From the outside, the light brown, nondescript office building housing Serious Pimp Records in Lake Forest looks like the last place West Coast hip-hop would go to live, let alone record, let alone set the stage for its own resurrection. People drive by it every day with nary a thought of what kinds of legends, or sons of legends, come to dwell inside the belly of a suite filled with plaques, platinum records and plush, pimped-out surroundings. The legendary, sequestered studio is owned by Snoop Dogg, a fact which becomes relatively evident in about 1.5 seconds as soon as you open the door and your eyes inhale walls splashed with various shrines to the Dogg Father, your nose filled with the perpetual potpourri of Kush.
Glancing over 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 him 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."
Last Friday, Young met withDerrek Wright
), the second oldest son of late West Coast legend Eazy-E, along with Serious Pimp founderDamian Kutzner
, the labels Vice President of A&R, to listen to beats and lay the groundwork forDNA: The Second Generation
. Part homage, part precursor, the project is an album collaboration between Young,Lil Eazy-E
(Eric Wright Jr.) and E3 that merges elements of classic G-Funk and EDM in a way that nobody ever saw coming.
The new recordings, planned for early Spring, will be followed by a tour which is slated to be announced in the next few weeks. As we continue to track the making of the album in Lake Forest, Kutzer and "Big A" --responsible for bringing Young and the Wright brothers together-- say there is a reality show called "Seeds of Hip-Hop" in development. The show will focus on the sons of famous rappers who are forging their own name in the hip-hop world. Talks with VH1 are currently taking place, with plans to include Young and the Wright brothers as they develop this album project.Though they've said this is not an effort to simply rehash their father's legacy, it certainly looks like the next generation NWA project is coming straight outta...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'd been around his dad almost 24/7 up until the time he'd passed away--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 neighborhood in Compton. As you might have guessed, 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, like other efforts before it, is something that E3 sees as a way to move forward and strengthen the legacy that his father left him.
"When I first came in, they played a couple 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."
The development of the project comes at a time when West Coast hip-hop is simultaneously going through a Renaissance and an identity crisis. Surrounded by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, the Game, YG there are plenty who've made major moves to break out of the L.A./Compton rap scene. Combined with the beat scene explosion of producers like Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing, the idea of stepping back to the birth of West Coast rap is hard to do for anyone unless they're listening to K-Day. Even looking at them and listening to their voices behind the mic, the biological imprint of their fathers is ridiculously apparent. Young, who still lives in Compton, created his own label, Forever Young, while Lil Eazy-E spent time learning the business side of the recording industry at his father's label Ruthless Records.
Coming together for the first time, their main obstacle is finding sound that melds their voices and ideas that comes of credible and, of course, gangsta. But for the second generation of NWA'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.
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"We gotta put out that product that's gonna attract not only the west, you gotta think big," E3 says. "When the album unfolds it'll all make sense. "