Warren G tells his story about the rise of G-funk

G-funk documentary in honour of Nate Dogg premiered at SXSW

The documentary G-Funk portrays Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg rapping together in their childhood years and charts their progress as international hip-hop stars. From their early days at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, Calif., the trio had talent and dreams to become famous rappers. They rap-battled their friends during recess and at parties. In 1990, they formed a rap trio called 213, and eventually became the pioneers of a hip-hop subgenre called G-funk, or gangsta-funk. G-funk emerged in the 90s in southern California and is also known as West Coast hip-hop. It is a combination of motown, funk, R&B and gangsta rap, and has become a staple in mainstream American music culture.

As mentioned in the documentary, G-funk is different from East Coast hip-hop—it doesn’t fit the flow of New York City. G-funk is mellow and smooth, and is meant to be heard in your drop-top below the palm trees as you cruise along Sunset Boulevard—it has a laid-back, West Coast feel to it. Some classic G-funk tunes include “Regulate” by Nate Dogg and Warren G, or “Ain’t Nothin’ But a G Thang” by Snoop Dogg. The film featured several hip-hop artists who played leading roles in the rise of G-funk, such as Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre. There were also interviews with hip-hop artists, who have been around during the rise of G-Funk or who were greatly influenced by Warren G’s career, such as Russell Simmons, Ice T, Wiz Khalifa, Too $hort, George Clinton, Deion Sanders and Big Boy.

The documentary depicts the rise of drug and gang violence in Los Angeles in the 1990s, and the many who lost their lives or were incarcerated. G-Funk also highlights how black men often faced severe police brutality and racial profiling by the Los Angeles Police Department. It was a tough time for these up-and-coming rappers, which is probably why their music connected with so many people since they sang and rapped about their hardships.

From left to right, Bob Ruggeri, Karam Gill, Warren G, Gary Ousdahl and Rafael Chavez at the G-funk panel. Photo by Sandra Hercegova

The film touched on G-funk’s contribution to the rise in sales and popularity of the hip-hop genre. The film premiered in Austin, Texas, during the SXSW Festival at the Paramount Theatre on March 15. It was a tribute to one of the main leaders of G-funk, Nate Dogg, who passed away on March 15, 2011. The film portrays Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg as a family. “Snoop is one of my best friends,” Warren G said. “We talk all the time, you know. He crazy, but that’s my dog.” As for Nate Dogg, “I miss him. We all miss him,” Warren G added. “Nate wrote songs that people go back to. ‘The Hardest Man in Town,’ that’s one of the dopest records ever,” he said.

Prior to the film’s screening, Warren G and members of the G-Funk crew held a panel at the Austin Convention Center. The panel featured filmmaker and director of G-Funk, Karam Gill; executive producer, Matt Carpenter and producers; Warren G, Gary Ousdahl, Robert Ruggeri and Rafael Chavez.

Gill, who is 22 years old, began filming G-Funk as an undergrad at Chapman University. Warren G met Gill at one of his shows in Orange County, Calif. “He came in with his buddy, Daniel, and asked, ‘Can I film your show tonight?’ I was like, ‘Shit, it’s all good,’” Warren G said during the panel. When Gill showed him the concert footage a few days later, Warren G was impressed. “The stuff he was doing was off the chain—this guy can help me get my documentary laid out how I want to, and that’s how he came on board,” Warren G said. G-Funk portrays the ups and downs of the journey of an artist, “back then when I was young … I’m still young, I ain’t that old. I just went through a lot—I knew that I wanted to do a story just talking about a lot of the things that I went through before I started getting success,” Warren G said.

According to the film producer, Ruggeri, while many producers might think it insane to put their complete faith in a 22-year-old director, Gill was prepared and competent. “We flew our investor [out] to meet him and Warren and the four other producers. Karam had every single thing laid out. This film was in his head because he had been traveling with Warren previously—he had the passion and we could see this in his eyes, that this guy had it all under control,” Ruggeri said.

To Gill, G-funk is the backbone of all pop songs today. “Rappers were never singing on songs before Nate Dogg,” Gill said. “When you are thinking about Drake and hip-hop artists who sing, that’s a by-product of G-funk.”  In the hit song “Regulate,” Nate Dogg would sing on the track while Warren G would rap to it, combining singing and rapping into one song. This is an example of how G-Funk influenced hip-hop as we know it. According to Gill, G-Funk is an homage to Nate Dogg. “Nate would have wanted it to be a celebration,” Gill said. “It’s not an RIP Nate movie—it’s celebrating his life in a positive way.”

A soundtrack is to be released along with the documentary. “There’s going to be a lot of G-funk artists who you guys already know, but there’s also going to be new artists there. It’s going to be dope, trust me,” Warren G said. An artist Warren G said he would appreciate working with for the soundtrack is Erykah Badu. “I always wanted to work with her. Her voice is really dope to me, and I would love to hear her on one of my tracks as far as doing a hook and doing verses,” Warren G said. “G-funk never left,” Ruggeri added. “Everything you are hearing right now is influenced by G-funk. We are hoping this movie will revive it.”

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