Warren G

Warren G: Over

11:59 p.m.: For internationally respected multi--platinum rapper/producer Warren G, the seconds that tick off afterwards move into the most important time of his life. He works that story into his fifth full--length album (and first in four years)--called In The Mid--Nite Hour--by tackling issues resolutely on the boiler right now while still creating space in the room to party. The album is a realistic and balanced portrayal of the G Funk child's musical evolution, introduced years ago in his original laaaiiiiidddddd back style. First it was producing the late Tupac Shakur's "Indo," then G went on to create his own classic songs such as "Regulate," "This DJ" and "I Want It All." Warren recorded with Stevie Wonder, became one of the first rap artists on The Late Show with David Letterman, toured using a live backing band, and helped put the West Coast on the hip--hop map by nurturing the careers of many talented artists. "Warren G is what I call an assist man, because, without him, none of us would be in the game," backs Nate Dogg, whose own mainstream break came singing on the platinum single "Regulate."Now, 11 years on from Day 1 in the record racks, Warren G is In The Mid--Nite Hour, his craft more honed, he himself wiser and more mature as he finds himself father of his own four (including one on the way) G children to guide through the ride called Life.Special guest collaborators on the album include longtime friends Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, West Coast veterans Ice Cube, Raphael Saadiq and Cypress Hill's B--Real, chop and screw rap expert Mike Jones, and young rising stars such as Aftermath's Bishop Lamont, Frank Lee White, Chuck Taylor, (the latter two signed to Warren's G Funk Productions), Side Effect and Chevy Jones."I'm pumped up," Warren exclaims. "I've got some great energy right now and have an incredible new young crew that's tight and I'm happy working with them. And I still got my old crew, my boys--I'm going to ride with them 'til the wheels fall off. I think this album is a real expression of the fun we're all having in the studio." Much of those good times in the studio while recording the album were caught on video by up--and--coming Japanese filmmaker Toshihiro Sakurai for a future release.In recording In The Mid--Nite Hour, it was important for Warren G to create an album that covered a lot of ground both musically and in the subject matter. There was also a personal mandate: a more responsible sound than typically floods the airwaves."The moods on this album change from club records to songs touching on topics going on in the world and then records touching on relationships," he explains. "It's a big variety, but they all connect to tell a story."The moving and provocative "Get U Down" is the lead single. Teaming up with Cypress Hill's B--Real and Watts--based soul singers Side Effect, the song tackles a myriad of issues, from black--on--brown violence in Los Angeles to our military entanglements in the Middle East, and reminds people to stay strong and positive. "Get U Down Part 2" not only features guest appearances by Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg, but has a special dedication to support the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast States."A lot of people aren't really touching on what's going on and they gotta wake up," he says. "We've got to get these troops back home because there's some people that won't even get to see their kids 'cuz they might get killed and they've got babies on the way. Even though we go through hard times you still have to smile, know that God is gonna work it out. That's for the victims of Katrina and everybody around the world that's going through stressful times."This was Warren's first collaboration with the Mexican/Cubano B--Real, and is an important show of unity amongst a tense air in the community: "We wanted to show the blacks and Latinos that we can all get down together and get along and even make money together." The song quickly became a radio hit in its native Southern California and has spread across the nation with its vital truths.Elsewhere on In The Mid--Nite Hour, the moments are lighter and more club--oriented when they need to be, whether Warren G's making it hot for the ladies on "Make It Do What It Do" or flipping a unique '40s flavor on "Wheels Keep Spinning," courtesy of his father's record collection. Overall, though, samples are largely absent from the proceedings in favor of live musicians--Warren plays keys, bass, drums and percussion himself!--giving the album a warm and funky sound as has come to be expected from one of the innovators of G Funk.Grammy Award--winning artist/producer Raphael Saadiq (Lucy Pearl, Tony! Toni! Tone!) joins Warren to sing on and co--produce the very musical "Walk These Streets." And the Dirty South's Mike Jones rides in for "In Case Some Sh$# Go Down," turning in a smooth, understated delivery that's a new twist for the MC. Newcomer Frank Lee White, a young rapper from Georgia recommended to Warren by his half--brother Dr. Dre, holds Jones down with his insouciant flow, which appears throughout the album but perhaps most charmingly in the torch--passing "Weed Song."Another Dr. Dre connection is in SoCal's Bishop Lamont, a new signing to Dre's Aftermath label who also appears on several songs including the raw bounce of "Garilla Pimpin." "P.Y.T." finds Warren waxing philosophical with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg about those pretty young thangs. Nate's inimitable hot buttered vocals also resurface in the title track, a post--studio seduction that elicits the magic of the smoothest soul classics and allows Nate to musically stretch out as never heard before; he's also crooning on "I Need a Light," which reflects on Warren's childhood and the pain of losing family members.Growing up, Warren enjoyed listening to his parents' extensive collection of soul and funk music, which nurtured his love of classic grooves early on and gave him a high standard to strive for in his own production efforts. The album cover of In The Mid--Nite Hour is an homage to one of his musical heroes, Marvin Gaye. Mr. Gaye's memory is paid tribute alongside Warren's late family members in the credits.Warren G grew up on the east side of Long Beach, California, where gang violence was rampant and a default way of life. He and childhood friends Calvin (Cordozar) Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg) and Nathaniel Hale (Nate Dogg) also had positive influences such as church and Pop Warner football, but they all played a delicate and tense balancing act. The three shared a bond beyond these typical experiences, though, and that was music. With Warren as the DJ, Snoop rapping and Nate singing, they formed a group called Three The Hard Way, referencing the classic Blaxploitation film starring Fred Williamson. Eventually calling themselves 213 (after Long Beach's area code at the time), they finally caught the ear of Dr. Dre (by then a successful producer and former member of N.W.A). Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg were quickly on the road to becoming international hip--hop heroes. The three would go on to collaborate with Dre on his 1992 album The Chronic and Snoop's 1993 album Doggystyle, which are still official benchmarks in hip--hop history.Instead of signing with LA's Death Row Records (who had released Dre and Snoop's albums), Warren G signed with Def Jam in New York and quickly proved he had something remarkable up his sleeve as well. His 1994 debut Regulate...The G Funk Era was certified multi--platinum in the U.S., sold over 10 million units worldwide and earned multiple award nominations (Grammy, American Music, Soul Train, and Brit). Russell Simmons would later cite Warren G's signing as a "turning point" for Def Jam and its subsequent mega--success. "After that, Def Jam never looked back," Simmons says in his book Life and Def.Subsequent albums Take a Look Over Your Shoulder and I Want It All were certified gold and generated international hits like "I Want It All" and his cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff," while 2001's Return of the Regulator showcased his studio skills through working with legendary artists like Stevie Wonder and George Clinton (the two, alongside the late Tupac Shakur, are cited by Warren as some of the great highlights of his extensive collaborations over the years).Truly an international artist since the beginning, Warren G has shown a very open musical mind through working with a palette of artists across various genres, from Norway's great operatic singer Sissel (their "Prince Igor" was a Top 10 hit across Europe in 1997) to Tokyo rapper Lil Ai (who joined Warren and hip--hop legend KRS--One on "Let's Go (It's a Movement)" for the Beef soundtrack in 2003). He has also performed and shared stages around the world with artists ranging from David Bowie to Lionel Richie to the Fugees.Throughout it all, he remembered a promise that he made with pals Snoop and Nate as youngsters back on the streets of Long Beach. As their solo careers started on the epic journeys to the large success they've now each had, they vowed they'd come back together as 213 and release an album one day. That promise finally came true in 2004. 213's album The Hard Way debuted as Billboard's Top Independent Album in the country (and number four in the Top 200), while hip--hop magazine XXL praised their "impeccable chemistry" and fans enjoyed a long--anticipated release that promoted friendship as much as good music. That enduring bond is important to see in hip--hop, where beefs and battles make more frequent headlines. Listeners can still hear and feel the closeness between Warren G, Nate Dogg and Snoop Dogg as they collaborated once again in the making of In The Mid--Nite Hour.The three friends have also shown that kids growing up amidst the daunting odds of life in the more strained areas of Long Beach can find a positive direction. Very early on in his career, Warren G made a commitment to regularly go back and give back to the area he came from, and his involvement has only deepened over the years.In fact, the "LBC" recently marked the 1st annual Warren G Week, an official declaration made by Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neall for the citywide celebration of his care for the community. The activities included the opening of the Willie McGinest Freedom School, a new charter program to enrich learning, and speaking to the Boy's and Girl's Club. He also played with the young men of the Midnight Basketball League (a safe late night alternative to the streets), hosted a children's day at the famous Queen Mary ship that is the city's distinct landmark (and normally too expensive for people to check out), and hosted two concerts with the support of up--and--coming Long Beach artists. In spring 2006, he will again be commended by Long Beach when he is awarded the key to the city and an honorary degree from California State University Long Beach.Warren G Week was essentially a kick--off to the artist's greater community involvement in the city of his birth, which includes working with City Councilwoman Laura Richardson on a foundation to help keep music in the schools and continuing his own annual and long--running Christmas Toy Project, where he personally picks out $15,000 worth of toys he would have wanted as a kid and hands them out."I'm not trying to be a savior, but to be a part of the kids' life as far as a lightweight role model," Warren explains. "I'm not trying to be a superhero--I'm just trying to be there to let the kids see that if I can make it they can make it and something positive can come out of Long Beach. It motivates me just to see a smile and to see somebody's life change."In The Mid--Nite Hour gives sound and voice to that positive possibility of change. Warren G has shown that he's got a large capacity for giving, and his greatest gift is still in sharing the music he makes. More than anything, the album is a welcome reminder that it's possible to celebrate and have fun while also acknowledging society's ills and working towards creating a constructive direction in life.12:01 a.m. Warren G is ready for a long and healthy life with fresh possibilities.