Be Specific: Dr. Dre's son Curtis Young on being a product of his DNA
By Sarah Godfrey
You may not have heard of rapper Curtis Young just yet, but you're probably familiar with his father, Andre Young -- a.k.a. legendary hip-hop producer Dr. Dre. The younger Young has been immersed in the family business for some time -- he previously recorded music under the moniker Hood Surgeon -- but he just released a new single under his given name. The track, “Muzik,” is from his forthcoming album “Product of My DNA.”
Click Track spoke with Young about his new album, his favorite rapper (no, it’s not his dad), the future of West Coast hip-hop and, of course, when his pops is planning on dropping that “Detox” album.
You know I have to start out by asking some questions about your father.
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s always — I expected that.
So…when is “Detox” coming out? Do you have any inside information? Do people constantly ask you that?
Man, that’s the question of the day, “When is Detox coming out? When is Detox coming out?” The last time I spoke to my Dad, he said, "I want you to come check it out." I’m like, "Yeah, I want to. Everybody else wants to, too.” (laughs)
(Call him 'Mr. Life of the Party,' after the jump)
The album you’re working on is called “Product of My DNA.” You've said “People are gonna assume it means I’m a product of my father, but the product is me.” What does that mean?
The product is me. The whole thing about it is, I met father at 21. I have my own lifestyle I live and that’s what makes me the product. The product is like my whole persona. After I met my father, I wasn’t just Curtis anymore, I was Dre’s son — it switched to that. People called me the product, like I’m just a number, so that’s why I labeled it that. I’m also a product of my society — I grew up in Compton, California -- and me being Dre’s son and not finding out who my father was until a later age, made me a product of my DNA.
Did Dre influence you as an artist before you met him? And how does he influence you now?
I always wanted to do music anyway, so it influenced me when I found out Dre was my father. That influenced me more, really, because then I had a goal to meet. I wanted to show my father I could do it, as well as the fans, and get respect in this game and not just be looked at as a kid with a silver spoon in his mouth. There were definitely other people I looked up to before I knew who my father was: Jay-Z, Biggie, Pac, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, Snoop. My favorite artist is Jay-Z.
I think you and your father sound a lot alike — not so much on your new single, “Muzik,” but one some of your older freestyles and tracks...
It’s in my DNA — I don’t try to sound like him, but on certain West Coast beats, it comes out like that. You know, I had to grow into my own image, I had to find own lane, find my own way, and say, “OK, lemme try this.” Because I had the bass in my voice, people started saying I was trying to sound like Dre, but that wasn’t the case. I was trying to find an image for me…Back then didn’t know what I was doing. Now I know I’m Curtis Young -- that’s me. I’m a grown man, very classy, I don’t deal with madness and don’t involve myself with negativity.
Tell me what’s going to be on the album.
Expect greatness, a new era, a new trend for hip-hop. Expect a risk. There are a lot of risks on this album. It’s definitely gonna be something to make the West Coast have a face lift — a makeover for the West Coast. I want to show people out there that [the West Coast] isn’t just khakis and Chucks and gang-banging. There’s something different and it’s called Curtis Young. I’m grown and sexy about everything I do.
Were you influenced by Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief at all? I know they’re Northern California, but they did a lot to change the image of California hip-hop by showing people that there’s more to it than just the Chucks, khakis and gangs…
I like the Phaycyde. They were risk takers in their era. A lot of people took risks in that era, but there’s a certain style you’d get caught up in just because you’d hear it so much.
Your first single is good example of moving beyond the sort of hip-hop people think of when they think about the West Coast.
I called it “Muzik,” and the reason why I wrote the song is because it represents a whole new era of music, a new era of rap. I based the whole song around it being the new era for the West Coast. I put the old school sample in it, the scratching in end, the singing—there’s something for everybody. There’s some of that old school feel, but it has a whole new style. I’m not talking about shooting this person, doing this and that. I wanted to tailor that image, which will take the West Coast to a different level. We got a lot of positive reviews. I’m very excited about that. Everybody has been supportive.
You used to rap under the name Hood Surgeon. Are you still using that at all or has that been retired?
It definitely kinda still sticks with me. It’ll never get totally retired, it’s just something that…you know, my father is “Dr.”, so my Mom gave me the name “Surgeon” -- because a mother always wants you to be better than your father and a surgeon is better than a doctor. Not saying that I’m better than my father. And the “Hood” was just from growing up in neighborhood. They called me hood and that stuck with me. But that image is definitely deceased. Hood Surgeon is still out there, and a lot of fans still know me by that, but I tend to kick that out.
How is Hood Surgeon different from Curtis Young?
I didn’t know what I was doing then. I was a kid, just tryna find my name in this game. Apparently, I still made some noise, but I just wasn’t on the right page. I just woke up one day and said, “This is not working, I just need to be me.” I needed to be my own self, I grew into a man. It was the same growing pains everybody has, but once I knew my own image, it was Curtis, a humble dude out of Compton that don’t like to get into trouble, a classy guy. I love the ladies. I’m the life of the party. Instead of calling me Hood Surgeon, call me Mr. Life of the Party, Curtis Young.
What has fan reaction to the single been so far?
“West Coast classic,” “The West is back,” “He sounds like his pops, but he looks like Jay-Z—he’s Dre-Z.” (laughs) They have fun with it. It’s been really cool. When I read comments and stuff, even if haters say stuff, it’s not that bad, because fans will get on them. There’s not too much you can say about it, because it’s positive. I’m not trying to be on no gang-banging stuff, I’m bringing back feel-good music to the new West Coast. So when people try to hate, they don’t understand feel-good music, they’re used to old stuff. I’m not hating on them, you can choose what you wanna do or listen to, but that’s not what I do. It’s supposed to be fun--it’s music.
OK, one more question: There’s been some blog/Twitter chatter where people have suggested that you and Lil Eazy-E [Eazy-E’s son] and OMG [Ice Cube’s son] should form a group — a sort of new N.W.A.. What do you think about that?
I think it’d be corny for me to do that. [N.W.A.] was something done in the 80s. It’s done, that thing is done, we can’t bring that back up. Also, Lil Eazy has a different image than me, and I’m not trying to bring Hood Surgeon back out, even though some fans want it. Nah, not gonna happen. Let’s move forward. Maybe we could do a song or something, but not an album. A lot of people have been asking me to do this and that with Lil Eazy -- you have no idea. But [N.W.A.] is just something that I think should be left where it is.
May 12, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories: Be specific | Tags: Curtis Young, Dr. Dre, N.W.A.
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