March 2, 2008

Warren G - Regulate...G Funk Era (June 7, 1994)


I realize that I've been on a bit of a Wu-Tang kick lately, and while I don't apologize, I realize that the narrow focus of the blog during the past few weeks has probably diminished my audience down to one-and-a-half readers. Even though I can't promise non-stop updates like some of my esteemed colleagues (real life can be a bitch sometimes), I can actually look in other directions when it comes to the art form we know and love, thanks. However, the Wu-Tang Clan are ultimately my favorite musical group of all time, so you can't expect the write-ups regarding them to just stop, so stay tuned, because the great thing about this blog is that I can write about anything I want, and I don't give a fuck if you like it or not!

Moving on, this write-up is going to be about young Warren Griffin III, whose music industry pseudonym Warren G inadvertently recalls one of the worst presidents in United States history (although, to be fair, Warren G. Harding never sent off tens of thousands of people to die in a war that was founded on a series of bald-faced lies. The only excuse all of my readers stateside have to not vote in this year's election is if they're under the age of eighteen, and even that's pushing it a bit). Warren is best known as a rapper/producer from Long Beach, California, but what most people don't realize is that he is the lone heir to the Crystal Pepsi fortune, which currently totals an astounding negative fourteen dollars and thirty-five cents. Warren G specializes in a derivative of the "P-Funk" sound that he calls "G-Funk", hence the title of his debut, Regulate...G Funk Era. Ostensibly, given the fact that he hails from the West Coast and has ties with many of the prominent gangsta rappers on that scene, the "G" in the label stands for "Gangsta", or possibly "Gorilla" ("Guerrilla", if you are the socially conscious rapper Paris, or the socially conscious rapper Paris's mother), or maybe "Gingerbread" if you're nasty, but I have a feeling that Warren G named his musical genre of choice after his own fucking name, which is a bold move considering that he didn't invent the sound (I'm sure Dr. Dre and Cold 187um, also known as Big Hutch from Above The Law, would have something to say about that).

Warren was doubly blessed with musical fortune, so much so that a career in medicine, psychology, or anything that might remotely contribute positively to humanity would look absolutely fucking foolish and selfish in comparison. While growing up, Warren made fast friends with alleged Crip Calvin Broadus and Nathaniel Hale, who would later be better known to audiences as Snoop (Doggy) Dogg and Nate Dogg, respectively, and the three men formed a rap group called 213, named after their area code at the time. Snoop and Warren would trade verses while Nate Dogg sang, and their demo tape so impressed future hip hop overlord Andre Young (who just so happened to be Warren's half-brother) that Snoop was signed within minutes, Nate within the hour, and Warren was allowed to hang around the studio as long as he didn't touch anything expensive.

Warren soon found himself contributing to Dr. Dre's solo debut The Chronic and Snoop's debut Doggystyle, both of which sold at least seventy gazillion copies apiece and created two superstars in the industry whose music still resonates with even today's fickle-ass listeners who prefer Soulja Boy to Gza/Genius. And just like an out-of-touch film executive who would green-light a starring role for Chris Kattan just because he just so happened to co-star in a semi-hit film with Will Ferrell, Warren G started to believe that he, too, had what it took to change the face of hip hop. He started small, producing the track "Indo Smoke" for Mista Grimm, a rapper whom we have never heard from again, and found some mild success after it was selected for inclusion on the Poetic Justice soundtrack. He also scored his biggest hit (to date, and I do actually mean up through 2008) with "Regulate", a duet with Nate Dogg that was prominently displayed on the Above The Rim soundtrack, which was released by Death Row Records. That song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and also nabbed Warren a Grammy nomination. It's no wonder he started to take himself a little bit too seriously.

Young Warren Gingerbread decided that riding on friend Snoop's coattails was the best time for him to start supporting his weed carriers from around the way, which he was only allowed to do in the evenings, after accurately counting and returning Snoop's pot to its vaulted home. He found himself nonplussed with his lack of input into Death Row's album releases and began to lobby hard for a solo disc of his own. Naturally, he attempted to convince the two label heads at Death Row, which was ballsy in and of itself since he was never actually signed to the label. Dr. Dre, who was too busy trying to reign in all of Snoop's lazy tendencies in the booth (he would frequently spit nonsensical freestyles instead of sitting down to write a cohesive song, which he found taxing what with all of the marijuana smoke and all) , politely declined. The label's CEO, Marion "Suge" Knight, who had already violently spooked Warren into changing his guest lyric on Snoop's "Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Have None)" (to reference his alleged gang the Bloods's color of choice, instead of Warren's allegiances to the Crips), unsurprisingly, laughed Cuban cigar smoke in his face, and instead scheduled his eventual release date between The Lady of Rage (who was having Death Row issues of her own) and the rapping granny from The Wedding Singer, who had secured a couple of tracks from DJ Premier.

Warren decided to shop around, and found that he could save hundreds on his car insurance by switching to Def Jam/Violator. (It's amazing what having the number two single in the country can do for your career, right?) He quickly recorded his debut, Regulate...G Funk Era, without the help of any of his Death Row brethren, although he remained on speaking terms with everyone involved, and shared custody of their community puppy. The album was released in the summer of 1994, and provided a showcase for both his signature (a-hem) "G-Funk" sound and his weed-carrying mates, in an attempt to make his own Chronic.

Regulate...G Funk Era sold over three million copies and established Ginger as yet another athlete in the running for the Def Jam scholarship, back in the days when The House That Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons Built could do no wrong. However, I don't know anybody that still includes this album in their collection. I originally picked up my copy on cassette tape (yes, you read that right) at a Blockbuster Music in a mall the first Saturday after it had dropped, and wore it out gradually throughout the summer with my Walkman. It is still the top seller in the Warren G catalog, primarily among people who don't know or care about Warren G but liked "Regulate" enough (like my dad. Seriously. He liked the song. I was forced to rebel just a little after that realization).

Anywho...

1. REGULATE (FEAT NATE DOGG)
A time-tested marketing tool often used in the music industry is to attract customers to your new product by reminding them of your previous successful work. Here, Def Jam circumvents all the bullshit by simply borrowing "Regulate" from the Above The Rim soundtrack, warts and all. It's not a bad song at all (I always appreciated Warren's rhymes from the perspective of a guy who isn't cool enough to not get jacked on the street, and Nate Dogg swoops in like some kind of superhero to both save him and lead him in between the ready and willing legs of some prostitutes on the next block), but if I have to hear Michael McDonald one more time, yah mo burn this store to the ground.

2. DO YOU SEE
The second single. I never figured out why the chorus was altered for the video version: originally Ginger sings "You don't see what I see", but for the video, it's changed to the much less aggressive "Do you see what I see?". It has a very good beat, among the best Warren will ever produce, and I remember being thrilled when Dr. Dre showed his family love by appearing in the video, even though all he did was sit there.

3. GANGSTA SERMON
This is just a pretty useless skit that features Ricky Harris, who also appeared in the introduction of Snoop's "Doggy Dogg World".

4. RECOGNIZE (FEAT DA TWINZ)
If Da Twinz (Wayniac and Trip Locc, both very creative aliases) made their major label debut today, there would be inevitable comparisons to Virginia's Clipse, because both duos are made up of brothers (although Pusha T and Malice aren't twins) and because the media is made up of lazy folks that don't fact-check. You'll find that they do have similar lyrical content, though, if you replace the Thorntons's references to cocaine with pot, and also if you took the talent of the Clipse and left it at the Greyhound station instead of giving it to Da Twinz. That's an unfair generalization to make, since I actually like Da Twinz, but this song, which features Ginger interrupting the song in the most annoying way, DJ Clue-, DJ Khaled-, or David Brent-style, is not the best look for them.

5. SUPER SOUL SIS (FEAT JAH SKILLZ)
This song is primarily a showcase for female rapper Jah-Skillz, whose career remained stagnant after her appearance on Regulate...G Funk Era and on a few other Warren G-blessed projects. Hearing her rhymes today, it's easy to understand her career trajectory, as she is neither memorable nor any good on the mic. More importantly, for years I had been trying to locate the source of the Snoop Dogg vocal sample in the chorus: I was confused for years, since the beat beneath Snoop's words was clearly Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit", but the lyrics didn't match up with Snoop's verse on that very song. I found out only last year that the 12-inch single for Dre's "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thing" featured both a remix of that song (over what Dre would later reuse as the "Bitches Ain't Shit" beat) and something called the "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thing (Freestyle Mix)", which featured Snoop rapping some random bullshit on the remix beat, including what is on Warren's chorus. Thanks, Time 4 Sum Aksion!

6. '94 HO DRAFT
The second unnecessary skit. Seriously, Ginger, did you really need to put two skits on an album that only boasts twelve tracks total?

7. SO MANY WAYS (FEAT WAYNIAC & LADY LEVI)
Never cared for this song, from the derivative beat to the bullshit chorus, performed almost entirely in a different language just simply because Ginger thought himself to be an auteur.

8. THIS D.J.
The first real single from the album ("Regulate" doesn't count). I've always loved this song, albeit more for the laid-back beat (which is perfect for marijuana-laced barbecues, although not for marijuana-laced barbecue, an important distinction) than Warren's inane rhymes. I first heard this song on the radio while tooling around Houston (the deejay snuck it in during their 24-hour all-Scarface and UGK block), and fell for its charms immediately. We were married five weeks later after a whirlwind courtship, and even though the relationship ended horribly and violently, I always get a warm feeling when I hear it. Somewhere in all of that is a recommendation.

9. THIS IS THE SHACK (FEAT THE DOVE SHACK)
The Dove Shack was Warren's second signature group (after Da Twinz), consisting of rappers C-Knight, 2Scoops, and Bo-Roc. The rhyme spitters are decent enough, but I never cared for either the beat nor Ginger's insipid helium-voiced alter-ego The G Child, who introduces this song in a manner so terrible that I almost hit the skip button, before I realized I have to listen to each of these songs before I write about them.

10. WHAT'S NEXT (FEAT MR. MALIK)
This track features Mr. Malik from the defunct rap duo Illegal, which also featured Jamal, who now does petty construction work as Mally G with the Def Squad. This song is fucking hilarious (unintentionally, of course). Besides the empty threats of violent retaliation promised by both rappers and Warren's misspelling of the word "next" (it's in the fucking title, Ginger! Seriously, his refusal to re-record the verse properly (was he really that stubborn, or was he on a deadline?) is reminiscent of the multiple verbal faux-pas frequented by the crappy president he shares his name with), my favorite part is how Warren has to remind listeners in his final verse no less than three times (in the span of eight bars) that we are, in fact, listening to Warren G.

11. AND YA DON'T STOP
I love the twangy guitar-driven beat, but I've always felt that Warren G was not the best rapper for it. I have no doubt that if this song were released today as a single, its instrumental would be quickly jacked and used on a bunch of mixtapes by no-name New York-based artists trying to branch out.

12. RUNNIN' WIT NO BREAKS (FEAT JAH-SKILLZ & DA TWINZ)
The weed carrier posse cut. I found this to be an incredibly dull way to end your album, although I appreciate that it just abruptly ends.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Regulate...G Funk Era is certainly a product of its time. I have to give Warren G credit for not relying on his much more popular (and talented) friends on Death Row Records, although to be fair, he probably asked for help and was shot down quickly by Suge. He surrounds himself with rappers who are all better on the mic than he is (except for Jah-Skillz), but the difference between Warren's debut and The Chronic is that there is no breakthrough crossover artist like Snoop Dogg to be found, which leaves Ginger fumbling the ball on his own ten yard line.

BUY OR BURN? I think this album is unintentionally hilarious, and hip hop fans who were born in the early nineties and after probably won't get it, so if that description applies to you, take a gander at the tracks listed below to get your fix. For everyone else like me, you can probably find this disc for super-cheap, so you may as well pick it up, since it was entertaining throughout, and that's all you can really ask for in your musical selection these days. (You could ask for 'talent' and 'creativity', but you learn to pick your battles.)

BEST TRACKS: "This D.J."; "What's Next"; "And Ya Don't Stop"; "Do You See"

-Max

11 comments:

  1. classic westcoast ish! what more can i say?? lol

    Warren Gingerbread?? "Regulate" not counting as a single?? WTF?!? ROFL funny stuff as usual man!

    peace

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  2. Of course I bought this album off of the strength of the "Regulate" single. I simply hated Regulate "G-funk Era at first but it grew on me. Speaking of Paris, you should review his first album.

    On another note, who should I contact for an invite to Time 4 Sum Aksion ?

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessMarch 02, 2008

    I HATED this with a passion back in 94. Some of the beats are good but the rhymes are straight garbage. I would have just ignored it if it were entirely up to me but people were acting like this was that next shit and playing it constantly. I was 16 going on 17 and didn't have a car yet. Consequently, in order to ride around drinking 40's and smoking poorly rolled blunts while looking for girls interested in speaking with 5 dudes packed into an 82 Ford Granada with a working house speaker/armrest, I had to sit through this many, many times. I never even liked Regulate because it sounded like something someone's dad might like. I've always assumed that Warren and Dre share the same father but the G stands for Gibson, as in Warren's momma Debbie Gibson. Being extremely judgmental, the acid test for me was whether people looking to expand their West Coast allegiance beyond The Chronic during this period constantly played this crap or Eazy-E's It's On (187um Killa). Shorty The Pimp or Cocktails fans were alright in my book, too. I was also down for drinking with Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana fans although Dirty's first tape was THE choice for such activities. As for people who swore by this and had never heard of Tribe, Wu-Tang or Nas, I was strictly using them for their car.

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  4. this album was part of the soundtrack for the long walk from the bus stop to the mickey d's i worked at in summer 94... granted dude is not the best rapper, but there was never no pretense bout that, just come have some fun with the shit... and heds did, prolly still do...still have that tape and if i could find a cassette deck i'd pop that shit in and reminisce...did'nt RBX have a line dissing Ginger saying "bitch can't spell"...

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  5. I know that I wrote "Regulate" didn't count as a single, but I failed to qualify that remark with "because it was originally released as a single for the 'Above The Rim' soundtrack". My bad. And I did find the album to still be a brainless, fun listen, for the most part. But if you're expecting me to review the rest of Warren G's catalog...you may want to get a snack: it'll be a long while.

    rl - honestly, I have no idea who you would contact, since I was too lazy to send them my info when they were going private, so I'm blocked out too. Oh well. They had a sort of "free preview" about a month ago, though, when they reopened for the public for like a weekend, so that might happen again: just keep you eyes peeled.

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  6. The fact that anyone could hate this album blows my mind to places I literally can't even think of. This is a seminal classic, one of the cornerstones of hip-hop before 1997 came along and ruined everything. This, along with The Twinz, rank among the best albums the LBC ever put out.

    In reference to "Do You See", I've been trying for years to locate the original version with the alternate hook you mentioned. Any chance you've got a link or anything you can point me to? It'd be HUGELY appreciated.

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  7. Sorry, Alex, I've got nothing. Everything I'm finding on my end is the "You don't see what I see" hook, which I always preferred anyway. However, your request made me go to Youtube and look up the video for "Do You See", which sent me down memory lane, so thanks for that, and thanks for reading!

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  8. Well I guess the mystery off who else had this on cassette apart from me has been answered. Max...you were not alone!!!

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  9. Wow I'm very surprised to see that Toon commented on this blog. If even if you will probably never go to this page again I wanted to say that I dig your art and that I liked most of the artworks and designs you've done for Daz and The Dogg Pound. Good stuff man.

    As for the album, I understand the critics but to me the incredible beats make up for Warren's lack of penmanship. I especially liked Do You See (terrific beat, melting samples from "Mama used to say" and "Juicy Fruit"), SO Many Ways and Runnin' Wit No breaks (helluva posse cut)

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  10. pleasepleasepleaseAugust 13, 2011

    I remember buying this at Tower Records and immediately enjoying it. Sure, there was really nothing groundbreaking here and as a lyricist, Warren is pretty weak but hmm.. there's something about this album that kind of holds up. It's a very digestable album that you can throw on, have people reminisce and call it a day.

    Confessions: I enjoy Jah Skillz's verses and I laughed at 94 Ho Draft the first time I heard it.

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  11. Jah Skills wasnt the most talented but the beat on there makes it all worth it.

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