23 years after the release of his debut album 'Regulate … G-Funk Era', Warren G has linked with first-time filmmaker Karam Gill to explore the story of the g-funk; the sound that took hip-hop music from a genre generating 600 million dollars a year in 1990 to over 10 billion dollars today.
The documentary revolves around the life of Warren G, from his early days with neighbourhood friends Snoop & Nate, through the recording of his half-brother Dr. Dre’s classic The Chronic to finally dropping his own iconic record and becoming an international star. Along the way, the three friends known as 213 spawned a sound that turned hip-hop from a niche genre to a global phenomenon.
First of all, how did this come together?
Warren G: I’ve been trying to do my own documentary for a long time. One day I was doing a show and met Karam and I told him “just follow me around, I want you to get some footage so I can have content for my website.” He got a lot of content. He was so good at it, I told him “I want you to shoot my documentary.”
Karam Gill: I met Warren at a show backstage one day. I ended up touring with him and doing all his creative media, creative direction on all his visuals and everything pertaining to his brand. And he kind of opened the door for me to do a lot of things.
Being with him for a year or two prior to the film going into production, just learning all the stuff about being around Snoop, being around 50 Cent and being around all these incredible artists, and them speaking so highly of him, and g-funk in general, that's what kind of gave me the idea for it. And then we started developing it.
WG: We sat down and I told him the whole run down of how everything went. And he nailed it, he put it in story form, laid it out, mapped it out with a storyline.
KG: I had a 20-page document that outlined the entire chronological history of Snoop, Nate, Warren, Dre, Death Row Records and g-funk's entire trajectory as it progressed at the time. I had two 6-foot boards that outlined acts one, two and three; the question I need to get in each act, where each interview pieced in, where the archival pieced in, where we do re-enactments…
WG: From there, I met Gary Ellis. He does films, so I pitched the idea to him one day. I said “I got an idea for a documentary, I got a young director who I think could really nail it.” That's how it all happened.
Karam is 22 years old, which means he completely missed the entire g-funk era. Was that ever an issue?
KG: Warren and I kind of joke about that. His [first] album came out when I was 2 months old, I was still an idea when ‘The Chronic’ was out.
No-one really said it, like 'oh my god what is this kid doing here', they were just like 'how old are you?' type questions. I think once the interview gets started and I talk to them, they realise how prepared I am and how much I know about everything from Rodney King to 70s soul music. I remember sitting in Ice-T's house, he was getting his make up done for the interview, and we were setting up the cameras. I was just talking to him for like an hour, and after an hour he was like 'how old are you?,' and I was like 'Oh I'm 22' and he was like '...damn.' Like he didn't realise.
The documentary features interviews with people like Ice Cube, Ice-T, D.O.C, and I can see they're people Warren would be socialising with. But Chuck D is in there too, what's the connection with Chuck and Warren?
KG: Everyone in the hip-hop sphere respects Warren G. He's such a calm, chill guy. So we were with Chuck D in New York like a year earlier, and he fits in to the story because Chuck D was on Def Jam with Public Enemy, and I wanted to bring him in because – like Russell Simmons said [in the documentary] – Warren G single-handedly saved Def Jam. So to have someone who's kind of telling you 'hey this is the label that this guy came in and saved that I actually helped start'.
When Chuck & Russell make those comments about saving Def Jam, is this something you always knew or was it a shock to hear?
WG: I was aware of it after my success kicked in. It just felt good, it's good to be a part of history. Def Jam is the number one hip-hop label, ever, and I was on that label. It's a great feeling to be able to help that label and keep them alive, to the point where today they're still a force in music.
KG: His [Chuck D's] perspective was really valuable, and he loved Warren. I remember him saying how much he used to like going to Warren's pool parties back in the day. He's a really cool dude.
I would love to hear about Warren G's pool parties
KG: [laughs] yea I think they were pretty wild.