This weekend Warren G turns 41, celebrating with a show at the Key Club on Friday. But while everyone knows him for “Regulate,” his signature duet with Nate Dogg, he's actually had important roles in hip-hop history, many of which have gone under-discussed.
Warren Griffin III started his career as one-third of rap trio 213, along with the Doggs Nate and Snoop. Taking their name from the Long Beach area code, they recorded a particularly potent demo which Warren was able to get in the hands of his step-brother, Dr. Dre. He thus not only hooked up Dre with Snoop, but played an important role behind the scenes at Death Row Records, helping Dre produce The Chronic and shaping the west coast g-funk sound that changed hip-hop.
After Snoop and Nate accepted deals from Death Row, Warren G went solo before eventually signed to Violator Records who — following a purchase by Polygram — got his 1994 debut Regulate… G Funk Era distributed by Def Jam. With Def Jam in the midst of its darkest hour (notoriously investing in horrorcore flop Flatlinerz), Warren G pretty much saved the label, moving some four million units worldwide.
A big part of his debut's success was, of course, “Regulate,” which broke the mold a bit. With most West coast hip-hop trading in heavier, bassier funk, his track had a distinctly smoother mix. (As Nate Dogg sings on the track: “The rhythm is the bass, and the bass is the treble.”) The result? One of g-funk's most accessible, and enduring, hits.
Over time Warren G has also earned a reputation as one of the most reliable artists featured on movie soundtracks. “Regulate” was among the most memorable cuts from Above the Rim, of course, but he first made a splash as a solo artist in Poetic Justice with “Indo Smoke” (featuring Mista Grimm). He later had a #2 hit with “What's Love Got to Do With It” from the Jackie Chan film Supercop.
Warren G's had a few sleeper hits since, including 1999's “I Want It All.” He also linked back up with Snoop and Nate for 213's official debut album The Hard Way in 2004. He's most recently spent the better part of the decade being a favorite cast member on several reality shows. In 2007, he was the captain of his team on the fifth season of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, losing 31 lbs., and mentored actress Countess Vaughn on MTV's Celebrity Rap Superstar.
And then there's his charity work. He's known for buying hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses for children in need, and annually donates to the California Recreation Center and the Midnight Basketball League. His philanthropy was recognized by Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neall, who named the beginning August, 2005 “Warren G Week.”
All in all, he deserves more shine. Happy birthday, Mr. G!