G-Funk is pretty much my favorite genre of hip hop. Let's go over a few classics.The Chronic
(1992) - Seminal G-Funk. Sure, Dre had given us hints of what was to come while he was still in N.W.A., but the tracks on this record codified the genre. It had all the essential elements: synths, whining portamento, P-funk samples, and hedonistic-as-hell lyrics, delivered in the infamous lazy drawl.
While Dre's rap style was still a bit awkward at this point in his career ("Well I'm peepin', and I'm creepin', and I'm creep-in"?!?), his genius as a producer was nearly unparallelled. Besides, every other rapper on this album - and on the entire West Coast, for that matter - was an immediate afterthought after Snoop busted out his first "Bow wow wow, yippy yo yippy yay" on "Fuck Wit Dre Day".
The world would never be the same, as the scene was now set for...Doggystyle
(1993) - Definitive G-Funk. Snoop has become such an overblown, farcical character these days, that it really is difficult to imagine what he must have been like as a 22 year old kid recording this stuff. Never the hard-ass G of Death Row, it's as if he knew he had to put up a tough front, but still managed to play it off almost as a joke.
It's obvious to tell when Snoop is keepin' it real - classics like "Lodi Dodi" and "Ain't No Fun" flow smooth as silk and are just that: fun. And lest we forget, Dre's beats provide what can only be described as the perfect accompaniment to Snoop's laid back style. The synths are even more heavily layered, and the beats are smoothed out to perfection. Both these cats were at the very top of their games here.Regulate... G Funk Era
(1994) - Family friendly G-Funk. Dre's step-brother and Snoop's former groupmate Warren G was the heart of West Coast G-Funk, even before this album came out. He didn't care much for pimpin' bitches or cappin' niggaz; he and his buddy Nate Dogg were always happy just cruisin' in the California sunshine, passing blunts. The video for "This DJ" is telling of his sensitivity:
G benefits greatly from the contributions of Nate Dogg. Those tracks in which Nate offers backup are true standouts. Though they would ultimately go their separate ways, their collaboration on this record is great, great stuff for a non-Death Row release. (Bonus points if you know which movie the intro of "Regulate" is ripped from.)
And "Regulate", of course, was featured on the soundtrack of "Above the Rim", which starred....All Eyez on Me
(1996) - Real gangsta ass G-Funk. One of the greatest rap albums ever released, from the most compelling character in hip hop history. Obviously, the real story of this record is not G-Funk, but Pac himself.
It is the stuff of legends. In a little more than a year before the album hit shelves, he had been shot five times, was convicted of sexual assault, and spent 11 months in prison. Suge Knight bailed him out, posting a million dollar bond, under the agreement that Pac would release three records on the Death Row label. Just days after he was released from prison, he began recording. He was 24.
This is him while shooting the video for the title track.
With Tupac's death and Suge Knight's legal meltdown in 1996, the G-Funk Era effectively came to a close. If we take a step back and look at it, I think it's pretty obvious that it had run a course that was only fitting for the lifestyle it glorified.
Sure, Dre really was straight out of Compton, and he had some street cred, but he was also under control. Given the subject matter, he and his immediate succesors had managed to keep the genre as light-hearted as possible. Tupac, however, was one angry G out of prison, and by the time he had permeated G-Funk with the self-destructive "thug life" philosophy, it was only a matter of time before both he and the music style were ended by the sound of gunfire.
To live and die in L.A...
Labels: music, nostalgia