Conversations With Chad: The D.O.C. On What It Takes To Make Classic Album, Ghost-Writing, Working With Dr. Dre + More

From being a creative force behind the pioneering rap group N.W.A, to his platinum classic No One Can Do It Better, and penning all-time classic hits for his homies Dr. Dre (The Chronic) and Snoop Dogg (Doggystyle), the diggy Doc continues to be heavily involved behind the scenes.

By writing for Eazy-E and N.W.A. during his Ruthless Records glory days, the D.O.C. would later break on the scene by helping craft a Dr. Dre-produced debut album filled with high energy cuts like “Portrait Of A Masterpiece,” “Whirlwind Pyramind,” “It’s Funky Enough,” and, of course, the timeless “The Formula.” Tragically, shortly after the release of that album, the D.O.C. would be involved in a car accident that would crush his larynx and strip him of his strong voice & commanding delivery. He would come back to pen songs for the N.W.A platinum album Efil4zaggin, and become a major contributor to Death Row Records‘ multi-platinum classics, The Chronic and Doggystyle, all while releasing two albums of his own: 1996’s Helter Skelter (1996), and 2003’s Deuce, where D.O.C. wrote the raps while others vocally delivered the lines. Once the “boy with the golden voice,” the D.O.C. has continued to write dope rhymes and lyrics with Dr. Dre for Chronic 2001, as well as his highly anticipated Detox record, and several others.

In this Chad Kiser exclusive, the D.O.C. shares his thoughts on the current state of hip-hop, discusses what it takes to make a classic album, and weighs in on a few Dr. Dre-related topics.

What do you think is missing, as far as in the music today?

To be perfectly honest with you, kid, I am equal opportunity, in that I don’t believe that there is anything missing. I believe that we are a minority, especially if you are a n****, or African-American or black, whichever language you speak. If you making money from rap music, I love you. I love it! I don’t hate none of it. As an older-school head within the music, I can remember when content was what it was all about. But that’s a double-edged sword because I wrote most of the sh** on the “We Want Eazy” record, Eazy’s first record. That had nothing to do with content. As a matter of fact, that “We Want Eazy” record is what they’re doing today. He opened the door for a lot of the Lil Wayne’s, and Baby’s, and all of the guys that are doing the sh** today.

What goes into making a classic song, or a classic album?

A classic song is a song that will live years, and years, years after you dead. I don’t mean to knock them, but we’ll use west coast motherf***er J.J. Fad. Another 20 or 30 years from now motherf***ers ain’t going to be going “sumalumahlah sumanumanah” thinking that was just the sh** because that was a sign of the times right then. It’s just like the south has this thing, which is really the same sh**, where they got the snap kind of deal where anybody that’s of a certain age can make one of those records. You don’t have to say much, really, because that’s what time it is. And you don’t hate them, ’cause it’s they time. Just like when it was our time around here, motherf***ers didn’t understand our sh**. But I respect all of them — the Souljah Boy’s, the Hurricane’s, you know? I love them all ’cause they n****s like me, so if I can’t hate me, I can’t hate them.

Snoop’s Doggystyle was the last album where we really saw Dr. Dre produce an album top to bottom. Why doesn’t he produce records all the way through anymore?

Well that would be just like asking Mr. McDonald why he don’t make every burger himself. Think about it. It’s just not enough time in the day for him to give all of you all of that, and have anything left for himself and his family, and his own life. But the cool thing about Dre is, if you can meet him half way, that means if you bring a song to him that’s half way the sh**, then by the time he get through with it, it’ll be a verified hit. So instead of him having to build off from the bottom up, if you can meet him half way, then you’re going to be able to do some sh**.

With that being said, I been knowing Dre for 20 years and I’ve been working with him that long. He still shows me different sh** whenever we’re in the studio. It’s the one set of ears besides mine that I trust. He’s the only mother****er that’s ever told me my raps wasn’t good (laughs). I mean ever in life! And it will piss me off, and I really get mad at him because he doesn’t do it to any of these other people like that. He works with a lot of people, but I’m the only mother****er that he chooses to jump down their throat like that. He don’t tell Snoopy, or Busta, or Jay-Z, or Eminem or none of those guys, “I don’t like that.” He’ll tell me that sh** in a hot minute! But I know it’s a lot of love in it, so I don’t look too deep into it.

What’s a typical day like in the studio for you?

Well, this is a typical day. Right now, I’m sitting on my ass and I was listening to beats before you called — listening to drums that Dre picked out that he says that he feels good about. I’ll listen to them and see if something just hits me, or I’ll take them home and live with them for a little while. Then I’ll come back up and lay something down. If he feels good about it, then we’ll f*** with it until it feels good to everybody. And then we build songs like that until we get 12 or 13 songs that everybody likes. Then you just start chiseling at those songs until you get the product you want.

Writing for Dre, or Snoop, or Breed, how do you put yourself in their minds to make them come off as well as they’re able to come off with your words?

That’s easy. Even more than a rapper, I’m a writer. I’m like Langston Hughes, rather than Method Man. I get turned on by the way that the words connect, so that not only n****s understand it, but that white folks can, too. Matter of fact, when I write, I write it so that the average white person can pick it up and read it, and not know that it’s a rap. But be able to read it fluently as if it was just a page in a book or something. That was my key to being able to get N.W.A. on the radio, was to make them disarming to white folks. White folks was scared of them, they wouldn’t let them near the radio, or let them come near ’cause they were afraid of them. But if you write songs that the white folks can understand, that they find comical, then it turns into something else. For instance, when Eazy and N.W.A put out “F*** The Police,” we got letters from the FBI. But it didn’t take long for the FBI to figure out, “we ain’t trippin’ on these n****s.” They can say “f*** the police” all they want. Aight, it’s cool. At the time, what they were afraid of is that n****s was gaining a momentum in the idea where we weren’t just falling for the okey-doke no more. Like Martin Luther’s dream was coming back up. If you remember, back in the late ’80s was the Public Enemy era. That movement had a lot to do with N.W.A.

Definitely! What has been your influence in writing the way that you do?

I’m a reader. I read a lot of people’s stuff and all kinds of books, even as a kid. Like my daughter, I always catch her head in books. If you ever read books as a kid, you’ll notice that when you read those stories, they all have a certain rhythm. Like Dr. Seuss, or all those kind of people, when you read their books, they all have a certain rhythm to them. When I write raps, I write with that frame of mind as if I wanted someone to come pick the paper up and be able to read it and understand it the way I meant it to be, as opposed to it being just a rap where a mother****er would pick it up and be like, “Yo, is this a rap?” I’m more of writer, than I am a rapper. Me and Dre get into that a lot, too. He says I make my sh** too complicated. You know for me, it’s all about being able to hear something different every time you hear it. You could hear it five years later and go, “Oooh, sh**! I didn’t know that’s what the f*** that n**** was talkin’ about it like that.” I get off on sh** like that. See, Dre used to be like that because when he made beats, I would hear something different every mother****in’ time I heard the drum. I would go, “Whoa! I didn’t even hear that last time!” That really motivated me to be better with my sh**.

Speaking of Dre’s production, what do you say to those people saying that Dre’s fallen off and that all of his beats sound the same now?

I’ve had the pleasure of really seeing this guy grow. And I’ve been around to tell him when the sh** stunk. I’ve been around to tell him the sh** was great. I’ve even been around him to tell him I didn’t like some sh**, and then he proved to me that I was wrong. I’ll give you a perfect example: There’s a song on his album, him and Snoopy, on the Chronic record, I think it was. The guy was talking about Eazy, and Tim Dog, and Luke and all these people. I didn’t like that beat. Matter of fact, I dis-liked it. And I told him that I just did not like that; it didn’t feel good. He said, “just wait ’til I get through.” By the time he got through with that mother****er, he sho’ right, ’cause that mother****er was banging!

You’re talking about “Fuck Wit’ Dre Day”?

Yea! “Fuck Wit Dre Day”! I didn’t like that at first.

When you write for somebody, do you coach them or recite it for them, so they can get how you’re trying to say something?

Yeah, it does just like that. But usually when I’m writing a song for a person, and I know that person, I use their rhythms. The rhythms that are naturally comfortable to them. Everybody knows how Snoop raps, so when you write a rap for Snoop, use those rhythms. So, use the things that are natural to him, and then when he raps, it’ll sound natural even though it’s not his thoughts. I’ve done the same thing with Dre, and Breed and whoever else. I kind of get a kick out of being able to do that. Let’s say I could do an album with people like T.I., Snoopy, Jay-Z, and Jadakiss; we’ll use those four names. And each of those four rappers sound as good as they’ve ever sounded, but they all sound just like themselves. But I wrote all the words. That to me would say, “That n**** D.O.C is cold, ’cause he wrote their raps for them, made them sound like them, but sometimes better than they sound in most of the instances, and put all that sh** together in one piece of art.” That would be cold-blooded. That’s my happy ending; that’s the ending to my movie, “Please listen to my goddamn demo.”

You’ve worked with just about everybody that’s big or has been big in this industry. Is there anybody out there you’d like to collaborate with, that you haven’t?

Well, there are a few people, and I’m going to try my best to get them on my record. One of them is Slick Rick. He’s the master of telling stories, and I write a pretty good story. Of course, Rakim, KRS-One, and all the old school people. These are the people that I admire I’d like to go back and bring them current. And if it’s something that their doing for me, then maybe I can get them to step outside themselves, and do some sh** that’s popular, and not just so hip-hop.

Finally, I was wondering how, after you left the Death Row situation and then came back for Chronic 2001, how were you and Dre able to re-connect that relationship?

Well, really, all that sh** was on me. It was a culmination of 20 years going through bullsh** mentally; not necessarily with Dre, but me. You always strike out at the mother****er’s that’s closest to you, and Dre’s always been the mother****er always trying to hold me down. He showed me love and tried to help me figure out how I could make the sh** work, but I didn’t want to make it work the way he wanted to make it work. I wanted to make it work the way I wanted to make it work. It boiled down to a n**** can’t make you do what’s best for you, you got to figure that sh** out on your own. So me coming back for the 2001 record was us taking a step in that direction because he called me and told me that he needed my help. That’s what a brother would do. In the midst of making that record, I was still f***ed up and f***ing up, but that time we had a chance to spend time together and put me in a position to understand what it was going to take for me to be able to get to that next level that I’ve been trying to get to for the last 20 years. To get this monkey off my back, where I can create and feel like I busted a nut on everybody.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *