Daz Dillinger Living Large On Death Row

Gangsta rapper's gunning for new maturity on latest album.

SAN FRANCISCO -- For a time during the making of his first solo

album, Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back, gangsta-rapper and g-funk

producer Daz Dillinger worried that the big switch might have been thrown on

Death Row.

The controversial label had lost its signature rap-superstars Snoop Doggy Dog,

2Pac and Dr. Dre., and Dillinger's former Dogg Pound partner Kurupt had made

the leap to his own Wall Street Records. "Everyone thought 'Snoop Dogg left,

Kurupt left,' but they forgot about Daz," the 24-year-old rapper said in an

interview at San Francisco's Hotel Triton on Friday. "I was never like how they

was, all in the limelight. I was the underboss of the Dogg Pound, [and] still is."

In fact, Dillinger said he almost bolted from the label, but he finally decided to

stick with what he knew best. "[I was thinking] 'Everyone else was leaving, so

maybe I should leave, too,' " he explained. "And then I was just like 'Fuck it, it's

on. I've got to make the best of this shit.' "

The result is the rapper's recently released Retaliation, Revenge and Get

Back, which Dillinger described as "some bang'n hard-core ass shit." One of

Dillinger's favorite cuts on the album is


">"It Might Sound Crazy" (RealAudio excerpt), a song that he

described as "pimp shit" -- referring to a lifestyle of living large -- that features

the lyrical stylings of rap's original self-proclaimed pimp, Too $hort.

Dressed in a blue T-shirt and sweat pants with a large, golden emblem of a

Dogg Pound dog paw hanging on a chain around his neck, Dillinger said the

genesis of the track kicked in when he first met Too $hort at a West Coast

meeting of some of rap's top dogs. "I hooked up with Too $hort at Ice-T's place

at this West Coast meeting," he explained. "Me, [Westside Connection member]

WC, Too $hort, just a gang of people watching the [Tyson-Holyfield] fight. We're

over there looking at that and then we just started having meetings in the back."

After bonding with Too $hort, Dillinger said he knew that "It Might Sound Crazy"

was made for the West Coast rap legend as soon as he heard it. "We went over

to Priest's [Brooks, one of Dillinger's musical collaborators] house and he had 'It

Might Sound Crazy' on his drum machine. He was playing it and I was like,

'Damn, that's like Too $hort!' You know, I can hear motherfuckers on these

tracks. That's how I make music. That's how I make a beat, I can just hear

someone on that track."

While the album is loaded with Dillinger's g-funk sound, it also comes with a

new sensibility that has much to do with the recent turbulence in the rap scene.

He noted that he has modified the presentation of his songs a bit in the wake of

the deaths of his former labelmate the late gangsta-rapper Tupac Shakur and

cross-coast rival Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. "We definitely looked

and definitely learned from [their] mistakes," Dillinger said. "We learned what to

do and what not to do. Not to get rowdy, rowdy with it, but to be conservative."

Brooks, who goes by the name "Soopafly" and has a solo album coming out in

May, agrees with Dillinger that maturity has affected how they write and perform.

"Right now, niggas don't give a fuck, but back then we really didn't give a

fuck," he explained. "Now they're grown, they got kids, family, houses, they're

payin' taxes and that grown-up shit that you've got to deal with. You gotta know

that if you fuck up this way, you won't be rapping tomorrow."

One of the album's songs that Dillinger and Brooks were involved in,


California" (RealAudio excerpt), was a sort of settling of musical

accounts. It was provoked by Mack 10's cut, "Only In California," from his

upcoming The Recipe, a song that Dillinger helped to write but was

precluded from performing on because of a disagreement in the studio.

Dillinger said he recorded "In California" as a way to make sure that his

message got across, but he shrugged at the idea of feeling excluded from the

Mack 10 hit. "I'm not worried," he said, " 'cos I'm getting paid from both of them."

With Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back on the burner and such

labelmates as the Outlawz and Soopafly active in their own right, Dillinger said

he thinks that Death Row has a lot of life left in it. "We just going to continue to

do our thing," he said.