It's pretty much agreed that Warren G's original claim to fame—"Regulate," his 1994 picaresque single with Nate Dogg—remains his greatest achievement. Nothing wrong with that. By combining a Michael McDonald sample, the overall badassery of Nate Dogg's vocals, and his own vulnerable telling of his brush with death and taking of revenge in a North Long Beach hood, the G-Child introduced an easy-listening category into West Coast gangland hip-hop without sacrificing the genre's keep-it-real ethos. Twelve years later, "Regulate" remains irresistible.
But that was pretty much it for Warren G—as a major star, anyway—and something does seem wrong with that. He went on to release four more LPs, each one a shimmering example of laid-back craft. But his lack of a strong stage persona—or a startling criminal record—left him overshadowed by artists whose fame he helped launch.
Lest we forget, Warren G was working alongside his half-brother Dr. Dre when the elements of the G-Funk sound—gratuitous samplings of Parliament, deep porn-groove bass lines and the occasional female Vegas lounge singer—showed up on some of Dre's work with N.W.A. Warren later introduced Dre to his buddies, Snoop (then-Doggy) Dogg and Nate Dogg, a bit of matchmaking that enabled Dre to give the world 1992's groundbreaking The Chronic. Snoop soon followed up with his own masterpiece, DoggyStyle.
Warren's debut, Regulate . . . G-Funk Era, can stand up to either of those works. Tracks such as the street-smart gangster sermons of "Do You See" and, uh, "Gangsta Sermon" are crucial elements of West Coast rap history. He's bringing it all back home to Long Beach this week for an evening of reminiscing . . . and wishing for what should have been.
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Warren G at the Vault 350, 350 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 590-5566; www.vault350.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $26.50. 18+