Happy 25th Anniversary to Warren G’s debut album Regulate… G Funk Era, originally released June 7, 1994.
Warren G’s debut album has a special place in my heart. My personal entry into hip-hop came in 1993. There was a golden era of rap music happening in New York at the time but I wouldn’t know about that for another year. Like millions of other white kids from suburbs around the world, my attention had been captured by the explicit lyrics and violent music coming out of the west coast. Gangster rap had arrived on my radar, more specifically Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Being Dr. Dre’s stepbrother and a friend of Snoop’s since a young age placed Warren G as part of the circle of talent Dre and Suge Knight had assembled at Death Row Records. He was never signed to the label however, and only appears once on The Chronic (1992) (on the intro skit to “Deeez Nuuuts”) and once on Doggystyle (1993) ("Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)").
Warren G didn’t benefit too much from the monster success of those albums therefore, and chose a different route by seeking a record deal with east coast backing, having got Dre’s blessing to go his own way. It proved to be a calculated risk that paid dividends. Regulate... G Funk Era was a major hit record that went 3x platinum. Its success not only validated Warren’s decision to go it alone but also confirmed he could make it without his powerful stepbrother, and produce an entire hit record himself. From a business perspective, Regulate... G Funk Era also saved the once mighty Def Jam; turning their fortunes around after a period of financial uncertainty (Warren G was not signed to Def Jam but the label distributed Regulate... G Funk).
The album’s success was on the strength of the massive single “Regulate,” Warren G’s smooth reworking of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” giving it cross-over appeal (“Regulate” was a favorite of my Mom’s). The song is a simple no-frills tale of Warren G and an associate getting caught up in some gangster shit, surviving it and then celebrating with a bunch of ladies over at the Eastside Motel.
That associate was the late great Nate Dogg. Having already made an impact on The Chronic and Doggystyle, his appearance on “Regulate” brought him to the masses and established him as the go-to hip-hip crooner and hook maestro until his death in 2011. If the popular ‘90s rap and R&B crossover format existed to reach wider attention by smoothing over the rough, then Nate Dogg liked to break the format. His lyrics on “Regulate” are harder than Warren G’s, including the infamous line “Sixteen in the clip and one in the hole / Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold.” Ironically, “Regulate” also features on the Death Row Records soundtrack to the 2Pac-starring movie Above The Rim. It helped make that a hugely successful album too, probably making a lot of money for Dr. Dre.
Warren G is not the most technically gifted rapper and accordingly stays in a safe lane on Regulate... G Funk Era with nothing much weightier in content than basic stories of growing up in the hood. He does these well however, notably on “Do You See,” where he reminisces about his formative years with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, the choices their environment forced them to make, and how they decided to escape the street life through music.
Anything Warren G lacks behind the mic is made up for by his skill behind the boards. After learning the trade watching his stepbrother, Warren G took the G-funk sound that Above The Law birthed and Dr. Dre then perfected, and made it his own on Regulate... G Funk Era. It peaks on the brilliant “This D.J.,” which bounces along with the kind of multi-layered textures and subtle nuances that made The Chronic so good. Like another producer/rapper who came up under Dr. Dre, Dat Nigga Daz (of Tha Dogg Pound), Warren G’s production skills were underused by other west coast artists in the ‘90s. Given the right projects, both producers could have become acclaimed beatmakers and broken out even further from the looming shadow of their mentor.
As was standard at the time, Warren G used Regulate... G Funk Era as a platform for artists he was developing. “Recognize” features the eager raps of The Twinz, while The Dove Shack guest on “This Is The Shack.” Warren G later produced on the debut albums from each of these acts: The Twinz’ Conversation and The Dove Shack’s This Is The Shack. Both were released on the exact same day in 1995, and both are worth seeking out.
It would be remiss of me not to mention an unintentionally-hilarious moment on the album cut “What’s Next,” where Warren G spits the line “I say what’s next, what’s next, what’s N.X.E.T.” Lyrical dyslexia aside, the track is one of the standouts and features yet more young, hungry talent in the shape of Mr. Malik from the short-lived group, Illegal.
Regulate... G Funk Era came at a time when there were soon-to-be-considered classic hip-hop albums dropping on the east coast, west coast and within other regions across the country. It would be a stretch to look at this album as a genuine classic, but it stands as an impressive debut from an underrated artist. Warren G continues to make music today but has struggled to match either the critical or commercial success of Regulate... G Funk Era. His most recent release was a sequel EP in 2015, the appropriately-named Regulate... G Funk Era, Pt. II.