LOS ANGELES -- Kurupt is on a sound stage at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, dancing to "This One's For You," a song from his forthcoming two-CD solo debut, Kuruption, and he is beaming.
Dressed in a blue sweatshirt, tan slacks and a gold necklace bearing a Dogg Pound medallion, the rapper and former member of the gangsta-rap unit Tha Dogg Pound is grooving away as a sample from Earth, Wind and Fire's "Sunshine" drives the mid-tempo song along. Could Kurupt be smiling so brightly because he feels that he has a hit on his hands? Is it because he's worked so hard on his solo album and he likes the results?
At the song's conclusion, Kurupt (a.k.a. Ricardo Brown) provided the answer. "Play that one again," he shouted to the man controlling the CD player. "I like that one!"
Judging from the number of heads bobbing along to the music, Kurupt was not alone in his declaration. The crowd of industry types had gathered with Kurupt last Friday afternoon to get a first listen to tracks from his forthcoming solo debut, Kuruption, which is due to hit store shelves on Sept. 1. The album is set to be the first release on the rapper's new label, ANTRA Records, and will consist of two CDs: one for fans of West Coast-style rap and the other for those who prefer the rapping sounds of the East Coast hip-hoppers.
"I grew up on the East Coast but really started rapping when I moved to the West Coast," Kurupt explained of his decision to record a two-disc set. "I'm not going to limit myself to one style. I can do it all."
The soundstage was set up to feel like a backyard barbecue, complete with picnic tables and caterers providing a soul food buffet -- chicken, collard greens, mac n' cheese, black beans, sweet potatoes and peach cobbler. A few media scribes and many folks from A&M Records (ANTRA's parent label) were sucking up the food and atmosphere while they were given a first listen to select tracks from the album.
While such songs as the slow-grooving "Hotel, Motel" (whose chorus is a rewritten verse from the Sugarhill Gang classic "Rapper's Delight") filled the room, Kurupt made the rounds and thanked people for their support.
The majority of the songs previewed at the affair were from Kuruption's West Coast disc. "We Can Freak It," the album's first single, was played most often since the video that accompanies the track was put on a continuous loop and projected against a wall in the soundstage.
Produced by rapper WC and Spice 1 knob-twiddler Battlecat, "We Can Freak It" is the sort of laid-back g-funk that helped bring the West Coast sound to the top of the charts in the early '90s. It features the singing of Andre Wilson, the son of the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson. The video for the song, which portrays Kurupt and friends rapping in and around a gorgeous house, sports brief appearances by Ice-T and Snoop Doggy Dogg, though neither rapper contributed vocals on the track.
"It's a party record," Kurupt said of the song. "This album has the street all over it, but this is one of those party songs."
Among the rough-edged street songs previewed at the bash were "It's A Set Up," which was produced by ANTRA Records' D-Moet, and a stick-up tale entitled "Gimmewhutchagot." Also on the West Coast gangsta-rap tip, the Battlecat-produced "Play My Cards" begins with a foreboding sample of the opening sermon from Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," and an energetic Dogg Pound reunion track entitled "Make Some Noise" grabs its chorus sample from Flavor Flav's circus barking on Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Kurupt's Dogg Pound partner Daz Dillinger also makes an appearance on "Fresh."
While the album's final track listing is still forthcoming, the press materials available at the listening party indicated that the set also may feature a raunchy song entitled "For The Homies," a slower song about Kurupt's Philadelphia neighborhood entitled "Livin' The Life" and "Under Pressure" (RealAudio excerpt), which currently can be found on the soundtrack to the film "The Player's Club." In addition, Kuruption is tentatively going to feature Snoop Doggy Dogg on a track entitled "Story to Tell" and Kurupt's future brother-in-law Pretty Boy on "Set It"; neither song, though, was previewed at the party.
Kuruption will not be an all-male effort. Foxy Brown, who is Kurupt's fiancée, makes an appearance on a song entitled "Nigga Whut," while Kurupt's A&M labelmates the Deadly Venoms -- a new group mentored by the Wu-Tang Clan -- put in a striking performance on a song that is currently without a title.
"Blazing" is how one A&M staffer, who did not want to be identified, described the Deadly Venoms/Kurupt collaboration after one listen. "If that's an example of what [the Venoms] can do," she said, "I think they're going to do great ... [and] that song will definitely make its mark."