R.I.P. Nate Dogg – End of the G-Funk Era…?
A rib rattling beat pounds from the speakers, its bass line removing a large amount of plaster from the ceiling of the room below. Before too long, a high frequency synth line enters, exuding swagger over a sample from any one of George Clinton’s various ‘70s projects. You’re listening to Dr Dre’s seminal 1992 album The Chronic. Or perhaps it’s Snoop Dogg’s (nee Snoop Doggy Dogg) explosive debut Doggystyle from the following year. Either way, the music bares the hallmarks of a sonic approach and general aesthetic that became known as G-Funk, one of the most iconic sub-genres in rap music history; one that dominated commercially – predominantly from its LA birthplace – throughout the ‘90s.
Its G stood for ‘gangster’, and its name refers to Clinton’s self-styled P-Funk (often etymologised as ‘pure’ funk). Its rhymes were tough and its beats were tougher. However, as you may have noticed, it is now being discussed in the past tense.
This is because, to many, the G-Funk era has been on the skids since its last great volume – Dr Dre’s blockbuster 2001, confusingly released in 1999. Here, Dre, the eponymous producer and MC at the head of the G-Funk family tree, dispenses with the upbeat-yet-mean strut of those early classics in favour of a brutal, murderous sound that also served to introduce his new generation of protégés, most significantly Eminem. The commercial appeal of the young Detroiter distracted Dre, pulling him down a path of nihilistic gangster pop-rap; 50 Cent and The Game gleefully in tow.
One of those to be left by the wayside was in-house crooner Nate Dogg (known to his hoes as Nathaniel Dwayne Hale), whose untimely death yesterday at the age of 41 may just be G-Funk’s final nail in the coffin. Hale was responsible for one of the genre’s most enduring hits, the 1994 karaoke favourite ‘Regulate’ (with cousin Warren G), a song so good it even managed to make blue-eyed yacht rock star Michael McDonald sound ‘street’ (the song was built on a sample of his MOR classic ‘I Keep Forgetting’).
Hale’s passing – along with Dre’s catastrophic latest Detox and Snoop’s forays into reality TV and Katy Perry collaborations – will finally close the G-Funk chapter. But has it happened too late to leave it with the legacy it once deserved?