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Warren G: 'It's A Cold Game'

Warren G during Celebrity Blackjack in 2010.
Jeff Kravitz
FilmMagic, Inc
Warren G during Celebrity Blackjack in 2010.

Last summer we linked with Warren G for the last interview we tried to do bicoastal. And it's fitting that one of the main instigators of G-funk music was the one who convinced us to move operations to LA. We're airing it now, because despite some disconnect, the insight and the tempo is too good to bury.

We spoke about "Deeez Nuuuts" and payola and the best places to dig. Warren G is smooth as ever in conversation with somebody from the other side of the country who first met him when everything was getting started, Ali Shaheed Muhammad.


WARREN G: What's up, man?

MUHAMMAD: Welcome to Microphone Check.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: It's good to have you. I haven't seen you forever.

WARREN G: Oh yeah.

MUHAMMAD: It's been —

WARREN G: A long time.

MUHAMMAD: I feel like almost 20 years. Almost.

WARREN G: We didn't ran into each other — I can't remember. But it was — I'm not sure if it was — how long ago it was. But I seen you — I forgot where it was.

MUHAMMAD: 15. 10. 12 years. Let's go with that. Man, it's been a minute, though.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: What you been doing?

WARREN G: Man, just working. Just mainly producing and developing new artists and stuff. I'm working with this cat named Mike Slice out of Orange County. A white dude, but he dope. So I'm like, "Let me go on and get behind this guy." Cause he young and he understands and he talented — and know what to do with music. Instead of just rapping, he know how to give you the story, everything.

MUHAMMAD: Can you forgive my ignorance for a moment? Cause I'm not that familiar with California. Usually, when you hear Orange County, you think lots of chips and the luxurious life.

WARREN G: Yeah, it is. It is.

MUHAMMAD: So I'm like, "Is he from — is there a hood?"

WARREN G: Oh, they got hoods.

MUHAMMAD: Like, there's a real oppressed section of Orange County? Which section is he from?

WARREN G: Yeah. Santa Ana. Santa Ana. Some parts of — well, Santa Ana mainly. That's the real deal. Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: So is he from the real deal or is he from —

WARREN G: Nah, he ain't from the real deal.

MUHAMMAD: He got it a little lovely?

WARREN G: He's from more southern Orange County, almost in Oceanside. But his story is more of how he grew up and stuff like that. And how the young people his age, they can relate to the stuff he talking about. Of what they go through in Orange County, and what they thing — he got a nice following for just coming up out of Orange County. But they really support they people, though.

So I've been doing that. I just dropped a EP, Regulate... The G-Funk Era Pt. 2. Just giving the fans what they want. They just like, "Warren, bring back the G-funk. Bring back the G-funk." So I was like, "You know what? I'ma give 'em this." For right now. Just to give them something to listen to for now. And then —

MUHAMMAD: Is that why it was just an EP?

WARREN G: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Just a little morsel.

WARREN G: Yeah. And gear up for a more bigger — a full-length.


WARREN G: So I've been doing that. Just producing. Just making music, man. I was gonna get involved with the Straight Outta Compton soundtrack, but I was on the road a lot. Which — that's another thing. I'm on the road constantly just, you know, doing them shows, getting that show money.

MUHAMMAD: Do you enjoy the live performance part of music?

WARREN G: I love it. I love it. I mean, it's cool. Like, every now and then you may go to a town or something, and it ain't all the way filled up like it's supposed to be. But I still give it to 'em as if I'm in front of 100,000. I still do the same thing. But I love doing it, man. That's a lot of the feeling I get out of — when I'm doing music, just to see people love it. You know what I'm saying?


WARREN G: So that right there is just — it's a good feeling, man. Like when we go overseas and be at those festivals and stuff and you got 60,000 people singing your songs, it's like, "Wow." 100,000. The feeling is incredible. I just love for people to love my music, man.

I mean, that's a lot of the things I been doing. And starting to learn a little bit more, musically.

MUHAMMAD: Like what?

WARREN G: I want to learn how to really write. So if we sitting here, me and you — we thinking of an idea — I could write it. Like, write a lot of the notes, of how I feel it should go. It's going to be a difficult thing to do but I'ma try.

MUHAMMAD: Are you taking classes on that sort of composition?

WARREN G: Yeah. I got a cat. I got a cat who showing me. I keep having to leave and go out of town to do shows so it's kind of hard. But hopefully before the holidays or something, I could get at least a good three weeks straight.

MUHAMMAD: To me, that's — in terms of just like making music and coming from sampling and DJing aspect/approach or entry to music, it's always like that's — being able to write music is always that high goal that I have, too. So I'm like, I don't if I'm ever going to reach that. I think it's so G when you can just close your eyes, think of a song, write it down on paper and know exactly —

WARREN G: Herbie Hancock.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. Herbie Hancock. What it's going to sound like without hearing it. And I think that's the ultimate level of creativity.


MUHAMMAD: And that's dope.

WARREN G: If I get it, man, I'ma be off the chain.

MUHAMMAD: So can I go back a moment? In touring, in doing the large festivals and being energized by like 60,000 people singing your songs — if I hadn't experienced it, I wouldn't know what that feel like. And it's hard to really explain that. But you are very laid back and chill. Have you ever been motivated by that to just jump out and dive out into the stage and just let them surf you around?

WARREN G: S*** I would if they make sure they gon' catch me. I do it. I just gotta make sure. Cause I don't want to be on World Star or any of them other — Boom! Hitting the ground. Mm-mm. If they say, "OK. We got you, Warren," I'm in the air.

MUHAMMAD: I'm just wondering. I've never been motivated to take a dive. But I was just wondering from you.

WARREN G: I'll try it.


WARREN G: As long as they got me.

MUHAMMAD: Alright.


MUHAMMAD: So your studio process, can you explain, like, what are you using?

WARREN G: Well, right now, I'm getting more into the analog feel. So I just got the Nucleus, the Alpha-Link and the SSL Sigma. All of them is SSL. And I didn't want to spend no $30,000 just for that one board, so I got the pieces that'll sound just like it. So the Sigma is the same system that — the AWS, that new SSL board — it's the same system that it uses. That'll give me the analog feel. And then the Alpha-Link is a more — well, actually, the Sigma is more of a interface, and the Alpha-Link is helping me be able to get everything through to the — all three of them connected to come out through the Nucleus to still give me the analog feel through the digital coming back out.

MUHAMMAD: Why'd you feel that that's the direction you wanted to go into, like more analog?

WARREN G: It's just a warmer feel. And I'm a huge SSL fan, so I can't wait to be able to turn the knobs. Cause the Nucleus makes it to where you can really touch the knobs. I don't like to — I can't work with a mouse. I gotta be able to turn them knobs, so I can work with the EQs and the compressors and gates and stuff like that.

But I work with that. I work with the Renaissance. My turntable. My crate of records. Turntable mixer.

MUHAMMAD: I hear you still digging.

WARREN G: Yeah. You got to. You can't stop digging. You stop digging; it's a wrap, you know. And the reason why I dig —

FRANNIE KELLEY: Do you still go to the store though?

WARREN G: Yeah. Yeah. I go — actually, I was supposed to go — that was Saturday. But I got railroaded. They asked to come get down in the Athletes For Cancer, so I went and did that. But I was supposed to go to the beat swap meet Saturday, and that's just — so whenever you need to find some records, I know a cold spot where I'm from in Long Beach, California, that's cold.

MUHAMMAD: I'll take the drive for that.

WARREN G: It's cold. They got, like, everything. That's like one of the hidden gems that guys don't really know about, but I do. You gotta really stay in there a while though, but it's got every genre you can imagine. I mean imagine.

MUHAMMAD: Are they ridiculous with the prices or is it —

WARREN G: They not too bad. They not too bad. But it's cool. It's pretty cool.

I mean, I also work with a lot of musicians. I like to bring them in and do certain parts when I'm producing, cause that's also, like, a warmer — a warm feel to me. And I don't like ugly music. I'm a soulful person. I like my music to feel good, you know.

MUHAMMAD: Well, I was just about to say it. G-funk is — it seems like it's just real music. It's just like — you gotta be more hands on and not mashing up a whole bunch of —

WARREN G: Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: I'm not going to say ugly stuff, but it just feels more organic, your sound.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah. I mean, I love live instruments. I just love doing music, man.

I love it when I find a sample though, too, that's just out of this world. And just getting it into your drum machine and getting it dissected and do what you want to do. And then you get the drums behind it, it's just — it's incredible. And then when you able to put the live bass over it, oh, wow.

MUHAMMAD: Are you playing bass?

WARREN G: I ain't playing bass, but I got guys that's nice.

MUHAMMAD: You got guys. I was about to say we could do a little jam session right here.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: Next time?

WARREN G: Yeah. It's all good.

I'm still learning, man. I play on the keyboard, but I'm really — I'm learning more — I don't really know — I just get on and dig for the sound. I don't know. I gotta learn the relationships of where to go after here, here, here and here. I just play with it, and I try to figure out where to go with that after that. But I'm learning more of how the notes and stuff is related.


WARREN G: So then —

MUHAMMAD: So it's been mostly feeling.

WARREN G: Mm-hmm.

MUHAMMAD: Which is — that's something you can't teach.


MUHAMMAD: So to have the feel of where you feel it should go and to be able to do that is pretty incredible. But being able to then communicate those notes and chords to someone is —



WARREN G: Like when I'm talking to my musicians, I have to hum it to 'em. And then I hum until he figure out what note I'm at. If I want him to play the bass, I tell him, "OK. I want you to —" You know? I tell him and he'll follow — and we'll learn the notes.

But I'm starting to really — the guy that I'm working with, he taught me some way out — I don't know if it's way out, but he taught me a way to find the key of what a lot of the records in. He was just like, "The main thing you do is just listen to the bass. And then when you listening to the bass and you catching that first note, just try to do like the do-re-mi-fa-so. And whichever one you feel that it matches up with, then it's like A-B-C-D-E-F-G. And then you get it right." I tried it. I was like, "Damn, this s*** work!"

MUHAMMAD: That's exactly how I learned.


MUHAMMAD: Same thing. Listening for the bass and I'm like — to me the bass was like the center, or the root, and then once I — same thing, do-re-mi. It was like, "Oh. No. No. That's close to it." And then it's like, "Oh!" And then, yeah. And then learning everything else, so, yeah, I know where you are and that's exciting.

Frannie, it sounded like you wanted — did you want to jump in and say something?

KELLEY: Yeah. I guess it's two things. You said that you love to make music that people love. And I think — well, I guess my first question is how do you know that people are gonna love it? When you're making decisions about what feels right or not, are you like, "Oh yeah, they're going to love this?" How do you recognize it?

WARREN G: I mean, it just feel good when it feels good. We all the same — well, a lot of people feel different about different things. I don't know. It's just — I can't make — I don't like to make scary music. I want it to be soulful. I don't get like major happy, like dun-dun-duh-dun. I ain't — no. I just want the feel — I don't know. I don't know what it is, but what I do do is I love to have a lot of women in the studio, cause when they start grooving to it, then that lets me know, OK, I got something here.

KELLEY: Yeah, we got better ears than men.

WARREN G: My homeboys or somebody they be like, "Damn. That s*** hard." I could cuss on — I'm OK?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. You can.

WARREN G: Yeah, like one of my buddies will be like, "Man, that's hard." And then just from there, I'm just like, "OK, I got something here, so I'ma keep working." Cause it feel good to me, but I don't know what other people be thinking. That's why I be having people in there. So I could say, "Damn. I think this is dope, and I'ma see what they think." And then they be like, "That s*** is hard."

And they'll tell me like, "Mmm." You know, if they ain't feeling — like, "Ah. That's alright." Then I be like, on the record, "I don't like this. I don't know. This is b******* to me." Another person will be like, "Man, you tripping. That s*** is dope." So I listen to the people around me. And then I listen to — sometimes I go with my gut.


WARREN G: Mm-hmm.

MUHAMMAD: Have you had a song that you felt like you were so disconnected from it, but everyone around you was on it, and you let it go and it turned out to be something really special?

WARREN G: Let me see. Well, "Regulate" — well, nah. I take that back. Cause that — well, I knew it was dope. I knew it was good. I didn't think — I didn't know people was — they was going to like it. Because of what I did, rapping over Michael McDonald. They probably like, "Ah, this is corny or something." But I didn't — I knew I liked it, and I knew Nate liked it. So we was like, "Let's try it."

Back then I sampled — on my MPC60, I sampled — I connected a VCR, the RCA jacks, into my MPC60, and I found the numbers. And I went to the part and I played it, and just sampled the whole little part, the regulators. "We regulate any stealing of this property. We're damn good, too." And I took it and pieced it up. But it — it matched up, man.

And I got clip of it, when I first did it, without any — we didn't have no lyrics on it. We was in a limousine. I had a song out called "Indo Smoke" that was popular, real popular out here in LA. I don't know how far it got. It was on the Poetic Justice soundtrack, and we was riding to go perform that. And I popped it in on the cassette, and we just start freestyling and singing to it.

And Nate — the s*** Nate sung on there was incredible. I was thinking like, "S***! We should've had him do that on the record." We just went ahead and went back and forth; we wanted to try going back and forth.

MUHAMMAD: How instrumental was Nate Dogg to your process?

WARREN G: Very. Very. Cause he knew what to do as far as — I give the feeling of the record, and sometimes the whole concept, but he would — all I would do was tell him one thing, but he would already know what to do. Just off of hearing what it is, he would know where to take it. A lot of people I work with, they don't really get it. I gotta tell them, "OK. I think you should write this about that or this about that." And they just — they don't get it. But he knew exactly what to do whenever we done something.

Or he'd just take the pad; he would just start writing. And then he'll say — he be like, "Turn the mic on." He'd say, "Turn on the mic. Let me get in the vocal booth." So I'd let his ass in there. And he'd get in there and the s*** that just come out would be incredible. And I'd be like, "Damn." And he'd say, "Alright. Let's go to the next one." And so I'll pull up something else. Or do something live, start writing, go in there, and he would lay it. "Alright. Let's go to the next."

So that's how we used to do it. We'd just do the hook and just go to the next. And then after we got so many, then we'd come back and listen to 'em like, "OK. Let's do this one right here. OK, let's do that one."

MUHAMMAD: Did he ever give you any direction on some of what you should be saying on a song?

WARREN G: Never. Nah.

MUHAMMAD: Never. He stood in his lane.

WARREN G: Yeah. Yeah. He would match up whatever. Or sometime I would go off of what he did, and he would just go off of whatever I started with.

Like on "Regulate," I set it off. I said, "OK. I'ma write the first four and then you come in with your four after me." And I was higher than a m***********, buzzing, and I don't what the f*** made me say, "It was a clear black night, a clear white moon. Warren G was on the streets trying to consume some skirts for the eve, so I could get some phones. Rolling in my ride, chilling all alone."

I don't know what the f*** made me do that at that time. I was just loaded and just thinking about, I guess, what I was going through at that time. And then he came and just hit it right on the nose. "Just hit the east side of the LBC on a mission trying to find Mr. Warren G."

MUHAMMAD: Magical.

WARREN G: That's what we used to do.

MUHAMMAD: It's magical. But I guess that's the magic, when you tell it like what it really is.

WARREN G: Just like y'all. I'm a fan — a huge fan — of you guys, Tribe Called Quest. I'm a huge fan, and I'ma tell you a song that inspired me, man, that to this day I still love the record. That's "We Got The Jazz."

MUHAMMAD: Oh, man.

WARREN G: That's my s***, cause I felt like he was talking to me. I was going through that whole — that was me.


WARREN G: And then — I forgot — "Microphone check, one two, what is this? The five-foot assassin —" that was my s*** too. All of that. All of that s***. "Scenario."

KELLEY: Why do you think we named the podcast Microphone Check?

WARREN G: Oh, I can dig it. Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: That's crazy. You know, I remember distinctly the first time we met. I actually remember first hearing your name was from — may he rest in peace — Chris Lighty.

WARREN G: Oh, my dog.

MUHAMMAD: And he was just going crazy about you. And he was like, "I'm going out there to meet with you." And so I don't even know why I was in L.A. at that time, but it was like — I don't think it was the first time you guys met, but it was just one of the times. And I don't remember if you were shooting a video or if Snoop was shooting a video in Long Beach —

WARREN G: That was Snoop.

MUHAMMAD: That was Snoop?

WARREN G: It might've been —

MUHAMMAD: They had Rottweilers out there.

WARREN G: That was "What's My Name."

MUHAMMAD: Oh, OK. There we go.

WARREN G: Yeah, that was Snoop. Under the bridge.

MUHAMMAD: Under the bridge. And I came to your house, your apartment, and you was playing some music. And I was just like, "Yo, I don't know who this Warren G is but he's cool as I don't know what."

WARREN G: Yeah. Oh, yeah.


WARREN G: Damn, I miss Chris, man. I had just talked to him — I had talked to him, and then I had called him again. He told me to call him again. That was probably like maybe two or three weeks before that s***. Cause I was like, "Man, I gotta get back with my people." Even though I'm way over here on the West Coast, that's who put me in the game. I was getting back with him just to — like, "You gotta help me get into this new era, how this stuff is going." And all of this stuff happened.

MUHAMMAD: We're coming up like literally to the day, almost, of his passing. It's three years already. It's — I'm just so affected by it. But what did Chris teach you? You know, something that really stood out from your interaction with him.

WARREN G: He just pretty much taught me to just be myself. He didn't try to control nothing I was doing. He just told me, "Just be yourself." I was a little roughneck at first. He had to bail me out of jail. That was terrible, but that was all at-the-young-age stuff. I wasn't nothing but 18, 19 years old.

After that, from just watching him and how he moved, him and Lyor and Russell and them, it just taught me to try to move like they move, as far as doing the things that they doing. Not getting caught up in no b******* and just trying to get into business stuff to where — like Russell would always say, "So your grandkids can eat." That's my mission to get things moving like that, to where my kids and grandkids and stuff like that can have a good life, a better life than I did coming up.

Not that mines was just terrible, but not having to grow up in the hood and, you know, bad situations and stuff like that. You know, they cool. And they good. They ain't — my boy — I got four boys and two girls. They good kids. They get on my nerves sometime, but they good kids. And I'm just glad to be able to make 'em good kids, instead of them growing up and getting caught up going to jail and s*** like that.

MUHAMMAD: When you were 18, 19, what was your vision for, like, in terms of making music? And what did you want out of it?

WARREN G: Man, I didn't — well, I mean, I just wanted people to love what I did. I didn't even care — I wasn't even tripping off of if it was selling or not. I just wanted from L.A. to New York and down South to hear my music. Just to hear it.

But my vision at — it was some situations that I went through that gave me a vision on how I wanted to move and try to be successful. And that was around the time when I was around the Death Row stuff. And a lot of things went on over there as far as me not being a part of a lot of the things that was going on, so I felt kind of left out.

So that right there kind of really — that gave me that hunger and that drive. My vision was to let them know that I got talent, too. And this is what I do. I'm not here just to be here. I got talent. So that was my vision. Just to let them see it and let the world see that I make dope music.

MUHAMMAD: And then fast forward now, you've had so much success and have, I mean, pretty much cultivated your own sound and corner of it. And now still producing, you sound like you're working with young people, which I think is a really good thing and motivational to keep a older statesman connected. But in moving forward, putting out music, what now is the motivation?

WARREN G: Just hearing the new music, hearing the new artists. Knowing that — I mean, knowing that I could do it better, as far as making music for those artists. Better than a lot of the stuff that I be hearing. So that motivates me.

And I get motivated as a producer just by hearing another dope producer that done a dope beat. It makes me go hard like, "I gotta do some dope music like that to get these people going." Like whoever produced — I think it's the same guy. He did two records for — well, the one with T.I. and Young Thugger, "About The Money."

MUHAMMAD: I don't know who produced it.

WARREN G: "If it ain't about the money." That m*********** hard. That and "Lifestyle."

MUHAMMAD: Oh, yeah. I don't know who produced those songs though. [Editor: London on the Track]

WARREN G: I like — I love the way that m*********** start off. I was like, "Wait a minute. This m*********** been listening to some s***!" Cause he started it off with the piano. You know, Thugger — I don't understand what he's saying, but it's hard. And it had the little rise. And then the way that 808 just kicked in. Boom. It landed right in the pocket, so cold. That s*** was dope. I was like, "Wow."

So stuff like that motivates me. And just all of the music out there period. I just want to keep doing dope music and wanting to get into more doing commercials and stuff like that. Like, I know I could score a movie. That's easy, cause I did a lot of skits and stuff. So I know I could score a movie however they want me to — as long as they tell me what they want the feel or whatever and those numbers and that timeline, I'ma give it to them.

MUHAMMAD: Can we talk about just a couple — like your preacher skits. Who —

WARREN G: Did you hear the one —

MUHAMMAD: The new one? It's so official. It's like too official. Is he — he's not a real — was it a real preacher to the —

WARREN G: His dad was. Yeah. His dad was a real preacher. Reverend Harris.

What he did is — I just tell him to just say it. Once he — like he said everything he said. Actually, he freestyled that. Cause his ass was sleep, and I woke him and I said, "Rick, it's three in the morning, man." But the guy who was engineering, he was terrible. He couldn't get s*** working, running. Like, "C'mon, man." So I was like, "Wake up, Rick. Let's get it." And he just went in there and I said, "You just gotta go for maybe like 30 seconds, just talk." And he ended it like right on time. I was like, "Wow." And he just talked.

And then from there, what I did is I called in one of my guys. He play keys. He's incredible. His name is Craig Brockman. And Andrew Gouché, who's a great bass guitar player, I told them I want them to — and they play in the church. So I told 'em, "I want you guys to play as if he's doing a real sermon in the church." So I had them play up under him.

And then from there I just went and just thought of the different — I went off of what he was saying. He's like, "Touch a neighbor right now! Touch a neighbor!" And I was like, "Get your hand out my pocket, fool!" You know, just making it funny and stuff. And then like it's a dirty preacher. Or somebody else touching — he looking like he pat her on the ass or something. She like, "Watch your hand now!" Different stuff like that.

I don't know. I just like to make stuff like that. Like in the movies, you just start — you open up to it. I just went off of what Ricky had said and then just added all the other elements to it. But even on The Chronic, the first Chronic, the "Deeez Nuuuts" skit. I told Dre, I said, "Look. Turn the phone on. I'm fixing to call my homegirl and I'ma get her." So I called her; it was a real conversation. And then I told her — I said, "Ay, ay. Did what's-his-name get at you?" And she was like, "Who?" "Deez nuts." She was like, "Ah, shut up, n****." That was my homegirl Rekina.

All of that stuff is just — and another thing that taught me a lot of that was just watching old school movies. Another skit that I did on The Chronic, the first one, was the part from The Mack. "You really don't understand do you? In order for us to make this thing work, we got to get rid of the pimps, the p******, and start all over again." That's the feeling — that was like how I felt. I was like, "That's me and Dre." So I played it for him and he liked it.

It was that. It was, "If I had some nuts on the wall, it would be walnuts. If I had some nuts under my chin — nah, you'd have my d*** in your mouth!" That Dolemite. I had actually — I bought all those records. Even though Dre was into Dolemite way before me — him and Eazy and them — I kind of like refreshed it. I went — you might've been to this record store before, As The Record Turns. On Melrose, I think it was. The humongous — I know, Tip, Q-Tip, been there.

MUHAMMAD: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

WARREN G: Huge. Huge. They had ladders where you could climb up. I got all those records — Steve. Nah, was it Steve? I think it's Steve. I think that was his name, Steve. Kind of Asian, mixed Asian. I think he black though. I dealt with him. He had that s*** called The Program where you pay so much money and you could just go in there anytime you want to and dig. He got me. I ain't gon' lie. He got me. Cause I did it. That's where I bought a lot — I got a lot of those records that we used on The Chronicright there. Uh huh.

And then I used to go to a break store in Torrance, where I got a lot of breaks. And that's where I got the "Let Me Ride" break. I still got the record, too. It's dirty as s*** and kind of broke a little bit, but it had that one little part. And then the other part came in. "Let me ride!" But it was a little bit — it was a little different. Dre had some people sing a little over it. He was like, "S***, I like this s***."

And "G Thang," I bought that record — it was in a crate of records that I bought out of Carson, California. It was an old record store, and he gave me some money to go get records. And I went, pulled them records out of there.

MUHAMMAD: Wow. So you do more than just like buy records and just needle drop it and just skim. You sound like you just listen to the whole thing.

WARREN G: You got to.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. I do that, but I know some people who just like — they'll —

WARREN G: I skim through it. I skim through it. It's a way — I get on there, and I listen to the — I cut through, and I'll try to find the bridge. Cause that's where a lot of the dopeness come in, right around the bridge. So I try to — sometime I go back and I say, "OK. Wait a minute." I go back and say, "Let me listen some more." Cause if I hear something dope right there, I'll be like, "Wait a minute. Let me rewind." So I listen to the whole thing and see how it all come together.

Now if it's just dope from the beginning, I just listen to it all the way through just to see how I could chop it and make it into something. Mm-hmm.

KELLEY: You were tweeting the other day about the politics of the industry.

WARREN G: Oh, s***. Uh-huh.

KELLEY: What are you talking about? What was that all about?

WARREN G: Well, I mean, it's just a messed up situation. Especially here in L.A., as far as the radio — and just in music, period, people gotta start — I don't know if it's gon' ever be like that again, but for the love of the music instead of all of the other stuff. And out here in L.A., a lot of these PDs and a lot of these people at the heads of the stations, it's people I gave jobs to, people I helped with what I'm doing.

And one thing about me is I never want to give nobody a wack record. If I'm giving you something, I'm never trying to have nobody say, "Oh, that stuff Warren G did is wack." I ain't trying to have nobody say that, so I'm not gon' never bring them no wack music. But it's just too many ropes and hoops and loops that you gotta climb through just to get your music going. And I explained to 'em like — I mean, this is all I know. I don't know all that other — nothing else. And this is how —

KELLEY: What are they asking you to do?

WARREN G: You gotta go to clubs doing free shows and stuff like that while they cash in, you know, on it.

And it just the relationship should be more better than that. I ain't telling you you gotta just take it and play it. I'm giving you some dope music. I'm hearing b------ that's just being played 25, 30 times a day damn near. And I'm like, "Wow. This is where I'm from and I can't even get the support." I was in New York — s*** — Ebro popped me right up in there, did an interview. Boom. The s*** was big. I'm way out in other places. Atlanta. When I come there, they open they arms — everywhere I go it's open arms, but I'm here at the house and these m************ don't even — I've got support. I'm not gon' say I haven't. I did Big Boy's morning show, and I've done Power's morning show.

But it's just after that, the other guys. I want Felli Fel to play my s***. I want Carisma to play my s***. I want Yesi Ortiz to play my s***. I want the L.A. Leakers to play my s***. I want Vick One over there at 92.3 to play my s***, to get it built up in the mix shows and stuff like that. Because when it's playing here — other places pick it up, like, "Damn. What the f*** is this? Let's play this." When they ain't supporting it, it makes you look bad all the way around. So I just hate the b******* of it.

And, you know, I even got homeboys who got DJ — like most of these popular DJs right now that's all over the world — black, Asian, white — one of my friends manage all of them. And I call him like, "Look, man. I need you to take this record and test it out. Have 'em test it out. See what people think." Gave me the run around. I'm like, "Wow. I gave you your first m*********** job when you wasn't s***."

MUHAMMAD: In giving the run around, is it just like they're not keeping it 100 with you or they just telling you —

WARREN G: Not at all.

MUHAMMAD: That's —

WARREN G: No 100. I'll tell you who kept it 100 with me. That was Eric V from The Baka Boyz. He kept it 100. He told me — he said — with "My House," he was like, "I like 'My House,' but I don't like the Nate Dogg part, the Nate Dogg voice in there." And he said, "So I'm not going to be able to play that because I don't like that part." But at the same time I'm like, "I'm not getting ready to change Nate m*********** part because you said to, you know?" So I got kind of hot at him, but then I had to respect what he said. I was like, "Damn."

So I still went ahead and rolled with the record, but I just went viral with it. I didn't even go to radio like, "OK. This is the single." Cause it wasn't. This was just a viral thing I did. And the first — soon as I shot the video out there, the first day it got 2,000,000 views. I'm like — "OK. It means somebody like it."

So I was salty about it. But then I called him back and I apologized cause I kind of went bananas on him, cussed him out a little bit. But I told him I was sorry. And, you know, "I respect what you said, now. Here go another one, now. Let's roll." Which is "Saturday," which is me, E-40 and Too $hort. I'm like, "OK. Now if there's something wrong with this, then I'm starting to think something else going on."

But a lot of these m************, it shouldn't even be no "what they think," because a lot of these guys, if it wasn't for me bringing Snoop and all of us up to the radio station back in the day, I don't even think Power 106 would be as big it is now. We made that m*********** big. And then everybody that we had with us in there, all of 'em got fired, or they moved 'em out somewhere. So everybody got moved away.

It's just a trip, man. It's just — it got me to where now I'm like, "F*** the regular radio. I don't give a f*** about that s*** no more." I'm just gon' go f*** with Sirius. I'ma f*** with Dash and all the other independent Internet radio stations and do my s*** that way. Hopefully, some of my base can still get the music, but the m************ that's on the Internet gon' get it. Because it's not the same. They don't play all them b******* games.

Shade 45 added my record right in. They got 40 million listeners. So I'm like, "Wow." I'm on that type of thing. OK. This is 40 million. These m************ here might have a million — may have a million to two million. But this 40 million here on the Internet, this is worldwide. And that's where I want to get my music anyway. So I kind of gave up on it.

But one of my guys who's working the record for me, working the new single "Saturday," he was like, "I got a lot lined up. Don't get frustrated with it. It is pretty f***** up the way these m************ are acting when you a vet in this m***********. You've paved the way for a lot of these m************ here. And in the music industry, period. But just give me more time and let me still work this and see how it's gon' pan out." But I was like, "F*** these m************. S***. They can kiss my ass. S***." And that s*** pisses me off because you got this little squirmy m*********** behind the desk controlling your s***. And this is how I get my music out. This is what I know: music.

So that's another thing that motivated me to get into other sides of music, as far as doing music for commercials and films, scoring and stuff like that, wanting to do all of that. It's that type of s***. Just to show you m************ ain't gon' stop me from doing what the f*** I'm doing. I'm gon' do this here. You don't want to f*** with me here? OK. I'ma go over here, and I'ma make even more money.

And when your ass get booted out of there and your ass out on the street. And you working at some little small club or something, or some little small s***, and you ask me to do something, I'ma tell you to kiss my m************ ass.

MUHAMMAD: That's very real. At one point I was questioning when — especially from seasoned veterans who have helped pave the way and put a lot of money into the system — and then there's these challenges and obstacles, especially from an independent level, when you're not buying into their programs, which ultimately to me — I've been saying lately — is just a refined way of payola and —


MUHAMMAD: I mean, no one wants to admit it or say it, but that's what it seems like to me.

WARREN G: I did it, and it still didn't work.

MUHAMMAD: So I've been wondering like, "What's the answer?" And I feel like there has been a lot of criticism, and you're always going to have haters, but I think what Dre did is masterful. Because it changes the game. There was no alternative for something to happen, for a possibility outside of regular commercial radio for certain people to exist and your music to be heard. That platform, to me, I think is the beginning of — only time will tell what it is. It's the beginning. But I feel like it's a great way to take back control, to a degree.

WARREN G: They got me on there. I'm lucky to be one of the first guys to get — I did an interview for it, and that was dope. He ain't even f****** with that radio s***. None of it. He got his own —

MUHAMMAD: Well, I mean —

WARREN G: — his own world. That's what I'm saying. Away from that s***. He don't give a f*** if they don't play it or not. And that's how I'm feeling, too, as far as — that's why I was saying Shade 45, Dash and then now Apple, the Apple Beats Radio. I mean, all three of them show me love.

MUHAMMAD: I'm just wondering when — obviously, his situation is — it seems like it's unique and impossible to achieve again. I don't really believe that. I feel like there are enough established artists, and financially established artists, who can come together and sort of pull together to try and make the change. I feel like Jay, Jay Z, is on the same kind of wavelength with TIDAL and just looking to change that, whatever that challenge is at commercial radio where we are not being accepted. We're not being let in anymore.

I don't know what else it's going to take.

WARREN G: I don't know, man. I guess for one of them to get it, get that feeling, to see that, "OK. They not playing my s*** like it should be played. So I'm getting ready to create my own s***." And then seeing the other situations that other artists go through.

Like, I'm an example. I gave these m************ a lot of money. I sponsored a weekend for that. Didn't get no love out of it. Felt like, "Damn. I got ripped off." But if I went another route with it on some thug s*** then I'd be in jail. I can't say, "OK. Damn. They got me." You know, cause the way it was done, but *** —

KELLEY: Wait, you sponsored the weekend recently?

WARREN G: This was last — probably bout a year or two ago.


WARREN G: I had a record that I wanted to put out there. It's called "Still In Love." That m*********** still dope too. And it was an Al Green sample; they kind of tripped on me. It was like — cause I didn't get it cleared. But I was just like, "This is just like a mixtape." They were still like, "You can't use it." So I was like, "Alright.

But the record right now, it was like — I was just explaining what I've done to help all these labels and what I did helping them. It wasn't no diss record. It was just real s***.

And then another thing that we have to get back control, which on the East Coast you guys — I take my hat off to the guys in New York — and down South. Black DJs. Ain't none here. They are, but they ain't on the radio. Ain't none of 'em — ain't none on the radio. It's either Asians or Mexican — and I'm not on no racist s***, but we need some of our people up in there. I ain't on no racist s***.

KELLEY: It's crazy how different the radio is when you travel. You know, how different it is in Atlanta compared to New York. Atlanta has two old school stations now, I think. Plus they got an R&B station. I mean, I guess that's Greg Street's station. But New York has nothing old school, not even a mix anymore. New Orleans plays local s***.

WARREN G: Well, Hot 97 is —

KELLEY: They don't play old school s*** though.

WARREN G: WGGI. Or is that WBLS? Is that still — that's it there. That's the OG.

MUHAMMAD: Mm-hmm. That's it.

KELLEY: Yeah. But it's not the same. And it's not a mix. I mean, whatever. What's in Atlanta is limited. The playlist is small, but it's still — those songs still go. And I just don't understand the financial reasons that you wouldn't play that music. I wish somebody would explain that to me.

MUHAMMAD: Well, that's why I think it's bigger than all of us, actually. And I think that it's a refined — a corporate, lawful way for them to sponsor and basically —

WARREN G: Stop n***** from getting money.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah. Really. Stop people from getting money, from having a certain amount of influence. And they push the buttons on their own infrastructure of who they know is going to be the good face for the package, even though that artist may not know that that's who they are.

But it's just like the whole support for artists who you think they're really doing well on their own accord or the accord of their music, when you look at the infrastructure, it's like, "No. This company owns this, which owns that which owns that. And they're pushing this through their system." So when you really begin to look at and see how it's interwoven in its structure, it's really messed up, and no one's saying anything on the surface level.

KELLEY: Yeah. Because that explains Drake's career. That's it.

MUHAMMAD: Well, I mean —

WARREN G: As far as him being signed to this, this, that, and that, and this?

MUHAMMAD: I mean, Universal is — their reach — they have a grand reach. They really do. And it's — this conversation, it's really political. And it's a matter of who they're befriended, who represents them in Congress, and so on and so forth. And so the average listener is not thinking about that. They just like, "Yo. As far as I know, when I push that button on, sound comes through it, and I'm OK with the sound that comes through it. The end." You know?

But for artists, especially an established artist like yourself who has done a lot financially to help build that infrastructure, for there to be non-support, there has to be — something has to be done about it. But we could talk about this part forever and not going to effect the type of change I think we'd like to see.

WARREN G: Right.

MUHAMMAD: You know what? I wanted to ask you, only because I was listening to — I can't remember the name of the song on the new Return Of The G-Funk Era. It's a Nate Dogg song, and the sound and texture of his voice reminded me so much of Pharoahe Monch, when Pharoahe sings. And it made me wonder, or think or to ask you, you should reach out to him —

WARREN G: Oh, yeah.

MUHAMMAD: — to do something. Because I know Pharoahe, he likes to sing. He doesn't sing that much, but I know he —

WARREN G: I didn't know he sang.

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, he does. On some of his records, he's singing, and it's the way he sings; you can tell, "Yo, that boy want to sing a lot more." So it was just a tonality in Nate; it hit that frequency that reminded me of Pharoahe. And I was like, "Wow. That could be an interesting combination of you and Pharoahe."

WARREN G: That would be dope. Yeah. You know who else give me the feeling like Nate is Jazze Pha.

MUHAMMAD: Jazze Pha.

WARREN G:He got that soulfulness like Nate, too.


WARREN G: I don't think he know it though, cause I'm always hitting him up. Always hitting him. Like, "Man. Jazze. Get at it, man. You that guy. You could be that guy."

MUHAMMAD: What is he doing? I haven't heard his name in a minute.

WARREN G: Selling some vodka. Promoting this vodka on his Instagram. But he doing beats, though. I heard some music that he played on the Instagram the other day, and I hit him on there. I was like, "That s*** dope."

Even Stevie J, I seen him at the Athletes Vs Cancer event. I told him, I said, "That beat you was playing for Tiffany Foxx in the show, that s*** was dope." And he was like, "Man, I got that all day." He did his little — "I'ma be out for three months." I was like, "I'ma have to get with you, cause that s*** was dope." Mm-hmm. I don't know, man. It's a cold game.

MUHAMMAD: It being a cold game and having children, do any of your children — have they taken an interest in —

WARREN G: Well, my two oldest, they don't — they straight athletes. The one — actually, the second oldest, he love music. He like to dance though. He just straight like to dance, but he's an incredible athlete. He's a sophomore starting playing varsity, playing both ways. Got colleges all on him. He's an athlete, but he love to dance. He got it in him, but —

But I told 'em, man, "I don't want you guys doing this." I said, "Because it's a very, very cutthroat business." It's stressful sometime. But when it's happening, it's a great business. It's fun. But I don't want — I told him, "If you do decide you want to get in the music, be an engineer. Be a producer, an engineer, something like that. Cause I don't want you to be doing the artist part. Just be a producer or engineer, cause you can do different things. You don't have to just strictly just do music for an artist. You could do it for film. You could do it for commercials and stuff like that. Not have to go through all the extra bull in the game."

MUHAMMAD: For the kids out there — I shouldn't say kids. The younger adults out there who are listening who feel that, cold game or not, it's something that they want to do, what do you — any advice?

WARREN G: Just be yourself. Be yourself, and don't get sucked into changing the way you are. Just do your music how you do it. That's how I became who I am: by just being myself. Just being myself, not being all crazy. I was a little wild in the beginning, but I got a reality check real fast to where I was like, "You know what? I ain't getting ready to be getting myself caught up."

Just being yourself and getting a great team to help you get through the b*******. You know, people that have connections and stuff like that. And lawyers, a good lawyer and a good manager. And make sure that they not beating you. You gotta stay on top of them too. And, like I said, just basically being yourself and not trying to put on an act or being a gimmick just to get record sales and s*** like that. Doing some stupid s*** to get record sales.

MUHAMMAD: What do you think of new LBC like Vince Staples?

WARREN G: I haven't got a change to really get into him, but the record I heard, it was pretty cool. It was pretty cool. He ain't on no crazy gangster s***, even though where he from that's all it is. It's gangster s*** all around. He from North Long Beach. That's where my wife is from, North Long Beach, but I'm from the Eastside of Long Beach. But all of it is mine.

He's a cool kid. I met him at the Apple — at the NWA Straight Outta Comptonat the Apple — and they had a big party at this mansion up in Beverly Hills. I met him there. I was kind of like, "OK. This a cool little cat." I told him I wanted him to do a record with Mike Slice, the guy that I'm working with. Cause they both on that same type of vibe.

Mike is cold. I can't — I gotta let you hear him. He cold.

MUHAMMAD: Alright.

WARREN G: He still gotta — I gotta — the music he under is from some other producers. But the stuff that — I got stuff on him but it's all on the computer. But once I get my hands on the real heavy, once we locked in, I'ma hook him up.

MUHAMMAD: That's what's up.

KELLEY: What do you think about that YG track, "Twist My Fingaz?"

WARREN G: I mean, it's a dope record. I like the vibe of it. It's on some straight party-type stuff. I like it.

KELLEY: It sounds indebted to you. Sounds like an update.

WARREN G: I mean, that's that feel. It's good to — well, Terrace Martin did it, and he was from — he was around when I was doing a lot of the stuff I was doing. And he's also a musical cat. I'm not sure if he played in the church, but he's a real musical cat. He got that vibe too. Just to hear it — I mean, it's a dope record. Party s***.


WARREN G: But, you know, YG a young guy. Wild, young. But he starting to get it. He done got a couple reality checks, so he starting to get it. And hopefully he understand that that thugging s***, that s*** don't last that long. It only last so long before, you know, it's like street — what is that? "I play the street life." I forgot the name of it.

MUHAMMAD: "Street Life" by The Crusaders.

WARREN G: Crusaders. Boom. That's a perfect example. They tell you, "You keep playing these games. At the end of the day, you keep doing that, you gon' get yourself in a different situation."

But I think he's starting to get it now. And he's a party-type artist, so I think he — tell your story a couple more times, and then start giving these people those feel good records to party to. But then they still want to hear your story, so don't get all away from that.

As far as the straight gang banging, we learned — we went through all of that at the beginning. Cause you get tested out there, when you start doing that. And there's some guys that don't give a f*** about, cause you a rapper. That's they lifestyle. Gang banging. You messing around and get caught out there. They just take flight.

But he's starting to get it. I like him because he got out. Him and Mustard grinded and made they dreams come true. Him, Mustard, Ty Dolla $ign. Those guys really grinded to get where they are now. And they doing good. I'ma get him up under one of these beats. I actually got him up under one. And the way he rapped was totally different from what he would do on something else. And people'll probably trip off of it once I — if — I don't know if I'ma ever put it out.

MUHAMMAD: I was going to say, I'd like to hear that.

WARREN G: Yeah. But it's pretty dope. He was rapping a totally different way. When you pop some Rhodes up under with some nice drums, it changes the game.

MUHAMMAD: It inspires something different. I gotta hear this now. Oh my goodness. Yeah.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah. But he's dope. And I like the record. I like the record "Twist Your Fingaz." I even like the one he did with Gunplay. I like that one, too.

I like a lot of these guys. I like J. Cole. Dope artist. He really understands how to be a dope artist. He got it all the way down pat from his performance to everything. How he pulls the chair out. He really talks and communicates with the crowd. That's what I do. I'm like, "Damn. This n**** doing — he get it." He really get 'em to understand who he is, and once they get that, it's a wrap. They sing everything. He understands it to the fullest. He's a well-rounded artist.

Kendrick Lamar: well-rounded artist. He understands. It's a lot — you know who I like, too? I like Troy Ave. He thugging, but I like him. Cause he got style. He got that little singing type of style. That remind me of how I am. My style I got from one of my favorite artists. A lot of people probably don't even know him. Jimmy Spicer.

MUHAMMAD: Oh, Jimmy Spicer is the first record I ever bought.

WARREN G: Well, he did Count Coolout and he did "Super Rhymes": "I get down. I get down. I get down all the way. I rap the rhythm of the Double R Rock, and this is what I say." I loved the way he did his s***.

Count Coolout was my s***. I called myself Sir Cool. Way back in the day, I had the — back in the day everybody used to wear their jackets where you have your sign on the back, and then right here you have Sir Cool with the karate shoes on.

MUHAMMAD: Just calling out Count Coolout, you've really gotta be a head, and you really dating yourself when you say that. Coolout.

WARREN G: Oh, yeah. That's who — I used to just love the way he rapped. I got him vibed up too. I got him on CD still, vibed up. Pop that in in your low rider. Psh. "I-I-I am-am Su-su-per Rhymes-Rhymes-Rhymes." You got the — vibed up? Oh my god, that s*** banging. That s*** be banging.

MUHAMMAD: That's actually how me and Q-Tip connected. He was kicking "Super Rhymes" in high school, and I was like —


MUHAMMAD: No one. I heard no one else, and we were rapping it together. And we was boys from that point on.



WARREN G: That's dope, man.

MUHAMMAD: Frannie, you have any other questions?

KELLEY: No, I don't have any other questions. I'm very happy.

MUHAMMAD: Alright. Me too.

KELLEY: Thank you for coming up.

WARREN G: It's all good. Thank you guys for having me. Man, it's all good. Anytime y'all want me to come through.

MUHAMMAD: Absolutely.

WARREN G: Anytime.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a world-renowned producer, songwriter and musician, and a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl and production group The Ummah. He cowrote D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" and has worked with John Legend, Maxwell, Mint Condition, Angie Stone, Mos Def and Gil Scott-Heron among many others.
Frannie Kelley is co-host of the Microphone Check podcast with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
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