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Def Jam Spotlight: G-Funk Era

by Mosi Reeves

Def Jam Spotlight: G-Funk Era

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Def Jam's brief foray into West Coast rap boils down to one breakout star: Warren G. The Long Beach rapper and producer was already a hot commodity for making Mista Grimm's 1993 single "Indo Smoke," and being close to cousin Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, his two associates in the group 213. Snoop and Nate were with Death Row, but its mercurial cofounder Suge Knight underrated Warren G's talent. (Of course, Knight tried to change his mind once Def Jam got involved.) So Warren G signed with Def Jam and recorded the classic "Regulate," leading to 1994's triple-platinum Regulate … G Funk Era. He then set up his G-Funk Music production company and brought other acts to the label, like Twinz and the Dove Shack.

Warren G was Def Jam's most successful attempt to capitalize on West Coast rap's extraordinary mid-'90s popularity. There was another Long Beach rapper, Domino, whose gold-certified debut actually dropped a few months before Warren G's and yielded the Top 10 pop hit "Getto Jam." Rush Associated Labels signed him through the L.A. imprint Outburst. Other West Coast artists with RAL included Richie Rich, South Central Cartel and Jayo Felony.

The experiment lasted a few years. By the end of the decade, there were no West Coast rappers on Def Jam, not even Warren G, whose 1997 follow-up, Take a Look Over Your Shoulder, didn't perform to expectations. The music industry cooled on the scene for a variety of reasons, including the gangland violence associated with Death Row and the murder of 2Pac, and mainstream trends shifting to East Coast club music and street-hop. Def Jam West was over, but the music remains.

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