By Adam Lovinus
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From the outside, the light-brown, nondescript, Lake Forest office building housing Serious Pimp Records looks like the last place West Coast hip-hop would go to live, let alone record or even set the stage for its own resurrection. The legendary, sequestered studio—a suite filled with plaques, platinum records and plush, pimped-out surroundings—is owned by Snoop Dogg, a fact that becomes evident about 1.5 seconds after you open the door. Your eyes take in the walls splashed with various shrines to the Doggfather, while your nose fills with the dank aroma of Kush.
Glancing at a soda machine emblazoned with a mural of Snoop's face, the son of Dr. Dre knows that having his "uncle" in his midst makes this the proper place to give the music cultivated by the Long Beach rapper and his father a brand-new look. "It feels like a big hug when I walk in here," says Curtis Young. "Like he's always watching me."
Earlier this month, Young met with Derrek Wright, a.k.a. E3, the second-oldest son of late West Coast legend Eazy-E, along with Serious Pimp founder Damian Kutzner and "Big A," the label's vice president of A&R, to listen to beats and lay the groundwork for DNA: The Second Generation. Part homage, the project is a collaboration between Young, Lil Eazy-E (Eric Wright Jr.) and E3 that merges elements of classic G-funk and EDM in a way nobody has seen coming. The new recordings, planned for an early spring release, will be followed by a tour that is slated to be announced in the next few weeks. In addition, Kutzer and "Big A"—responsible for bringing Young and the Wright brothers together—say there is a VH1 reality show in development called Seeds of Hip-Hop; it will highlight the project as part of a story about the careers of famous hip-hop offspring. Though they've said this is not an effort to simply rehash their fathers' legacies, it certainly looks as though the next-generation N.W.A project is coming straight outta . . . well, OC.
"By it being in our blood and our birthright, we're able to continue what our fathers imprinted the game with, as far as gangster rap," Young says. "We're working on doing what we do best and combining that with the house music, as well, and bringing some of the showmanship back."
Sitting behind Young in the studio, flanked by about a half-dozen or so people listening to beats prepared by multiple producers, we watch the rapper scan through them, hungrily bobbing his head to a cavalcade of club bangers. E3 also hovers behind him, absorbing the tracks, many of which were prepared by OC-based producer Steve Dang, who is also in the studio. Before tonight, E3—who was around his dad almost 24/7 until his death—had never met Young. Growing up, Young and E3's older brother, Lil Eazy-E, never even hung out together despite living in the same Compton neighborhood. Remnants from the rift between Dre and Eazy after the disintegration of N.W.A in 1991 spilled over even after Eazy died from AIDS in 1995 at the age of 31. This project, as with other efforts before it, is something E3 sees as a way to move forward and strengthen the legacy his father left him.
"When I first came in, they played a couple of tracks for me, and knowing that my brother was involved, and knowing that Curtis was involved, I already knew what the whole cause was about. I just wanted in," he says. "Though [my father's] legacy will never die, I want to keep it solid; we got the right pieces to the puzzle that people don't know about."
Coming together for the first time, their main obstacle is finding a sound that melds their voices and ideas that comes across as credible and, of course, gangsta. But for the second generation of N.W.A's offspring to be successful, their style has to reach outside the confines of Compton. In that respect, maybe moving the project to OC wasn't a bad idea.
"We gotta put out that product that's gonna attract not only the west, but you gotta think big," E3 says. "When the album unfolds, it'll all make sense."