In hip-hop circles, it’s very hard to find even a casual listener who couldn’t give you a play-by-play rundown of the events of a certain clear, black night on the east side of Long Beach, California that are forever in the halls of history. Rapper/producer Warren G is roaming the city streets in pursuit of companionship and finds himself in dire straits, held at gunpoint by some roughnecks who want to relieve him of his ill-gotten gains from a dice game, when singer and world-class wingman Nate Dogg comes to the rescue. By now, you can probably hear the groovy strains of Michael McDonald’s 1982 single “I Keep Forgettin’” sample in the back of your mind. Such is the power of the genre that was born from Warren G’s musical experimentation, G-Funk, introduced to the world by his 1994 hit, “Regulate.”
Now, that genre is receiving its due in the form of a Youtube Originals Documentary which chronicles the early sound of the G-Funk from its inception to its impact on hip-hop music and culture through the story of 213, the group consisting of Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Snoop Dogg. Stuffed to the gills with never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with many of the primary figures in the genre’s rise to prominence (and main beneficiaries of its influence) — including the D.O.C., Ice Cube, Kurupt, radio’s Big Boy, and Wiz Khalifa — G Funk sheds light on 213’s central position in the genre’s rise, and their own role in creating a brand new sound that took over LA radio for more than a decade.
While the film details the music of the era in the words of the genre’s preeminent players, the creation of the film itself makes for a fascinating story as well. In a phone interview with Warren G, the musical pioneer broke down the trials of getting the film produced, the special relationship that generated footage that would become the documentary’s foundations, and what it means to be the defining figure of an important subgenre in hip-hop, one the overall culture would likely look vastly different without. Fittingly, the first word out of his mouth, by way of both introduction and salutation, is “Regulator.” To this day it’s the song that defines his career, but it’s his career, his work, and “Regulate” which have come to define the sound of Los Angeles hip-hop for a generation.
How did you become involved with the G Funk documentary?
This is my story. I’ve had this story locked in for a long time, but a lot of different companies wanted to change the things that I wanted to talk about. I couldn’t. So I kinda backed out of the idea totally.
One day I was at this show down at the Observatory in Orange Country. I ran into this young kid named Karam Gill. Just a regular kid, just trying to get put on. He asked me if he could film the show. Well, I told him, “Go ahead. It’s fine.” He said, he would email me the footage and I was like, “Cool. That’s good.” After that, I told him to follow me, so he followed me for a while. It was just dope what he was shooting. So I asked him if he could do a documentary.
I broke it down for him start to finish, step-by-step, frame for frame. Everything that I went through, and I was going through. So we took it and we put it on paper and then we put it on the storyboard. We had that all there. I met Gary last year, Bob and Matt, the producers, the investors. We showed ’em our business, and they loved it, and that got us to where we are right now. Which is a big story about Warren G, and G-funk.
G-funk has had a huge impact on the culture and music of hip-hop. How do you create a story from your experiences that fits into this format?
I was introduced to G-funk by Above The Law, 187, KMG, and Laylaw. They took me in when I was like a young kid, made me a part of that. Things kinda went the way it went, but I took it upon myself to keep it alive, and I kept it alive and took it worldwide. Now we’re close to this being, to becoming a genre of music. I just wanted to let people know that because a lot of people don’t know. But the G-funk Era? That’s Warren G. That’s a genre of music that I created just by being different. Just doing music that people wouldn’t expect me to do. Like I did with “Regulate,” going over the Michael McDonald sample.
Did you ever think that this sub-genre of hip-hop that you created would be so big and so huge, so long after you helped create it? That sound is still informing so many new up-and-coming artists. Is that something you foresaw, is that something you were aiming for?
We were just trying to make good music, man. Good music and be different and not do the same thing everybody was doing. This is the outcome of that. I still, I feel good about it, but I just keep working, man. I just keep creating, making it even bigger. I’m still, I ain’t that old, I’m still pretty much young. Really young in the game still.
When Karam approached you, what was the thing about him, that made you want to work with him?
I’m the type of guy that will give the shot. I just saw the hunger in his eyes. This guy looks like he could possibly put some shit together. So I’m gonna take a listen. I’m not gonna pass on giving the shot. He may be the next f*cking Steven Spielberg, right here.
G Funk features never-before-seen footage and interviews with you, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Ice Cube, Ice-T, Too $hort, even D.O.C. which was really, really amazing. How did you get that level of access?
George Clinton too. He doesn’t interview for nobody, and I don’t think he has.
I mean, I got relationships. They good people, and they love me, and I love them. And with friends, it’s not, ‘I’m just asking this dude just because I am a fan.’ I deal with these people. These are the people that I know, and I love. They all good people. So, they can ask me to do they sh*t, I’m going to do it. Whatever they need. I got inspired by a lot of ’em also.
I remember growing up listening to you and looking up to you, so it’s intriguing to me to hear that you say that you’re still looking up to those guys. What is it about those guys that warrants that kind of admiration?
Because they know, they are the best. All of them are best. I know that they going to put it down in a way to where people gonna listen ’cause these are straight up cats that I deal with. They all honorable mentions. All of these guys are part of history.
That’s for real. So G Funk is going to come out on Youtube Premium, which is still pretty new. With Youtube being a newer platform, why did you want to go with them?
Dude, Youtube’s one of the biggest platforms in the world. It connects everybody. Everybody’s on Youtube. The whole world. So why not lay it out like that ’cause I’m an international artist. You know and then there are my international fans who want see me too, just like the people here in the states. Well Youtube got at me, and we made it happen. Now we got G-funk, man, this is history. Seriously, I am on my Youtube. I get all the latest and greatest on there.
What do you like to watch on Youtube?
I watch everything. Anything I want to know about. I go on Youtube, looking for anything. It tells you how to do things. I watch a lot of stuff in sports and just everything that goes on. You want learn about the ecosystem? It’ll teach you about the ecosystem. There’s a lot of information that you can get from Youtube, there’s a lot people that can help.
Do you think that having documentaries like G Funk on such a huge platform can have a positive effect on hip-hop?
Definitely, man. It’s always gon be here; it ain’t going nowhere. Our culture, our genre, our love. This is always going to be here.
G Funk is available now on Youtube Premium. Sign up here.