Death Row Records is not only one of the most notorious record labels in the history of Hip-Hop, it was also one of the hottest. From 1992-1996 everything Death Row touched turned to gold – or platinum. With artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and later 2Pac, it was almost impossible for the label to fail.
The undisputed backbone of Death Row during their historic run was Tha Dogg Pound, Daz and Kurupt. Daz handled the bulk of the production on post-Chronic releases and Kurupt was without question the label’s best lyricist.
Originally from Philadelphia, Kurupt relocated to Los Angeles and became one of the west coast’s best emcees. In addition to his Dogg Pound and Death Row work Kurupt has released various joint projects and solo albums over the past two decades.
In the spring of 2010 I got the chance to speak to Kurupt while he was promoting his sixth studio album, Streetlights. In what was a joyous conversation Kurupt and I discussed being shouted out by Eminem, his work on Detox, and his growth as an artist and as a man.
TRHH: Tell me about the new album Streetlights.
Kurupt: Off the chain. This album I made for people to enjoy off a good sack of some good good or whatever floats your boat. Relax and chill and enjoy yourself to the music. It’s real cool, real smooth, and laid back. I got me a couple clubbers on there too where you can get it in. I got some rider music so you can go and start a riot. It’s all the above mixed up in one. It’s especially good for when you’re rolling and got those long rolls and you want something you can to listen to from top to bottom and not have to change the CD because you’re just so in a groove. The next thing you know you’re at your destination. That’s the type of album it is. It’s called Streetlights, it drops on 4/20. That’s the national smoke day so get a sack and throw that Streetlights in man and get lifted.
TRHH: Did you strategically put Streetlights out on 4/20?
Kurupt: When we was looking at dates to drop it was one of the dates that they had. It fit in so perfectly since I made it for people to be able to blaze up and have a good time to. It just popped off proper when Fontana hit me and told me the release dates schedules. I seen 4/20 on there and said, “My God, this just fits so perfectly” because I do get the best Kush in the world out here in the California area. Strategically, no we didn’t plan it to be 4/20 but all things happen at the right time and at the right moment so, it just fell in place.
TRHH: What’s the single “I’m Burnt” all about?
Kurupt: I’m Burnt is used in so many different ways. It’s a double-edged sword. You could be burnt where it’s all tore up or you could be burnt on situations that be happening. Or you go to the positive where you’re burnt because you’re hot as fire. It’s just a saying that we use in California for the positive and the negative. What we’re talking about in that record is we’re burnt out because we’re just so hot. We’re on fire right now. Me, Problem and Terrace are making the best music of our lives right now and having the best time.
TRHH: What was it like working with Terrace Martin?
Kurupt: Working with Terrace is like when I first started working with Daz. It’s fresh and it’s new. He’s one of the top up and coming producers coming out of the West Coast. The boy got a lot of music in him. He produces for Quincy Jones as well, so, this is a real musical album right here rather than just some Hip-Hop rapping thing. This is a musical thing right here. Terrace is a firm believer in live instrumentation. He also plays the sax and the keys tremendously well – those are his specialties.
I gave him the opportunity to produce a whole album because for a producer to produce an entire album that’s the key to the game. It’s easy to give a track or two here and there but to produce a whole album is something different than just making a beat. That’s when you become a producer. I wanted to give Terrace an opportunity to produce an entire album. He was the first cat that I was working with musically when I got back with Snoop. He said, “Terrace, Kurupt’s going to be your project, him and Battlecat. Give him that proper shit.”
TRHH: You said you’re making the best music of your life right now. How have you grown as an artist since ‘Kuruption!’?
Kurupt: When I say the best music of my life right now, my life is going in such a positive direction, this is the best music I’ve made in a long time. I feel like after Space Boogie I went through an up and a down and actually I’m reinvented right now. My life to me has just begun since I got back with Snoop and got more active in my kids’ life. This is the best music that I’ve made since I’ve been reinvented. I had to clarify that. Me and Terrace are just on fire. I don’t know if people are going to accept it because they love when Kurupt is negative, but I’m dying to see what they think about Kurupt when he’s positive.
It’s a real mature album. It’s for the grown folks. The youngsters can get involved into it ‘cause I ain’t doing too many hoe records and talking about bitches and all of that, even though I know that’s what they love from Kurupt. I’m trying to introduce them to a new Kurupt. I’m a father, I’m a team leader, and I have my own company now for real where I’m 100% owner of the company. My boys are all doing such positive things. Roscoe’s over there with Dr. Dre. Y.A. is finna release an album, G-Hood Fellas, I got Controversy back, and the Westparados. We’re just pushing the line right now. It’s a great time for me and my entire squad.
TRHH: You mentioned Roscoe, how was it different working with your brother on The Frank and Jess Story than working with Daz on a Dogg Pound album?
Kurupt: Really it wasn’t no difference because being in with Daz is like being in with Roscoe. It’s a family thing so you’re all comfortable. The scenery is right and the feeling is right so it’s really not a difference in the work, it’s more or less the type of music that we make. Me and Roscoe make a different type of music than me and Daz make. When me and Daz make music it’s just a different form of music. Me and Sco are more articulate and about our rhymes, and me and Daz are more into telling tales from the streets. It’s two different sides of Kurupt, you got the lyrical side when it comes to Roscoe and you got the more street edged type of music that I make when it comes to Daz, but the vibe is still the same. We go in and we go in hard.
TRHH: Another collaboration album you did was the BlaQKout album with DJ Quik. What was it like working with Quik and will we see a part 2?
Kurupt: That was totally different right there because I grew up to DJ Quik. To work with DJ Quik was similar to how it was working with Dr. Dre. I got a lot of education out of it. I know how to work Pro Tools right now because of DJ Quik and my lil’ homeboy Tek. Tek showed me the ropes and DJ Quik showed me where the top of the map was with Pro Tools. Being with Quik was more or less a learning experience than being with Daz or Scodie where we just go for broke and we’re learning together. Being with Quik was like being with a teacher and he’s teaching me different things. He gave me the outlet to make the kind of music I wanted to make at that time while everybody wanted me ra ra, Quik accepted me for who I was and was just loving the verses from Kurupt. He gave me my freedom of speech.
It’s definitely a BlaQKout 2. DJ Quik is working on his album right now and I think he’s working with Suga Free. I can say maybe not this year but next year you’re going to see a DJ Quik and Kurupt album. We’re not going for number 2, 3 or 4. Me and Quik are going to do this until one of our wheels stop. He’s my big homie. Every time I’m around Quik he takes care of me and makes sure that I’m alright. That’s the difference, working with Quik is similar to working with Dr. Dre because you learn something every time you get in the studio with ‘em.
TRHH: Speaking of Dr. Dre, have you worked on the Detox album?
Kurupt: Well Dr. Dre made us sign a waiver that we wouldn’t say… no I’m only playing [laughs]. My God! Working with Detox I do keep it under wraps because Dr. Dre got so much going on with his self that he really don’t want no ideas given away about it. He wants it to be really shocking to people that’s why he’s ain’t throwing anything to ‘em. So, I don’t want to spoil his surprise, but I will tell you, what a great surprise. Dr. Dre has been working on this record. He’s a specialist when it comes to perfection. I can speak for Dr. Dre, be patient and you’ll have the ride of your life when you pop this motherfucker in, and you do know that.
TRHH: A couple of times in the interview you’ve mentioned how you’ve changed and you’re slowing down on the bitch and hoe records, what prompted that change in you?
Kurupt: [Laughs] It’s just the way I feel now. I’m not saying I’m never gon’ make ‘em again ‘cause I gotta talk about these funky cock hoes, and you do know that. This album here ain’t about talking to them funky cock hoes and making a record strictly for the streets. This record right here is the growth of Kurupt. It’s something that I wanted my kids to be able to listen to certain records, so, I made records for them. That’s what “I’m Burnt” is. When Terrace and Problem hit me up and said “listen to this one” that they put together specifically for me, that’s why I love Problem and Terrace, the first thing I thought is my kids is gon’ love this right here.
We went off the Richter on the remix but the original we kind of kept in a little bit and didn’t go too far. I know I didn’t. My kids love the record, the young folks love it, and they jerk to it and get their groove on to it. My whole thing changed because I changed as a man. There’s different things I look at in life and I wanted to project that through. The title and theme song for the entire album Streetlights with me and Tone that Terrace produced, I really get into some deep game where I’m talking some real deep shit about the Willie Lynch Syndrome and how we were born to step on each other to get to the top. We were taught to do that by the way our ancestors were brought to the table. I get real in depth and deep about life and some real game and knowledge for men and women all across the world.
TRHH: I know you’ve been acting in movies, what’s coming up for you this year?
Kurupt: The movie game is so weird but I’m still waiting for this movie to drop called “Days of Wrath.” Rick Ross and David Banner are in it and homegirl from One Missed Call. My homeboy Ricardo from Desperate Housewives and my homie who be hosting Yo Momma on MTV. It’s an all-star cast in this movie right here. We got a Dogg Pound movie that Snoop is actually putting in the works right now. Snoop is going to be overseeing it and directing it. He’s putting it together with me, Daz, and him. We got a couple projects that’s in the works. We got a movie that I co-wrote and I’ll be directing and producing called “Rent’s Due.” I’m really trying to step it up in the movie game instead of just being in the movies. I got a lot of great ideas and great scripts that I’ve been putting together for probably about 6-7 years. I’m getting my film company together, Penagon Films. I got a movie that I’m making called “Penagon” that’s basically a movie I’m making for all my artists under my label. I’m just trying to step my game up in all aspects of the game.
TRHH: I know you and Daz are going to be performing at the Paid Dues Festival in San Bernardino on April 3rd….
Kurupt: And you do know that.
TRHH: What do you have in-store for the people in San Bernardino? Cube is going to be there, MURS, I wish I was gon’ be there!
Kurupt: It’s a great thing, man. You should be there ‘cause you’d have the time of your life. We’re gonna give you some real West Coast history, nephew. From the triple OG, to the OG, to the new breed of West Coast music and music in general. It’s a lot of artists on there. Tech N9ne is on there, Strong Arm Steady, it’s going to be a great show. You gotta give it up to MURS because MURS is the one who brought me and Daz to the table. You gotta love MURS because he’s a major figure in this festival. He keeps it to the roots. He keeps it homebound.
We’ve been trying for a long time to get the West Coast in the position where we can have our own festival. This is like the West Coast Rock the Bells – it’s real big. We’re gonna give them classics, classics, classics then we’re gon’ hit ‘em with that new Dogg Pound shit, 100 Wayz, that’s dropping this summer. Then we’re gonna hit ‘em with that new Kurupt, then we gonna go back and give them each one of our solo things. So, we gonna do it big for ‘em.
TRHH: A few years back Eminem spit a rhyme where he named you as one of his favorites. I think it was ‘Till I Collapse. I’m sure you get that a lot. How does it feel to get that kind of love and respect from your peers?
Kurupt: First off, it’s actually vice versa, because that’s crazy. When I first heard it, it made me smile to death. I was like, “Wow.” At a young age when he dropped he was my favorite. He wasn’t playing no games. He was sick on the mic. “My Name Is” is when he got me stuck on him. Dr. Dre took him to that extra level. He learned so much, too, because look at what he did picking 50 as an artist. 50 is a conglomerate. It’s crazy to see the love, but that’s all that it is, is love. I’m glad that I made it to this age ‘cause it ain’t easy to make it to this age and to be loved by people like that, appreciated, and respected, which is the most important thing, for the craft that you try to perfect.
When I heard that I said, “This shows me that it all paid off.” All the fucking up in school. Tell the kids don’t be like I was [laughs]. I was fucking up in school. Instead of reading the books and shit I was writing rhymes and it paid off. All the battles I had in the streets of Philadelphia and Sharo Hill holding my own as a youngster, man. To the point that they just called me “The Kid.” They’d say, “You tight but let me go and get The Kid. Serve this nigga, Kid!” I would eat people to bits and pieces with freestyles – no written. It showed it paid off. When I was in California and I was chopping the heads off of entire malls. You couldn’t come to the Hawthorne Mall or the Hawthorne 6 without knowing about this lil’ nigga named Kurupt just eating everybody to bits and pieces. It shows that it paid off believing in myself and putting God first. ‘Cause it was only God that put Snoop around me for me to even have that opportunity. It just shows that it all paid off.
Purchase: Kurupt – Streetlights