[Editor's note: Soon-to-be-award-winning gonzo music journalist Danielle Bacher prowls the late late night scene for West Coast Sound. For this installment, she hit the town with rapper Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound and DJ Nik Bean, a West L.A.-based mixtape impresario who has worked with Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, DJ Felli Fel and others.]
7:56 PM, Tuesday, November 27: I can't stop coughing. I know I'm about to get sick. I arrive at Backside Records in Burbank, and hear music blasting from inside. This is going to be a rough one.
8:00 PM: I walk toward the back of the store. There is a crowd of people posing for a camera. I'm not really sure who any of these people are, but they look somewhat important. DJ Nik Bean introduces me to the crew.
8:05 PM: Kurupt is here, sporting sunglasses, a black cap with white stitching and a True Freshman T-shirt. He shakes my hand and bows his head. Everyone congregates in a semi-circle around him. “I should play the entire Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha album live. I've never done that before,” he says. Everyone likes the idea, especially DJ Nik, who yanks on his low-hanging cross necklace. “Yeah, that would be dope.”
8:06 PM: Everyone agrees the Key Club will be the best spot for this live album concert. The work was released in 1999 and features Dr. Dre, Snoop and Nate Dogg. DJ Nik places his hand on my shoulder, “You know that shit went gold, right?”
8:07 PM: The huddled group includes Justin Credible, radio host for Eminem's Shade 45 Sirius XM station and member of new music mavens LA Leakers, and Fuzzy Fantabulous, sidekick to Power 106 personality Big Boy. They are here to make a video for Kurupt's new song “Lend Me Ya Ear,” which will feature on his upcoming mixtape Money, Bitches, Power. The song's producer Rick Rock and the video's director Jaesyn TH are here, too. They have postponed the release of this mixtape several times, but anticipate that it should be out in January.
8:10 PM: A few minutes into our conversation, The Chronic is mentioned. DJ Nik pulls out the recent L.A. Weekly cover story on the subject. He points to Dre's face on the cover and says, “He made history. That's what's up.”
8:11 PM: “It's crazy. It's been 20 years in the business,” says Kurupt. “Hip-hop is a hobby, not a job. Some crazy way, we was able to take our hobby and make a career out of it. We are getting paid for what we love.”
8:12 PM: DJ Nik gives me a tour around the store. He stops for a second and glances down at a Nate Dogg candle. A Tupac candle sits to the right. The guys lit the candles in memory of the two artists a few minutes before I arrived. “Everyone has their time,” Nik quietly notes. “It's a shame. But they're up there in peace.”
8:15 PM: Kurupt's 10-year-old son Tren Brown aka Trensetta runs over to him and wraps his arms around his father's waist. Kurupt kisses his forehead. Tren is going to appear in the video, and he's very excited. “Make Daddy proud,” Kurupt whispers.
8:22 PM: His song “On Da Grind” featuring Daz Dillinger is playing extremely loudly over the speakers. Kurupt is singing and dancing.
8:24 PM: He's still dancing.
8:30 PM: Rick Rock is standing outside the store with his hands in the sleeves of his hoodie and a Raiders beanie pulled down to his eyebrows. A small crowd starts to form outside the store. A guy screams, “I love you, Kurupt!” as he walks outside. The two start lip-synching to “On Da Grind.” Tren walks in front of the camera with headphones called Boomphones around his ears.
8:48 PM: We head over to Kurupt's car. He hands me the headphones, and I put them on. He plays Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 1982 hit “The Message.” The headphones double as a boombox; literally, their outer speakers can blast music loud enough to fill a room. Kurupt is endorsing them. “I think this concept is futuristic. That's why I decided to support and be a part of it,” says Kurupt. “I think this is a classic idea. This is hip-hop. The boombox has always been a vital part of hip-hop.”
9:10 PM: The two worked on DJ Nik's mixtape Streets of LA 8 a few years back and continue to collaborate on various projects. About a minute into our conversation, Kurupt's friend Gaylon notices him. They met eight years ago and worked together on Kurupt's fourth studio album Against the Grain.
9:11 PM: “This guy is like a brother to me,” says Kurupt. “It's crazy because you grow up with someone and then you all separate and go amongst the world, and then, when ya'll run back across each other, it's like a whole new world.” He pauses for a moment and continues. “See, God is good. One thing I notice about God is that he puts people around each other for a reason. You have to read the signs. And you have to be able to have a clear mind.”
9:15 PM: Kurupt trips on the fact that I lived in Philadelphia. Growing up, he lived in the Germantown section of Philly and Sharon Hill, PA.
9:16 PM: Kurupt, DJ Nik, Tren and I walk around the corner to Elephant Bar. On the way, DJ Nik explains how, five years ago, not long after they met, he and Kurupt got into an altercation. He showed Kurupt his Street Certified DVD; basically, he interviewed a bunch of rappers and filmed them. On the back of the case, Crooked I's quote read: “Let you know the deal on Snoop.” Kurupt immediately got heated and said, “Hey, what the fuck is this? What is he saying about Snoop?”
9:18 PM: The three of us sit down at the bar and Tren and Kurupt's bodyguard Tee sit behind us in a booth. “I don't remember that,” says Kurupt.
“Yeah, you be going off on people all the time, so you don't remember,” DJ Nik replies, laughing.
“Why was I mad?”
“Because you thought he was talking shit on Snoop.”
“Yeah, you muthafuckin' right. That's my dawg,” says Kurupt. “You know, you meet some of your greatest friends through confrontation.” We laugh.
9:22 PM: DJ Nik orders a Baja chicken quesadilla and lemonade. Kurupt orders nothing.
9:26 PM: The mood in the room changes. I ask Kurupt about his former fiancée, singer Natina Reed, Tren's late mother. She passed away just before Halloween after being hit by a car in Georgia. “What do you want to know about her?” he asks.
9:35 PM: He pauses for a moment. “She was someone very special to me and my son. We were very good friends. A relationship is something that came into play, but before that, I was around her when she was young. It was deeper than just a relationship. When Tren was born, it really made our bond even stronger. I went my way and she went hers, but we always continued to keep that friendship.”
9:37 PM: I tell Kurupt that I'm sorry for his loss. He tells me that's she's in a better place now. “She doesn't have to worry about any troubles, trials and tribulations here that we all have to face every day. She's up there with one of the people she loved more than anything. She's up there now with Lisa 'Left Eye.' Me and Tren are going to hold it down here for her, and we have an angel looking over us.”
9:42 PM: We discuss how this unfortunate circumstance has affected Tren. Kurupt tells me that his son is a soldier, and all he wants to do is make his mother smile. He even wrote and recorded a song for her entitled “I Want to Let You Know.” Kurupt helped him fine-tune it and then they recorded it in the studio at his house in West Hills, which he calls the “Pentagon Oval Office.”
9:45PM: “I'm sure it hurts. I lost my mama a couple years ago, and it's something that you keep inside and it's hard, but you keep going,” says Kurupt. “I couldn't fathom it at his age. You can tell once in a while, it's on his mind. He's strong. Any other kid his age would probably be just broken down. But like I said, he's a soldier.”
9:48 PM: Kurupt is going back on tour with Snoop next week. I ask him what it's like working with him after all these years. “He's like my older brother,” he says. “He's the leader I follow, and he is definitely a lot of fun. He's been a part of raising me. He helped me with music and taught me how to be a man. He's the leader of the ship. He is who I follow in this game and who I follow in life.”
10:00 PM: Snoop and Kurupt made a pact in the early '90s. They told each other that whoever makes it in the rap world will bring the other along. “Snoop is a man of his word. Sure enough, he made it, and the rest is history.”
10:03 PM: The Lakers game is on the bar's TVs. They're neck-and-neck with the Pacers.
10:10 PM: Kurupt knew he wanted to be a rapper since he was eight. When he was growing up, it was unadulterated, real hip-hop. It was all about mic skills, battling and rocking house parties. There is a difference between being a rapper and an MC.
10:15 PM: “It saved my life,” he says. I ask him what it saved him from. “Everything,” he says, looking deep into my eyes. “If I didn't have hip-hop, what else was there to do? Just get in trouble.” At 16, Kurupt moved to California and was introduced to gangbanging. He met Snoop at the Roxy after a rap competition in 1990. He said that everyone wanted to be like Snoop. All the rappers wanted to have that cadence and flyness. Snoop and Dr. Dre showed Kurupt how to actually make a record.
10:24 PM: We discuss DJ Quik, whom Kurupt calls his uncle because he was in the game first. “He took a nigga under his wing and showed me so much.” They're currently working on their next album together.
10:26 PM: Kurupt discusses how hip-hop translates to other countries. He says that in Japan they don't know a lick of English, but they know “Bitch, where's my money?”
10:30 PM: I talk with Tren for a moment about his mother passing away. He says he was happy he wrote the song about her and got to speak about her from the heart. He said his dad helped him a little bit, and they might release it.
10:31 PM: Tren has made a few other rap songs before this one. “I just want to travel and rap. It's in the blood.” He pauses a minute and adjusts his black hoodie. “My mom has been there for me and through all the memories I have. She was a very good person. I'm feeling a little down still,” he says.
10:32 PM: Kurupt leaves with Tren.
10:35 PM: “I just asked a girl to marry me today in a text,” says DJ Nik. He shows me the text. She is an ex. He's just kidding, although, “Pussy is a powerful device.”
10:40 PM: Everyone is pissed that the Lakers lost. DJ Nik tells me that he's opening a healthy chain restaurant called Saladish in Union Station with Laker Metta World Peace.
10:44 PM: We leave the bar. I reconvene with Nik Bean downtown. He mentions that he has had a lot of deaths in his life this year. His grandmother recently passed away, as well as rapper Sandman and video director/manager Pop Gates. Pop committed suicide. This business can kill you, he adds.
11:10 PM: We hop in DJ Nik's Lexus. He enjoys listening to music he's worked on to give him motivation. He's playing Hot Dollar's “Streetz on Lock.” Turns out he helped Hot Dollar get a deal at Def Jam. Ironically, Tha Dogg Pound and Hot Dollar had beef with each other.
11:12 PM: We're riding near MacArthur Park on 6th street. “A lot of crazy shit goes down there,” he says. He drives a few streets down to Wilshire and Alvarado, where he shows me his old office. He used to break into the building by climbing the exit stairs to the fourth floor. No one was supposed to be there late at night, but he would make his music and then sleep.
11:40 PM: We arrive near the Staples Center and head into Hooters to wait for Kurupt to show up. He's filming a commercial for the Boomphones. We meet Nik's friend Christiana there. They met on Facebook and went on a few dates a year ago. Another Hooters girl named Monica joins in for a photo:
12:20 AM: We end up meeting Kurupt and the videographer in front of the Staples Center. They just finished wrapping the shoot. We missed it because we were chatting with the Hooters girls.
12:35 AM: Kurupt's bodyguard yells, “We need to go! The cops are coming!” We leave. One member of the crew is on probation.
12:38 AM: We congregate behind Hooters. Kurupt's bodyguard is driving the car. Kurupt gets out of the passenger side while talking on the phone to his personal assistant. He starts screaming, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Everyone else is out here working.” He paces back and forth. He looks pissed. All I hear is “Shut the fuck up and get in the motherfucking game.”
12:50 AM: We decide to end the night early and meet back up on Saturday evening, when Kurupt is playing a show in Anaheim at Mirror Image Studios.
1:21 AM: DJ Nik and I walk through the VIP backstage section to try to find Kurupt. There are two half-naked women with clothes painted on. Everyone is smoking weed.
1:23 AM: We walk through an enormous cloud of smoke.
1:25 AM: We try to walk up to the stage to see if Kurupt is there. There are tons of people everywhere.
1:33 AM: Kurupt shows up with a posse outside the studio. There are four cameras in his face. DJ Nik and I walk up to him. Kurupt gives me a hug. Everyone reeks of weed.
1:41 AM: The entire posse is trying to enter through one door. The back entrance connects to the stage, and too many people try to occupy the same space. There is a man with a face tattoo who almost runs me over.
1:44 AM: We head inside to watch the show. There are almost as many people on stage as there are in the crowd. Still, the crowd is packed tightly. Some dude named Taz gets on stage and says, “Hi, I'm an alcoholic. I'm drunk as this motherfucker [points to rapper Tash from Tha Alkaholiks].”
1:46 AM: Dr. Dre's son Curtis Young aka Hood Surgeon is on stage. An MC is screaming about getting everyone off the stage. It's extremely annoying. Everyone is drunk and/or high and not moving.
1:51 AM: Kurupt finally comes toward the front of the stage with his brother, Philadelphia rapper Roscoe. He starts off his set with a tribute to Nate Dogg. Everyone is throwing up their West Coast signs and waving their hands.
1:55 AM: Kurupt smokes a huge blunt on stage.
1:58 AM: Kurupt raps to Dr. Dre's “Xxplosive” and Warren G and Nate Dogg's “Regulate.” I can see the naked girl's entire ass shaking very fast.
2:26 AM: “I'm gonna come down and smoke with you,” announces Kurupt to the crowd. He bobs his head up and down. He starts freestyling. It's fucking great.
3:10 AM: Kurupt hugs me goodbye before he leaves. He tells me that he's going to write a book about his life.
3:15 AM: Nik and I head over to Denny's, which is about five minutes away.
3:18 AM: It's packed as shit inside. We wait about 25 minutes for a table.
3:20 AM: I ask DJ Nik if he's ever been to jail. He tells me some crazy story about being arrested for having weed and a baseball bat in the backseat of his car about six years ago. The cops claimed he was in possession of a deadly weapon. He used to sell weed back in the day, but he doesn't anymore.
3:41 AM: It seriously looks like a Hot Topic convention to my left. Some dude with five rings in his lip and blood tattoos coming down his neck is among a clan of ugly women wearing slutty, all-black clothes.
3:50 AM: We talk about how the club is a place where you go to get laid. DJ Nik tells me that a lot of ladies try to take him home when he's in the booth. He likes younger women.
4:06 AM: We talk about how pimps make good money. I don't understand why prostitutes can't keep the money they make.
4:10 AM: We conclude that stripping might be more profitable.
See also: Doing Drugs, Lots of Drugs, With Myka 9