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Warren G brings the Long Beach story of ‘G Funk’ in new YouTube documentary

The legendary rap producer/artist loves Kobe — and is all for LeBron joining the Lakers

There aren’t many moments that would provoke a veteran producer to want “to slap the s—” out of anyone. But — oversimplifying the art of music production in front of West Coast legend Warren G makes him think of certain moments of Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story.

An overreaction? Of course. But Long Beach, California’s, own Warren Griffin III has a lot of passion for creating the music that changed his life. The fact that one person could possess not only the brilliance but also the foresight to combine Michael McDonald, a whistle and dialogue from a painfully average Western is baffling. But it’s these sounds that come to life on Warren G’s iconic 1994 “Regulate.” And his musical passion is what drives YouTube Originals’ recently released documentary G Funk. Directed by Karam Gill, the film tells the story of three kids from the Long Beach: Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg. The Undefeated recently caught up with Warren G to talk about producing his first film, his career and, yes, LeBron James.


Why was now the time to tell the origin story of G Funk?

I’ve been wanting to do this doc for years, but a lot of the companies I was trying to work with wanted to change it too much. So I … kept it to myself and said I’m going to take a shot at it and pretty much do it myself. … I met Karam at a show in Orange County, California, and he asked me if he could shoot. I told him yeah. He came along … and started shooting a lot of stuff for me. And then I got at him and said, ‘Look, why don’t you shoot my documentary for me? … Have you ever shot a doc before?’ He said no. So I said, ‘I’ll give you a shot at being a part of history.’

What did you want to show?

The struggle, the trials and tribulations, and what it takes coming from nothing to being called a legend. So it’s going to take people through a journey, seeing the ups and downs and different things that artists go through in order to be successful without selling out.

What song inspired you to make music?

I can’t just say one song. Hip-hop inspired me. The people that came before me, Run-D.M.C., Grandmaster Flash, LA Dream Team, Ice-T, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Ultramagnetic MCs, Kool Moe Dee, Jimmy Spicer, Kool Herc, everybody from the Bronx and [1984’s] Beat Street … all of that. [His stepbrother] Dr. Dre, World Class Wreckin’ Cru, N.W.A. … My dad … turned me on to jazz. I can’t say one record inspired me. But I’ll tell you one record that I felt like was talking to me: ‘Jazz (We’ve Got)‘ from A Tribe Called Quest.

Best song from the G Funk era?

I’d have to say [Dr. Dre’s] “Let Me Ride” … or [Dre and Snoop’s] “Nuthin’ but a G Thang.”

Dream collaboration?

I’d love to do a record with Lauryn Hill. I’d love to do a record with 2 Chainz … Jill Scott … Erykah Badu. Jay-Z, I would love to hear him up under some of my s—. That would change the f—-n’ game too.

What’s the greatest album of all time?

Me Against the World (1995) by 2Pac [Tupac Shakur].

Favorite current artist, and why?

Kendrick Lamar [is] everything that an artist should need to be. He has every intangible that makes him great, and he’s showing you what it takes to be a … complete artist.

What was the first concert you ever went to?

The Fresh Fest. I think it was either ’83 or ’85. I know it was LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C. … I can’t remember everybody that was [on the bill].

If you could wear one shoe for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I’d have to say New Balances. I was a big Adidas fan. I was rocking Adidas before all these people got Adidas deals. Now everybody got Adidas deals, and they ain’t given me a deal, so I’m riding with New Balance.

Any particular model.

The 574s.

“I was rocking Adidas before all these people got Adidas deals. Now everybody got Adidas deals, and they ain’t given me a deal, so I’m riding with New Balance.”

Lakers or Clippers?

You already know. Lakers, baby. Showtime.

Who’s your favorite athlete of all time?

Damn … wait a minute. See that’s hard, because I’m a Magic Johnson fan. I’m a Kareem fan. I’m a Kobe fan. I’m an Earl Campbell fan … a Marcus Allen fan. But, for right now, Ima say Kobe Bryant.

How do you feel about LeBron James signing with the Lakers?

It’s great because it opens up an opportunity for us to get a lot more great players, because a lot of people respect and love the King. And he can drive a lot of guys here to help us be great again.

What’s one thing you learned in producing your first film?

It’s a lot of work. I’m a producer as far as doing records, so it’s the same model, nothing different. You have to get a lot of things cleared. You gotta deal with all the stuff you don’t want to have to deal with. You got people that come from out of the woodwork that you don’t even know. Being a successful producer is great, and we’ve got a lot of success with this documentary. It feels good to be a [film] producer. [This] is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’d love to do a record with Lauryn Hill. I’d love to do a record with 2 Chainz … Jill Scott … Erykah Badu. Jay-Z.”

What’s the biggest misconception about producing music?

People tend to think that we’re not putting in work. I [saw] a comment the other day where a certain individual said all producers do is sit in the studio and listen to one snare and a kick drum … but there’s more to producing than that. You’ve got to be open to sound and to creation and to vibes and feelings. I kinda felt disrespected as a producer for him saying that, and if he’d been right there in my face I probably would’ve slapped the s— out of him. (Laughs.) I ain’t no violent dude, but I can’t stand for somebody to disrespect something that they don’t know about. See about it, then talk about it.

How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop?

It’s in a good state. A lot of corporations are working with hip-hop culture to sell products, but at the same it provides for our culture. Showing our culture that you can be a businessman, that you can be a businesswoman, you can get into the corporate world and be successful too. That’s what’s happening right now [in] hip-hop outside of the negativity of just a couple of individuals’ stupidity. It’s in a great state.

C. Isaiah Smalls, II is a Rhoden Fellow and a graduate of Morehouse College from Lansing, Michigan. He studied Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies. He was Editor-in-Chief of The Maroon Tiger.