘Naw, I’m goin’ to the fight.’ So I was like, ‘Alright, cool.’ I went ahead and I was just like, ‘Damn.’ So I was cookin’ and stuff and next thing I know, there was a horn outside, and I ran outside, and it was Snoop in an all-white Bentley—an incredible Bentley, with peanut-butter inside—and he showed up! So I was at the house with me and Snoop barbecuing, and when we heard about it, Snoop immediately got up and [said] he had to take off and drive straight to Vegas.
That must’ve been devastating.
Yeah, it was. ’Cause that was a cool cat.
Are you getting in on any of that stuff Dre has going on with Apple?
He do what he do, I do what I do. I wouldn’t mind being over there with him with the Apple situation. If they call me, my door’s open, and I’m ready to go get down with them; whatever they want to do.
Who is the bigger pimp: Rapper Warren G or former president of the United States Warren G. Harding?
Well, you know, I hang. I’ma play up on the Himalayas [laughs]. You know, I have to dust my shoulders off and let the world know that I am the biggest pimp. And you do know that. Warren G. Harding left his letters for his girls to read. I’m not going to leave you nothin’ to read. You’re going to continue to work for daddy, regardless [laughs].