Curtis Young, the son of Dr. Dre, continues to forge his latest contribution to West Coast hip-hop history in lily-white Lake Forest. We know, it'll take you a while to get used to hearing that. Maybe you never will. But to feel that way is to deny the indo-smoking inventiveness laced inside the beats that Young is bumping at Serious Pimp Studios (owned by his uncle Snoop Dogg, er Lion) as he continues work on new collaborative album DNA: The Second Generation. As we said in an earlier story, he's working alongside the sons of Compton hip-hop's iconic, late ambassador Eazy-E. Along with a host of core artists–sons and close kin of gangsta rap royalty–Young is molding the DNA project into something slightly different than what he'd set out to do when we last talked.
Originally set to be a group effort in the traditional sense, the DNA project is now positioning itself to be more in the vein of what Young is calling a modern day Chronic-style offering. That means various artists, including a host of established features like Problem, Y.G., Tha Dogg Pound, DJ Quik, Daz and legendary producer Battlecat will all contribute to the core group of Young and E's sons (Lil' Eazy and E-3) to create something that will allow each of them to maintain separate identities while striving to create a new breed of G-funk supremacy. With that comes new plans for business partnership involving Damian Kutzner's label Serious Pimp Records and the addition of new key players to get their methodically-timed revolution off the ground. Of course the biggest thing right now is finishing the damn record.
“It's definitely a challenge,” Young says during a lunch meeting, minutes before he kicks off a listening session at Serious Pimp's inner sanctum. “I kind of buried the [my old moniker] Hood Surgeon and I'm trying to bring that back out again when just being myself, Curtis Young, is a challenge. So I'm trying to find a happy medium.”
Young's solidification of an identity and a sound is something he's working at non-stop, despite now having quite a few years of false starts, and endless hours in the lab, the board room and on stage. The LA-based rapper has the appropriate hunger and is the spitting image of his pops, but it's not really until he plays his music that we get a true sense of what his role could be or will be in the rap game.
Next: What do his songs sound like?
For his part, the beats young presents are multi-layered stabs at marrying the emotional, polyrhythmic drums and bass drops of your Kendrick Lamar or J.Cole with a touch of EDM and the effortlessly funky melodies he was born to love. One song he played even employs an Arabic-style beat you might find a stable of hotties twerking to in a disco in Fallujah somewhere. The production is serious and the bulk of his rhymes rise above any form of lazy entitlement some people assume he feels. Rhymes about "popping bottles” in the club? Sure, he's got those. But his verses indicate that there's some actual flow behind all that liquid courage.
In the midst of the DNA project, Young is also finding time to complete two other albums, including his long gestating release DR's Note and full album Product of My DNA. He's even gone on tour with E-3 and Lil Eazy to rock a small group of club dates including mid-west dates in states like Idaho.
"The goal out there was just to shut it down, show them some Compton love and just show what we could do. We did the same show, different sets,” Young says. "It was a good turn out.”
The moves he and Kutzner of Serious Pimp are making are just as interesting.
"Right now, we're just trying to figure out where the magic is gonna happen and where we're gonna go as far as tracks, the marketing and business side. We're at the drawing board right now.”
Next: Who are the new players involved in Serious Pimp?
The "business side” Young is referring to is sitting across from me in the studio with a crisp green collared shirt, slim-framed glasses and a cropped triangular mustache.
For decades, Ernie Singleton has been a guiding hand in the world of hip-hop and R&B, cultivating the careers of artists like Mary J. Blige and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. His wrap sheet also includes a former job as President of Urban Music at MCA Records, an instrumental stint running Ruthless Records where he managed to keep the label from running itself into the ground after the death of its founder Eazy-E and 139 platinum and gold-selling albums to his credit.
Currently he runs his own shop in LA called Singleton Entertainment Group. But now, Forging commercial partnerships, pushing the DNA compilation to the finish line and marketing it are also on his agenda. He's been brought on as a senior consultant for Serious Pimp. Talking casually about his belief in what Young and his cohorts can do, he mentions a lot of interesting projects in the works that involve some major exposure for them, though he's pretty incessant about keeping details about upcoming performances and publicity events off the record for now. We have a feeling he might be really good at poker. Don't know why, just a guess.
What we do know, coming from Kutzner is that the Serious Pimp label and it's recording studio are going through some interesting changes.
"Curtis is trying to marry his current label [Young Entertainment] and stable of artists with Serious Pimp and and create his own division, so not a full-on collab he's still got control over his sound,” says Kutzner. In addition to officially adding Young and E-3 to his roster, Kutzner says he also plans to add acts such as the Misfits and Suicidal Tendencies. Crazy, right?
Recently, he's also opened up the Serious Pimp studios to paying recording artists to book studio time starting at a meager $50 an hour (with a 2-hour minimum) to 10-hour “lockout sessions” for $500. How that all plays into the foundation of what Serious Pimp is building remains to be seen. But for now, (as evidenced by the photos and tracks on the label's website) the top priority continues to be the sons of NWA. We'll keep you posted as the DNA project continues to unfold.