Deep Into the Night with Kurupt and DJ Nik Bean: We Go to Hooters, Among Other Places
[Editor's note: Soon-to-be-award-winning gonzo music journalist Danielle Bacher prowls the late late night scene for West Coast Sound. For this installment, she hit the town with rapper Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound and DJ Nik Bean, a West L.A.-based mixtape impresario who has worked with Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, DJ Felli Fel and others.]
7:56 PM, Tuesday, November 27: I can't stop coughing. I know I'm about to get sick. I arrive at Backside Records in Burbank, and hear music blasting from inside. This is going to be a rough one.
8:00 PM: I walk toward the back of the store. There is a crowd of people posing for a camera. I'm not really sure who any of these people are, but they look somewhat important. DJ Nik Bean introduces me to the crew.
8:05 PM: Kurupt is here, sporting sunglasses, a black cap with white stitching and a True Freshman T-shirt. He shakes my hand and bows his head. Everyone congregates in a semi-circle around him. "I should play the entire Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha album live. I've never done that before," he says. Everyone likes the idea, especially DJ Nik, who yanks on his low-hanging cross necklace. "Yeah, that would be dope."
8:06 PM: Everyone agrees the Key Club will be the best spot for this live album concert. The work was released in 1999 and features Dr. Dre, Snoop and Nate Dogg. DJ Nik places his hand on my shoulder, "You know that shit went gold, right?"
8:07 PM: The huddled group includes Justin Credible, radio host for Eminem's Shade 45 Sirius XM station and member of new music mavens LA Leakers, and Fuzzy Fantabulous, sidekick to Power 106 personality Big Boy. They are here to make a video for Kurupt's new song "Lend Me Ya Ear," which will feature on his upcoming mixtape Money, Bitches, Power. The song's producer Rick Rock and the video's director Jaesyn TH are here, too. They have postponed the release of this mixtape several times, but anticipate that it should be out in January.
8:10 PM: A few minutes into our conversation, The Chronic is mentioned. DJ Nik pulls out the recent L.A. Weekly cover story on the subject. He points to Dre's face on the cover and says, "He made history. That's what's up."
8:11 PM: "It's crazy. It's been 20 years in the business," says Kurupt. "Hip-hop is a hobby, not a job. Some crazy way, we was able to take our hobby and make a career out of it. We are getting paid for what we love."
8:12 PM: DJ Nik gives me a tour around the store. He stops for a second and glances down at a Nate Dogg candle. A Tupac candle sits to the right. The guys lit the candles in memory of the two artists a few minutes before I arrived. "Everyone has their time," Nik quietly notes. "It's a shame. But they're up there in peace."
8:15 PM: Kurupt's 10-year-old son Tren Brown aka Trensetta runs over to him and wraps his arms around his father's waist. Kurupt kisses his forehead. Tren is going to appear in the video, and he's very excited. "Make Daddy proud," Kurupt whispers.
8:22 PM: His song "On Da Grind" featuring Daz Dillinger is playing extremely loudly over the speakers. Kurupt is singing and dancing.
8:30 PM: Rick Rock is standing outside the store with his hands in the sleeves of his hoodie and a Raiders beanie pulled down to his eyebrows. A small crowd starts to form outside the store. A guy screams, "I love you, Kurupt!" as he walks outside. The two start lip-synching to "On Da Grind." Tren walks in front of the camera with headphones called Boomphones around his ears.
8:48 PM: We head over to Kurupt's car. He hands me the headphones, and I put them on. He plays Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 1982 hit "The Message." The headphones double as a boombox; literally, their outer speakers can blast music loud enough to fill a room. Kurupt is endorsing them. "I think this concept is futuristic. That's why I decided to support and be a part of it," says Kurupt. "I think this is a classic idea. This is hip-hop. The boombox has always been a vital part of hip-hop."
9:10 PM: The two worked on DJ Nik's mixtape Streets of LA 8 a few years back and continue to collaborate on various projects. About a minute into our conversation, Kurupt's friend Gaylon notices him. They met eight years ago and worked together on Kurupt's fourth studio album Against the Grain.
9:11 PM: "This guy is like a brother to me," says Kurupt. "It's crazy because you grow up with someone and then you all separate and go amongst the world, and then, when ya'll run back across each other, it's like a whole new world." He pauses for a moment and continues. "See, God is good. One thing I notice about God is that he puts people around each other for a reason. You have to read the signs. And you have to be able to have a clear mind."
9:15 PM: Kurupt trips on the fact that I lived in Philadelphia. Growing up, he lived in the Germantown section of Philly and Sharon Hill, PA.
9:16 PM: Kurupt, DJ Nik, Tren and I walk around the corner to Elephant Bar. On the way, DJ Nik explains how, five years ago, not long after they met, he and Kurupt got into an altercation. He showed Kurupt his Street Certified DVD; basically, he interviewed a bunch of rappers and filmed them. On the back of the case, Crooked I's quote read: "Let you know the deal on Snoop." Kurupt immediately got heated and said, "Hey, what the fuck is this? What is he saying about Snoop?"
9:18 PM: The three of us sit down at the bar and Tren and Kurupt's bodyguard Tee sit behind us in a booth. "I don't remember that," says Kurupt.
"Yeah, you be going off on people all the time, so you don't remember," DJ Nik replies, laughing.
"Why was I mad?"
"Because you thought he was talking shit on Snoop."
"Yeah, you muthafuckin' right. That's my dawg," says Kurupt. "You know, you meet some of your greatest friends through confrontation." We laugh.
9:22 PM: DJ Nik orders a Baja chicken quesadilla and lemonade. Kurupt orders nothing.
9:26 PM: The mood in the room changes. I ask Kurupt about his former fiancée, singer Natina Reed, Tren's late mother. She passed away just before Halloween after being hit by a car in Georgia. "What do you want to know about her?" he asks.
9:35 PM: He pauses for a moment. "She was someone very special to me and my son. We were very good friends. A relationship is something that came into play, but before that, I was around her when she was young. It was deeper than just a relationship. When Tren was born, it really made our bond even stronger. I went my way and she went hers, but we always continued to keep that friendship."
9:37 PM: I tell Kurupt that I'm sorry for his loss. He tells me that's she's in a better place now. "She doesn't have to worry about any troubles, trials and tribulations here that we all have to face every day. She's up there with one of the people she loved more than anything. She's up there now with Lisa 'Left Eye.' Me and Tren are going to hold it down here for her, and we have an angel looking over us."
9:42 PM: We discuss how this unfortunate circumstance has affected Tren. Kurupt tells me that his son is a soldier, and all he wants to do is make his mother smile. He even wrote and recorded a song for her entitled "I Want to Let You Know." Kurupt helped him fine-tune it and then they recorded it in the studio at his house in West Hills, which he calls the "Pentagon Oval Office."
9:45PM: "I'm sure it hurts. I lost my mama a couple years ago, and it's something that you keep inside and it's hard, but you keep going," says Kurupt. "I couldn't fathom it at his age. You can tell once in a while, it's on his mind. He's strong. Any other kid his age would probably be just broken down. But like I said, he's a soldier."
9:48 PM: Kurupt is going back on tour with Snoop next week. I ask him what it's like working with him after all these years. "He's like my older brother," he says. "He's the leader I follow, and he is definitely a lot of fun. He's been a part of raising me. He helped me with music and taught me how to be a man. He's the leader of the ship. He is who I follow in this game and who I follow in life."