Let's Raise a Glass for the Underrated Warren G
This weekend Warren G turns 41, celebrating with a show at the Key Club on Friday. But while everyone knows him for "Regulate," his signature duet with Nate Dogg, he's actually had important roles in hip-hop history, many of which have gone under-discussed.
Warren Griffin III started his career as one-third of rap trio 213, along with the Doggs Nate and Snoop. Taking their name from the Long Beach area code, they recorded a particularly potent demo which Warren was able to get in the hands of his step-brother, Dr. Dre. He thus not only hooked up Dre with Snoop, but played an important role behind the scenes at Death Row Records, helping Dre produce The Chronic and shaping the west coast g-funk sound that changed hip-hop.
After Snoop and Nate accepted deals from Death Row, Warren G went solo before eventually signed to Violator Records who -- following a purchase by Polygram -- got his 1994 debut Regulate... G Funk Era distributed by Def Jam. With Def Jam in the midst of its darkest hour (notoriously investing in horrorcore flop Flatlinerz), Warren G pretty much saved the label, moving some four million units worldwide.
A big part of his debut's success was, of course, "Regulate," which broke the mold a bit. With most West coast hip-hop trading in heavier, bassier funk, his track had a distinctly smoother mix. (As Nate Dogg sings on the track: "The rhythm is the bass, and the bass is the treble.") The result? One of g-funk's most accessible, and enduring, hits.
Over time Warren G has also earned a reputation as one of the most reliable artists featured on movie soundtracks. "Regulate" was among the most memorable cuts from Above the Rim, of course, but he first made a splash as a solo artist in Poetic Justice with "Indo Smoke" (featuring Mista Grimm). He later had a #2 hit with "What's Love Got to Do With It" from the Jackie Chan film Supercop.