This weekend, Long Beach's Daz Dillinger (real name: Delmar Drew Arnaud) will take the stage at this year' sold-out How The West Was Won show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine. For all those who grew up off the classic west coast sound or those who still refuse to let go, a show with a lineup consisting of west coast hip-hop luminaries such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Warren G, and Tha Dogg Pound (Daz partnership with Kurupt) is a chronic-indebted dream. Daz's spot on the lineup has been earned through decades of studio and tour work, and finds him rightfully placed alongside other artists on California's Mt. Rushmore of Hip-Hop. It's a pretty good place to be, especially considering Daz grew up not even knowing much outside the confines of Long Beach.
“I always lived in Long Beach, only thing I really knew was Long Beach. I'd never been outside of Long Beach,” reflects Daz. Growing up, it was the streets of Long Beach where Daz found his identity, where he says “gangbanging was always around” and him and his peers were always seeking a path to better prospects.
“As a kid there were everyday struggles, just looking to see what you can get into, and that's how we found DJing and music and hip-hop. We were always looking for an opportunity to get into the game,” Daz says. It was the booth behind turntables as a DJ where Daz first found his creative self. “I would be a DJ that just scratches and cuts up the turntables, then I got into partying and DJing and then into rapping.”
In rapping and producing, Daz found a way to not only make his mark on the world and leave a legacy, but also get paid twice by getting good at both crafts. “As far as a producer, you get half the track, then whoever does the writing has to split up the other. So I was doing the track solo, and then I would get another piece by writing. Two checks.”
Daz' talent and skill as a producer/rapper hybrid piqued the interest of the likes of Death Row and Dr. Dre, and within a short amount of time, he working alongside the crew behind the critically-revered and commercially successful The Chronic. Daz even stayed in Hollywood with the likes of Dr. Dre and the other artists crafting The Chronic. “When we made the Chronic we were all staying in Hollywood. Franklin and Whitley,” Daz says.
Daz wasn't content with just contributing to the albums of others, though. He continued to produce classics such as 2Pac's “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” and “I Ain't Mad At Cha,” but began to branch out with collaborative work alongside his close friend and creative partner Kurupt. In 1995, Daz and Kurupt collaborated as Tha Dogg Pound and released the well-received album Dogg Food.
"We [Daz and Kurupt] were solo artists on Death Row, and we were living in our apartment and we called it 'Tha Dogg Pound.' I was telling Kurupt that we might as well come together, and put this together,” says Daz. “There was one night we were just hanging out and I came with the idea me and Kurupt were going to be Tha Dogg Pound, then we did 'Don't Give A Fuck' and the rest is history. We were producing songs already, so the chemistry was already there. Then we just put this Dogg Pound thing together and it just escalated.”
After Tha Dogg Pound's initial success with their debut album, Daz went on to produce and rap on Snoop Dogg's sophomore album Tha Doggfather, and a couple years later in 1998 dropped his solo debut, Retaliation, Revenge, and Get Back.. Ever since his own debut album dropped, he's been on a yearly spree of musical work. From 1998 to this year, Daz has dropped fourteen albums alone as a solo artist, along with several more collaborative efforts with fellow west coasters such as WC, and has another album entitled Weed Money on the way.
“You never know when it's all going to end, I just want to put out more music to satisfy the years to come, because music lasts forever. I have to look out for the future and for my kids,” Daz says. “God willing to let me live that long, I'm going to be here and keep giving you the music. I'm going to keep doing shows and being influential to the hip-hop community and just being Diggity Daz.”
Daz Dillinger performs as part of Tha Dogg Pound at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine this Saturday. For full show details, click here.