Warren G regulates the music

September 09, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Warren G's approach to making records is fairly straightforward. "I try to do stuff different from everybody else," says the soft-voiced 23-year-old over the phone from a tour stop in Miami. "I put lyrics, rap lyrics, to music that people wouldn't usually put lyrics to, you know what I'm saying? That's basically it."

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But there must be more to it than that, because G Funk -- Warren G's term for the supple, bass-heavy hip-hop style he specializes in -- has clearly struck a chord with rap fans around the country.

His debut, "Regulate . . . G Funk Era," has dominated the charts this summer, having put two singles in the top 10 so far: "Regulate" and the current "This DJ." Moreover, the G Funk juggernaut showing no signs of slowing, a success story that has made Warren G the hottest rap producer this side of Dr. Dre.

Of course, the irony in all that is that Warren G (born Warren Griffin III) is Dr. Dre's younger half-brother. Moreover, Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose drawling, laid-back delivery put much of the juice into Dre's "The Chronic," started out working with Warren and singer Nate Dogg in a trio called 213, back before Long Beach, Calif., was considered a hip-hop hotbed.

Ask Warren what sparked the Long Beach boom, and he just laughs. "Me hooking Snoop up with Dre," he says. Snoop had cut a demo called "Super Duper" but couldn't get anybody at a record company to listen to it. So Warren slipped a copy of it to Dre, and his older brother was blown away by what he heard. The rest, as they say, is history.

"Then they seen how the talent was jumping off, so all these other record companies started stepping in, trying to get people from Long Beach," says Warren.

Although Snoop Doggy Dogg teamed up full-time with Dre (who produced Snoop's "Doggy Style" debut), Warren G decided to avoid the "little brother of . . . " tag and make his own way through the music business. Not only did he produce "Regulate . . . G Funk Era" himself, but he built the album around a sound that's totally different from Dre's lavish, retro-soul aesthetic.

G Funk falls between the sample-driven sound of modern rap and the live music approach favored by the old school. "I create my own music, and I create my own sounds," Warren says. "I do my original music, plus I'll use a sampler in a minute, because it ain't no thing to me."

Even though he isn't a schooled musician -- "I can play the keyboard a little bit," he says, "but my main thing is working that drum machine" -- Warren has no trouble getting musicians to understand what he wants. "I tell them everything I want," he says, adding that it helps to be able to hum a part.

As for subject matter, Warren felt that simple self-expression would be sufficient. "I just decided I wanted to talk about things that I went through when I was growing up, you know what I'm saying?" he says. "Talk about my neighborhood and stuff. That's it."

That didn't mean glorifying gang-banging or getting into trouble, though. Even though the song "Do You See" finds Warren admitting that he flirted with trouble when he was younger, the heart of the rap has to do with how he found a positive direction through his love of music. Could it be that Warren G sees himself as a bit of a role model?

"Yeah," he says, with a self-conscious chuckle. "I don't want them to look at me as a criminal. I want them to look at me as a good person. Don't you? I don't know nobody that wants people to look at them as a bad person."

Warren G

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Where: USAir Arena

Tickets: $27.50

$ Call: (410) 481-7328

Phone for funk

To hear excerpts from Warren G's "Regulate . . . G Funk Era," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6165 after you hear the greeting.

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