Humble and nonchalant as ever, Warren G is cooler than Miles Davis smoking an Alaskan cucumber. Like his stepbrother Dr. Dre, he’s a godfather of G-funk — a reclined complement to the harder West Coast gangsta styles designed by N.W.A — and his production hustle is as smooth and lasting as his buttery braggadocio. Aside from going 10 times platinum off the seminal 1994 Long Beach classic single “Regulate,” the hush-spoken MC has touched more laudable projects than his average fan might realize. I asked Warren about those, and about promoting his new release, The G Files (TLC), on the heels of his standout performance at the recent VH1 Hip-Hop Honors tribute to Def Jam.
At Hip-Hop Honors, what was it like being the only West Coast cat in the room again?
It let me know that I’m officially a true legend in the game. Def Jam and I helped each other a lot, and it was great to see all those people plus all the artists who I provided a platform for. There was nothing but love. Good people recognize good people, and I’m not caught up in all the bullshit. I’m just myself; I give people respect, and they give it back. When I wasn’t getting a chance to do my thing here [in California], it took a whole other state to recognize the talent. It’s always all business, and we sold a lot of records together. If Jay-Z wanted me to ride with him on Roc Nation tomorrow, then I’d ride with him. I don’t care if he’s from New York or Budapest.
What is it about Long Beach that gives your music such a different sound from what we've always heard from cats who hail from Los Angeles?
I try to be more soulful with my music but with a little gangsta touch to it. I want people to smoke, drink, and dance to that.
Los Angeles is in the news now with the arrest of dozens of members of the Rolling 40s gang. What's the gang climate out there right now?
If that’s the life you’re living, then you’re bound to get caught up. They played those cards and they got caught. You choose to stop and get a job, then you can’t do anything but go up. I see dudes in New York with Gucci shoes on pushing a hot-dog cart — that’s a true hustler. Out here we’re lazy — we want the fast money.
What's the difference between the new Warren G and the one who hit the scene in the early ’90s?
When I first came out, I didn’t really understand how much I was going to make. I was reckless, and now I understand that it’s about saving and investing. My kids are still young, but they’ll be the first in my family besides a few of my uncles to graduate from college. Hopefully I can get all five of them to be something in life. Then it will be time to chill and hang out with my wife.
What was the musical relationship between you and Dr. Dre growing up?
It’s a big-brother/little-brother thing. That’s who I looked up to — I asked him to teach me how to DJ and he showed me how. I’ve been around Dre for 30 years.