Violator / Def Jam, 1994
In the early 1990’s, a young group in the suburbs of Los Angeles was trying to make a name for themselves in Hip Hop, the 213, which was none other than the three childhood friends from Long Beach, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. As Dr. Dre’s half-brother, who at the time was already known as N.W.A.’s lead producer, Warren asked Dre to listen to his group’s demo, which Dre refused.
The three continued to record in V.I.P.’s modest studio, a record store, and distributed demos in and around Los Angeles, without any real success. When Warren was invited to a party where Dr. Dre was, along with other music producers, he immediately invited the trio into his home and studio to talk and record after hearing Snoop Dogg rap. At the same time, Dre left Ruthless and N.W.A. to found Death Row with Suge Knight and The D.O.C. In reality, Dre is more in awe of Snoop than the trio itself. The trio is unofficially a bit separated. Snoop will start recording The Chronic with Dre and will sign a contract with Death Row. Nate Dogg will also have the right to his contract without having an album, being rather seen as the chorus man.
However for Warren G the future seems more complicated. Unlike his two friends, a contract with Death Row does not seem to be on the agenda despite some appearances on The Chronic and Doggystyle. Several reasons can explain it. The first is his conflicting relations with Suge Knight, the latter took him to task and did not want him in his label, probably for personal reasons. For his part, Dr. Dre did not support him very much. The second one is more implicit and probably the consequence of the first one, Warren G felt that Suge Knight’s shenanigans were not healthy with shady contracts, as most of the members of Death Row, including Dr. Dre, had experienced. So Warren went his own way without his half-brother and eventually found a deal with Def Jam for his debut album.
In the end, the Long Beach rapper/producer did quite well as all the other Death Row rappers envied him, Def Jam being one of the most recognized and iconic record labels in Hip Hop. Although Death Row also became iconic later on, at the time it was only a small independent label. In order to support their friend, Death Row rappers such as Snoop Dogg or Kurupt wrote the lyrics of Warren’s album, of course without Suge Knight knowing about it so that he had no rights on the songs and didn’t ask for any payment. While Warren G is an excellent producer and rapper, he is not an excellent lyricist. In fact, his friends from Long Beach signed to Death Row were very supportive of Warren G’s album so that he could succeed at Def Jam.
After the release of Regulate with his friend Nate Dogg for the Above The Rim soundtrack under Death Row, Warren G and Nate Dogg left an indelible mark on Hip Hop. Legend has it that the single was recorded in Warren’s bedroom closet. I can’t say for sure if this is true. Having released this single under Death Row, a battle for the rights began between Def Jam and Death Row, with Suge not wanting to leave the song on Warren G’s album, which he obviously ended up accepting. The background of the negotiation remains mysterious.
Now that the contract is signed and the rights to Regulate are back, everything seems to be lining up for Warren to finally release his album, Regulate… G Funk Era, in early summer 1994. Warren G was about to appropriate the sub-genre propelled by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to make music in his own image. With the few techniques learned from Dr. Dre, Warren will develop his own melodies, and this album is unlike any other in the genre.
The album introduces naturally by Regulate, which is terribly effective with a light story of late night in Long Beach looking for girls, “skirts” as they call them. In this story, the two childhood friends go through all the adventures of a night out, gambling, muggings before ending up at the East Side Hotel, without being aggressive, the two are nevertheless ready to fight if necessary. The sweet melody that accompanies it is typical of Warren G’s G-Funk, some sunny little notes with a little dramatic effect.
The musical palette used by Warren G is perfect, he is indeed the boss of G-Funk, a new era softer and more melodic is opening. A pleasant and relaxed music with soul samples, a slow and warm tempo, maudlin synthesizers, funky guitar riffs, harmonious whistles and sunny piano tunes. While there is some use of sampling and keyboard programming, most of the instruments used are organic. Warren is not inherently gangsta, his music represents everything that California is, a relaxed and laid back attitude with a form of elegance.
All the tracks follow this pattern for an overall excellent consistency. Recognize is a track with heavier bass over a very slow pace. What’s Next is closer to a traditional rap with a bit of drama and a conversational game with Mr. Malik. So Many Ways is full of sunshine with a sweet synth melody and a beautiful chaotic chorus sung by Lady Levi. The sample of Don’t Stop (Ever Loving Me) from One Way on Super Soul Sis is beautifully enhanced by the vocals of Jah Skillz. This Is The Shack offers a nice moment of nostalgia where Warren and his friends from The Dove Shack reminisce about the moments they spent in their shelter during their childhood in their native neighborhood. Warren gives way to his band with a beautiful soulful vocal from Bo-Rocc for a perfect summer anthem.
Beyond the music, Warren G offers a rap that reflects this attitude with a conversational rap, he’s not boastful, he sounds like a normal guy talking to us, without taking it easy. The lyrics are not the finest, but they are still enjoyable to listen to with a mix of a little gangsta and playa, without playing the hero or tough guy. He talks about his neighborhood, about life in Long Beach by depicting its mean streets with picturesque landscapes, like an average day under the sun with an alternation of rap and song that supports this relaxed attitude.
Aware that he is first and foremost a producer before being a rapper, he calls on many guests. No Snoop, Dre or Dogg Pound, the latter being signed to Death Row. Instead Warren invited other friends from Long Beach, The Twinz, The Dove Shack, Mr. Malik, Jah Skills to help him on this project. These guests bring both a feminine touch and a more rap touch, which skillfully offsets the very smooth and melodious flow of Warren. In fact, they are the G-Funk groups that he is about to produce with his future record company G-Funk Entertainement for more G-Funk à la Warren G.
Regulate… G Funk Era goes further than a simple rap album, it offers a melody both soul and funk to propose his own vision of G-Funk, where rap is sometimes absent. An album that is not gangsta but simply wants to be pleasant to listen to. This album is the embodiment of the relaxed and sunny California lifestyle advocated by its author with irresistible melodies. I have a special affection for this album and huge nostalgic memories that come to mind. The name of this site is a reference to this album and the eponymous song. Regulate… G Funk Era is a G-Funk style of its own made by the boss of G-Funk. A timeless classic that goes beyond Hip Hop.