|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
“The West Coast never fell off, I was asleep in Compton/Aftermath been here, the beats been knockin’/Nate Dogg doing his thing, DPG still poppin’, ” spits The Game on “Westside Story,” the first single off the Compton rapper’s debut, The Documentary, which sold almost 600,000 units and landed on top of Billboard’s album charts during its first week in release. Not since Snoop Dogg’s debut, Doggystyle, have we seen such numbers and hype.
It was in the Hub City, Compton, the birthplace of gangsta rap, that five poor black street kids, including Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, created F-You lyrics and hard beats. Eazy-E is now resting in peace, Ice Cube parlayed rap into PG-rated flicks, but Dr. Dre has gone on to become a masterful producer, creating the G-Funk sound on the classic The Chronic, which, aside from premiering a prodigious rapper named Snoop, also marked the debut of a kid from Long Beach named Daz. Dr. Dre had his hand in developing Snoop, the Dogg Pound (of which Daz was a charter member), and now his new West Coast protégé, The Game. As Dr. Dre’s Aftermath drops the major release The Documentary, his handiwork is also visible on Daz’s less-hyped independent release Tha Dogg Pound Gangsta LP. With one common master producer influencing two local rappers telling their Westside stories, it would appear that California gangsta rap — overshadowed of late by East Coast rappers like Jay-Z and the Atlanta-born crunk sound popularized by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz — is back on top.
The Game (Jayceon Taylor), a 6-foot-4 ex—basketball player from Compton High who played against Baron Davis (his son’s godfather), Paul Pierce and other NBA dudes, turned his b-ball skills to Damu (Blood) street hustlin’, then to rapping after being shot five times when his home was invaded during an attempted jack move. While recovering from his wounds, The Game rehabilitated himself by studying rap’s greatest, including Eazy-E (whose image The Game has tatted on his forearm). Within a year, he signed with Dr. Dre and Aftermath. With the help of Dr. Dre’s production skills, along with 50 Cent’s and G-Unit’s cred, the urgency on this album is scary, like seeing 1978’s docudrama Scared Straight! for the first time.
Al Capone-like keys set the ominous tone right with the album’s first cut, “Westside Story.” Kanye West then steps in to provide some uplifting hooks and lyrics on the rap-spiritual “Dreams.” The Game then projects raw emotion — “My brother Javon died ’cause he chased a cat/It’s a doggie dog world, Jesus please holler back” — on “Start From Scratch.” On the title track, “The Documentary,” The Game goes on the attack: “If you cross my T/I’ll dot your eyes.” In case you think that’s a hollow boast, it should be noted that The Game was arrested for a recent alleged assault that sent a Washington, D.C., DJ to the hospital. On the 15th track, “Where I’m From,” Dr. Dre takes us back to some The Wash sounds, and finally, on “Like Father, Like Son, ” The Game spews a heartfelt story about the birth of his first son, Harlem.
Daz Dillinger (Delmar Arnaud), who grew up in LBCrip territory with cousin Snoop, has been holding it down for the West Coast for a long time, and his new independent album, Tha Dogg Pound Gangsta LP, is no exception. Daz may not have the major distribution, marketing or promotion that The Game does, but with the writing, rapping and producing skills he learned from Dr. Dre, you can see and hear plenty of the Doggystyle G-Funk vibe on his latest album, from the CD image of a cartoon dog kickin’ it, to the W-Balls and DJ Easy Dicc shtick on the first cut, “That’s the Way We Ride.”
This CD has a few gem jams, including “Do You Think About,” which KDAY DJ Julio G’s been bumpin’ and which reminds you of 2Pac’s “Keep Your Head Up,” only lyrically more raw and, of course, sampled originally from the Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child.” The fifth track, “Nothin’ Can Stop Us Now,” features George Clinton and his classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” with the catchy hook Whooooo-hoooo-oooooo- ooooooo-ooo-ohh-ohh-ohhhhhhhhh, on and on and on. Nate Dogg, from the LBC, who’s also on The Game’s album, shows up blowing his ghetto soul on “Come Close” as Daz raps “West Coast purple [Lakers] got me feeling lovely.” But what would a gangsta album be without a bit of controversy? It’s not for nothing that the label on the cover warns “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content,” and in true-blue (Crip) form, Daz brings out his gangsta ways on his 2005 version of N.W.A’s “Fu** Tha Police.”
With Dr. Dre as the creative force behind the scenes, West Coast gangsta rap is still alive and poppin’. Word is that The Game and Daz have recorded a track together for an upcoming album; as Snoop Dogg once rapped, “Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you in trouble.” Throw up the Dub!
THE GAME | THE DOCUMENTARY (Aftermath/Interscope)
DAZ DILLINGER | THA DOGG POUND GANGSTA LP (Gangsta Advisory)