The summer of 1994 was the Summer of Regulate. Released on June 7, 1994, “Regulate” captured the hearts and minds of America’s suburban youth and in the process catapulted Warren G and Nate Dogg to superstardom. When I returned to middle school in the Fall of 1994, it seemed as though everyone owned a copy of that single. It was the perfect anthem for 8th grade at Porter Middle school. We were “seniors” and needed a song that mirrored our badass-ness. It’s ironic that we picked an edgy-but-ultimately-very-safe rap song. I doubt that real gangsters blasted “Regulate” as they did whatever gangster shit they did, but us suburban kids didn’t know any better. To us, it was a magnum opus of brotherhood, vengeance, and gettin’ bizay.
“Regulate” quickly became one of my favorite songs and remains so today. I listened to it with alarming frequency from 1994 to 2009 such that it became ingrained in my psyche. For those who need a primer:
Like Truth and Honor, Regulate occupies a special part of my being that cannot be dislodged. Some of points of discussion from the song:
we regulate any stealing of his property
and we damn good too
But you can’t be any geek off the street,
gotta be handy with the steel if you know what I mean, earn your keep!
REGULATORS!!! MOUNT UP!
The song gets off to a great start by sampling a line from the movie Young Guns, which is ostensibly an angst-ridden teenie bopper movie about a band of misfits born in the wrong time and place. Is this irony? Or did Warren G and Nate Dogg never watch Young Guns?
It was a clear black night, a clear white moon
Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume
some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk
just rollin in my ride, chillin all alone
Just hit the Eastside of the LBC
on a mission trying to find Mr. Warren G.
Seen a car full of girls ain’t no need to tweak
all you skirts know what’s up with 213
The dual narrative is the brilliance of this song. Warren and Nate’s separate stories weaved together until they climax in an epic gun battle. The whole time, the audience is left wondering–Will Nate come to Warren’s aid in time!?!!?
They got guns to my head
I think I’m going down
I can’t believe this happenin in my own town
If I had wings I could fly
let me contemplate
I glanced in the cut and I see my homey Nate
As the situation for Warren goes from bad to dire to grim, Warren does what all gangsters would do in that situation and imagines himself as a bird that can fly away. Much like Jenny in Forest Gump. In the process, middle school children across the country learn the word “contemplate.” People say this admission makes Warren appear feeble. You can’t really argue with that, but it doesn’t detract from the power of the song. We all need a helping hand every now and again.
Sixteen in the clip and one in the hole
Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold
now they droppin and yellin
it’s a tad bit late
Nate Dogg and Warren G had to regulate
Nate Dogg is the righteous embodiment of murderous vengeance. He swoops in like a guardian angel and regulates on the collective ass of those busters. He commits a violent and reprehensible act, but the way he tells the tale in his smooth voice makes it seem ok. If I was a juror listening to Nate Dogg give this testimony, I might be swayed to vote “Not guilty.”
into a whole new era
step to this
I dare ya
on a whole new level
the rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble
where rhythm is life
and life is rhythm
The end of the song is a tad bit esoteric. After having bagged some fine ladies, the song shifts into an ode to G Funk. I’m not exactly sure what “G Funk” is, but it sounded really cool when I was younger. One question was whether the transitive property makes the rhythm also the treble. But larger than that loomed the question of whether chords and strings bring “money” or “melody.” It was split pretty evenly. I was in the “money” school of thought. For what is it to be gangster if not to make money? That’s the whole point of crime, right? To get rich? My more artistically-inclined friends were in the “melody” camp. They saw Warren and Nate’s softer side. Ultimately, they were proven right.
The years have not been kind to Warren G. Twenty years after releasing his masterpiece, he is now reduced to this:
That’s the nature of show business. It’s sad because I think people underestimate how “Regulate” helped transition rap music out of its “gangsta” phase and into its current pop iteration. Ultimately America grew tired of songs that were rife with violence and misogyny, at least to the degree in some of the songs out in the 90’s. Music label executives like a little bit of controversy, but not that much. With the murders of Tupac and Biggie, gangsta rap was quickly on its way out, replaced by the pop-ish rap you hear on today’s radio. Kanye West. Drake. They and their progeny all use mildly dangerous lyrics coupled with beautiful, clean production to drop commercial hits all the way to the bank. And they owe it all to Warren G and Nate Dogg.
“It was a clear black night; a clear white moon.”