DNA Project: Straight Outta OC

How the sons of Eazy-E and Dr. Dre plan to write the next chapter of NWA's legacy in . . . Lake Forest?!

But are people ready and willing to hear it—or will they dismiss it as two men trying to please their daddies?

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The story of where Young and Wright lived is best told by Bigg A (born Arnold White), who grew up with Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Ice Cube before N.W.A took off. After Eazy-E died from complications associated with AIDS, Bigg A took Lil E and his brother, Derrick (a.k.a. rapper E3), under his wing in the music business.

Curtis Young
Timothy Norris
Curtis Young

"Let me break it down geographically," Bigg A says. Sitting in a back room of the recording studio, he leans down from his swivel chair to dig a square in the carpet with his beefy index finger, dissecting it with three lines. Dre's house was on Thorson Street and Eazy-E's on Muriel Avenue, with Bigg A's in the center on Caress Avenue. Growing up, they were close enough to hop backyard fences to get into one another's houses.

"When N.W.A blew up, [Eazy and Dre] were gone, but Lil E and E3 were still here in their grandma's house, and Curtis lived right here, but they never played with each other," he says.

As kids, Young—who is a few years older—attended public schools and was raised by his mother and a stepfather. Eazy's kids, meanwhile, attended private schools, lived with their grandparents and ran with a different circle of friends in their neighborhood. Neither Young nor Wright ever really spoke to the other. It was a silent code, some would say one written into their DNA—the long-lasting result of the fallout when Dre left Eazy's Ruthless Records and N.W.A, the World's Most Dangerous Group, which they'd started together, to assemble his own label, Death Row Records. Despite fashioning himself into the archetype of a larger-than-life gangsta-rap mogul even though he only reached 5-foot-4, Wright remembers Eazy-E as the funny, crazy parent who would make time for his family when he could. Often, he would do something infinitely harder than managing rappers or pissing off the Man: try to control nine kids on a trip to Disneyland.

"When we had an outing or a weekend together, we all went," Wright remembers. "To us, he was the biggest and baddest thing walking, I don't care how tall he was. And he was the biggest and baddest thing walking in our city, period."

These days, Wright's husky, broad-shouldered build stands a bit taller than his father had. But with a Compton hat and a fresh pair of locs, there's no denying his self-proclaimed role as the Prince of Compton actually sticks.

As far as the argument between Dre and Eazy rearing its head on record—particularly during the release of The Chronic and Eazy's retaliatory It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa in 1992 and 1993, respectively, Wright says it wasn't something he ever dealt with directly, even after his father's passing. And before Eazy passed, Dre had even attempted to reconcile with his longtime friend in the hospital. "It didn't hit me till I got older and [understood] what Suge [Knight, hip-hop mogul and Dre's former business partner] really fucked up, and what he and Dr. Dre really made, and I looked at what happened after. You realized that things really got fucked up between them," he says.

Young hopes to detail his experiences growing up in his solo rap recordings, specifically his impending full-length, Product of My DNA, on which he talks about how he wasn't actually told Dre was his father until he was 12 years old, something revealed to him by his stepfather—also named Andre—over the phone. That conversation was recorded and sampled years later for the intro to the song "Show You" on Product of My DNA; elements of that revelation will also be used for the DNA Project. After meeting Dre for the first time at Skybar in LA at age 21 and arranging a paternity test, the conclusive results revealed Dre to be Young's biological father.

"It was overwhelming. It still is," Young, 33, says. "It's something I had to just grow and live with. ['Show You'] will explain a lot of things—just emotions I had to go through as a kid. I didn't even know how to take that [news]. I walked away dumbfounded. Even as a grown man, it's all around me; there's not a day that goes by that I don't hear something about Dre."

Before learning his true lineage, Young says, he actually indirectly learned a great deal from his father, as far as entertaining dreams of being a rapper. This goal was something he'd kept a secret even after discovering the earth-shattering news and sharing it with people. "I did let a lot of friends know who my real father was; my real friends didn't judge me," the rapper says. "People whom I thought were my friends laughed at me, but my real friends just looked at me as Curtis."

As far as Wright and his brother were concerned, the death of their father was something that, while tragic, gave them perspective at a young age about the magnitude of what Eazy-E had meant to the rap world. His legacy as a Compton City G—the first rap artist to have his own label, have two major careers, and be (mistakenly) invited to the White House to dine with President Ronald Reagan at a charity dinner in Levis 501s and a white T-shirt—would never die.

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