“…at the end of the day, we made some great f–king work.”
— The D.O.C
The Meek Mill and Drake “beef” – and I use the term loosely – exposed something it never intended to; it would appear that in 2015, people still don’t read album credits. I’ve already spoken of the phenomenon of ‘ghostwriting’, but what about the phenomenon of just ‘writing’? A very quick glance reveals that Drake’s shadowy punchline pusher (or helper) is very much credited, so why isn’t he more widely acknowledged for his contributions to Drizzy’s platinum effort?
This is the same question I have when I think about platinum selling west coast (via Dallas, Texas) artist The D.O.C. He was an integral writing resource for the group NWA as they recorded their legendary Straight Outta Compton album. However, shortly after seeing the success of his own (eventually) platinum selling debut album No One Can Do It Better, he was involved in a near-fatal car accident, which left him with crushed vocal cords, effectively ending his career as a ‘rapper.’
This didn’t stop him, however, from becoming the pen behind NWA. With Ice Cube’s departure, he stepped up and became a driving force behind their second and final, NIGGAZ4LIFE. He also wrote large portions of Eazy-E’s material, and Dr. Dre’s game-changing Chronic LP.
Over the years, there were some ups, downs, fall outs and legal woes. Although, as news reports, and D.O.C himself confirm, he has regained the use of his vocal cords and is eyeing a return to the rap world. I was lucky enough to talk with the west coast institution about the NWA doc, the return of his voice and his place in rap history.
What did you think about Straight Outta Compton?
Well, I thought it was a great movie, and I support it one million percent. I went and saw the movie myself maybe two, three nights ago and enjoyed it.
Now, one thing I noticed about the movie is they touched your accident, your involvement with NWA is downplayed.
I don’t like to dwell on negative things. The first part you said was “I was there” and that… That’s all that matters to me, you know. That’s their vision; they decided to write that movie that way, and it was a great film. No, it was not a hundred percent accurate, but that’s what movie is? I support their vision, like I said, one million percent and when I get into my film, my version of those events, I hope they support me as much as I support them.
You’re a very prolific writer. A lot of people think about a ghost writer as someone that writes stuff behind the scenes – and isn’t credited. But, it’s interesting because you’re a ghostwriter in a sense that, not everybody knows that you wrote so much stuff for NWA. You’re entirely credited.
Well, Not actually fully credited but most of it I am. I’m not credited for any of the stuff on Eazy’s first album or NWA’s first album. My name never showed up, but everybody knows I did it.
If you look up Straight Outta Compton on Wikipedia, you’re listed as a writer.
They’re just not paying you for it.
Yeah, something like that. (Laughs) Something like that.
You’re kind of the main voice behind the group – and even the driving force behind Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.
What you’re saying is right, and you’re right. You’re totally on point. From my perspective, there is another story that’s interesting, compelling and yet to be told. So I think the time for it to start getting its light is upon us because so many people after that movie are interested. So many people are saying that like… “who is this guy who’s in the whole movie? We never see him do shit…what is his story?” I’m working on a documentary right now. See, a lot of the stuff that you saw in that movie was the shiny part, you know what I mean, and the darker part you didn’t get to see. So, me exposing what I would refer to as the ‘darker periods’ of that successful era would make a very compelling movie or documentary.
The movie made it seem as though Ice Cube did most of the writing you know; they put a lot of emphasis on it. You were, in reality, a pretty important piece of that puzzle.
Well, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but toot-toot godammit. But, the thing that’s most important to me is being there and being part of that amazing time. Then, that incredible music. It means a lot to me that in the sense that we were young guys that were trying to face something that was bigger than us. That wasn’t a hundred percent our goal in life, you know what I mean, we were just young, we wanted to make this record and have fun. Public enemy pushed us in a direction that allowed us to express what we were doing in a way that can be channeled into something positive, so that felt excellent to me, and it still feels good. Although, like Cube said, they “have the authority to kill a minority.” They’re doing it – and they’re doing it at an alarming rate and it’s screwed up. What hurt bothers me is no one connected to the success is saying anything about it. It was supposed to be a staple of what this movie is about. The crucial part of what makes this an outstanding film was that it shone that light on America. It showed that thirty years later she’s still a little bit of a fuck up, because she’s allowing this shit to go on.
Absolutely – and again I get it, it’s a Hollywood movie. I understand why marketers wouldn’t want to do that, but it seems like missed opportunity
Straight Outta Compton, I think, was number 6 on the Billboard last week…
And Eazy Duz It was number 42, you know what I mean? Anyone or anything that was mentioned in this movie is selling.
Now I don’t want to take anything away from anybody – I think the success of this whole movement is magnificent and wonderful. I just don’t want it to come and go without giving something back to the energy that got us here; you know what I mean? Like, we learned a lot of lessons and even myself I went through a lot of shit during that time, it was a dark period of my life. I sacrificed a lot to those great records, and so I had to go through an alcoholic period and a period where I started using drugs. I made it through all of that, though, and I’m more focused and serious now than I was then – just with a different mind state. So, if I do get the chance to tell my story, I want to benefit more than just people who love gangsta rap, but everybody who is struggling too. Even people that are thinking about suicide, or just dealing with the fact that life is not fair. All those things will pass if you believe in yourself and push forward. Maybe thirty years later, they will make a movie about you. (laughs)
It’s crazy, and I mean, it must be gratifying to know that a lot of the stuff that you were making back then is still a hundred percent relevant now. It’s being consumed by another generation.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be on Twitter and have some sixteen-year-old kid tell me that his father has made him listen to my first record and he loves me, it’s cool.
It doesn’t feel dated. It doesn’t feel old you know what I mean? It all holds up.
It’s called timeless.
The key to making great music is to make it timeless. The stuff we did back then, it had no time to it, it was just had that feel to it, and that’s how I like to make music man. I just want to make great shit, and I wouldn’t care if it was visual art, or music, or poetry. I’m just into making great art.
So you’re going to be making more new art in the future?
I am. One of the deals is that the accident that happened to me in that movie took my voice. It was taken from me, and for a quarter century my vocal cords didn’t work. I got arrested about two years ago, and I spent a year locked up. While I was locked up, by some blessing, those vocal cords were starting to move again on their own – and from there I could manipulate my vocal cords to make a solid tone again. So, I have a voice again. It’s not anywhere near strong, and it isn’t comfortable. It feels like putting your shoes on the wrong foot and walking because I haven’t used those muscles in fucking twenty-five years.
But I have been working on it, and I’m trying to build them, slowly and surely. I’m going to make new art. I believe that God gave me that blessing as a sign to tell me that it’s time to start talking. It has nothing to do with rapping or being the greatest rapper again, I’ve already done that. It has nothing to do with making these magnificent platinum records; I’ve already done that. I think it was given back to me because it’s time for someone to start talking.
Absolutely and the time is now.
We’re in an appalling place bro. We in the United States we are in a bad fucking place. It’s not going to get any better unless people – and I don’t mean black people, and I don’t mean white people, I mean everybody.
I mean if you don’t get your shit together and get your head out of your ass, and realize that there are forces that are working in this world that are trying to manipulate the future. They’re making it so black folks and white folks will never really have the chance to get along – and white folks and Mexican folks or any of these folks will never have an opportunity at peace. Peace means that the power would be in the hands of the people. All power should be in that hands of the people; but, as long as the power is in the hands of the elite few then it will always be fucked up because they make the money. All of these Republicans are negative; they don’t know how to talk to people or about people, so I don’t want someone like that speaking for me.
It’s just a hamster wheel – If it’s not Trump, it’s another Trump.
There you go bro; now you get it. Yeah, I vote for Kanye. (Laughs)
It’s all about new ideas bro, new ideas. (Laughs)
I don’t want this to turn into a United Nations debate (laughs). Look, I’m proud of Cube, Dre and Yella and Ren and Eazy (R.I.P) for doing what they did. A lot of it was fucked up, and there was a lot of stealing, back stabbing, and goofy nigga shit. And, Jerry is not the fucking saint he pretends to be – but, it’s the music business man! It’s the business that we chose, and sometimes it gets fucked up, but at the end of the day, we made some great fucking work.
Timeless records that will never go away. Timeless records that almost thirty years after the fact are topping Billboard record charts.
Yeah man, that’s fucking cool and shit. I’ll just wait now to get the fucking money. (Clears throat)
Are you properly credited on the Niggas4life?
Yeah, I get everything after Straight Outta Compton. Now, I didn’t make any money on this movie, nobody asked me for anything, nobody offered me anything – and so I didn’t feel it necessary to chase these guys for anything. I’m happy for their success. I’m a spiritual person, and I believe that what was supposed to be mine will make its way to me if I continue to work hard for it.