The west coast’s best kept secret discusses being fired by Dr. Dre, recently rehired for Detox, and using social media to talk to onetime collaborator Nate Dogg.
Even the most ardent fan of Hip Hop from the land of palm trees and gang signs is likely to incorrectly reply “Warren G,” “Daz” or “Battlecat” when asked who produced certified left coast classics like Warren G’s “Somethin’ To Bounce To,” Tha Dogg Pound’s “Thrown Up Da C,” Daz Dillinger’s “In California” or Snoop Dogg’s “Loosen’ Control.” Unknown to too many for too long is that the musical mind behind some of the finest G-Funk selections ever created was actually Priest “Soopafly” Brooks.
Now with his aptly-titled third solo album, Best Kept Secret, the onetime protégé of Dr. Dre (whose first gig was playing keys for Dre and Ice Cube’s “Natural Born Killaz” as an unknown 19-year-old) is looking to finally let the world know who got some gangsta, gangsta shit by strategically keeping the best of his most recent G-certified creations all for himself.
Last Monday (August 22nd) the producer/rapper spoke to HipHopDX about the just-released follow-up to his slept-on sophomore album, 2007’s Bangin West Coast, and its past-meets-present sonic direction. The unofficial third member of Tha Dogg Pound also discussed his past and present working alongside Dr. Dre, being compared to legendary music makers like Dre and DJ Quik, and communicating with a recently passed legend via Twitter.
Soopafly Talks Collaborating With 2Pac And Nate Dogg
HipHopDX: No interview with Soopafly can begin any other place in my opinion than with the sadly slept-on diamond of the Death Row era, “Me And My Homies.” There’s gotta be a back story to how that classic collabo between Nate Dogg and 2Pac came to be?
Soopafly: Man, that was at Can-Am [Studios] years ago. I think what had happened is Nate Dogg got on it first. I had made the beat probably for somebody else. And knowing Nate Dogg, if he come in the studio and it’s a beat on and ain’t nobody on it, he’s just gonna pretty much take it. [Laughs] We know Nate always [makes] hot [songs], so who gonna say no to him? So he had that hook that he had on there, he put on there, [but] it didn’t have any verses yet. And we kinda rode around to that for awhile … and kinda forgot about the song. And then [Tupac Shakur] got out [of prison], and Nate had remembered that song and so he had just finished it up, finished the verses up and had ‘Pac rap on it.
DX: You sent out a tweet to Nate on Friday (August 19th). What were your thoughts on what would have been his 42nd birthday?
Soopafly: Just thinking about how much he did in such a short period of time. Like, he really did it! He’s a legend. That’s crazy. … It’s just one of them stories, it’s one of them things in history that you read about, and it just happened to be my close homie.
DX: Let’s switch gears to another one of your classic creations, the song that is the definitive L.A. anthem, Kurupt’s “Welcome Home.” Do you realize how often grown men turn into giddy little schoolgirls when discussing their fondness for that song? [Laughs]
Soopafly: [Laughs] Are you serious? I didn’t even know they liked that song. Is that right? Well, yeah, we did that at Sound Castle [Studios] years ago when Kurupt was working on his album, [Tha Streetz Iz A Mutha]. … We was working on his record, and I just told him I had a beat for him. He liked it, and he pretty much – anything I got he pretty much wit’ it anyway, so he got on it, jumped on it. I finished it up at the studio, had Toiya [Williams] come in and sing on it, [and] mixed it right there.
DX: I don’t know if the general Hip Hop community is aware of all the classics you’ve created. Do you personally feel like you should be considered in the same company of Westside music makers like DJ Quik and Dr. Dre? Do you see yourself in that upper echelon?
Soopafly: Do I see myself in that upper echelon? Uh … I’ve done a lot of work. I don’t see myself in that upper echelon as far as credits, because [a lot of them haven’t] been seen. But as far as getting the work done, yeah, I’m a worker; I just ain’t got as much credit as the Quik and Dr. Dre’s. Which is fine by me, but the real ones who read the credits and know how much I did, they know what it is.
Soopafly Talks Working On Dr. Dre’s Detox
DX: Well, Dr. Dre obviously thinks highly of you. You recently revealed that you were “in studio working with Dr. Dre again. Making sure this Detox sound got my imprint on it too.” Is this a new version of Detox y’all are working on? Is Dre starting completely from scratch?
Soopafly: Uh … nah, not from scratch. We just coming in, as far as Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound, and making sure it got that finishing touch on it.
DX: Was that an invite directly from Dre to you?
Soopafly: Yeah, it was. When the man call we tally up. It’s like the Super Friends.
DX: [Laughs] Can you give your peoples at HipHopDX any insight into what the stuff you worked on forDetox sounds like?
Soopafly: No. [Laughs] How ‘bout that? It sounds good. I haven’t even personally worked on anything yet. Dre’s a perfectionist, so he takes his time. But, I listened to a lot of stuff [and] it sounds good. That’s all I’ma say.
DX: I was hoping you had given Dre something on par with “Crazy” from Bangin West Coast. That would’ve raised the anticipation level for Detox I think.
Soopafly: Oh yeah, I was thinking about Dre when I made the beat – just that sound, that type of sound.
DX: You mentioned on “That Way” from your last album that you previously “made beats with Dre.” Can you reveal what songs those beats became?
Soopafly: Uh … “Natural Born Killaz.” Uh … “[Keep Their Heads] Ringin’.” [Laughs] A lot of [the] Above The Rim [soundtrack]: “Big Pimpin’.” During that time, the Murder Was The Case Soundtrack, things like that. “Who Got Some Gangsta Shit?” I would have to admit that when we did the song it had my drums to it. Dre changed the drums, made ‘em his drums that he liked. At the time I was like, “Ah, I want my drums.” But then I listened back and I’m glad he changed it, because his ears is and was much, much more polished than mine.
DX: So during that era – like, ’94, ’95 – were you just playing keyboards, sort of as a session player? Or were you coming up with riffs and then taking ‘em to Dr. Dre, taking ‘em to Daz and saying, “Listen to this?”
Soopafly: It was before I met Daz. I was with Dre. With Dre, I was a keyboard player. He’d bring me to the studio, he’d play a beat, if he had a idea about how he wanted it [added on to I’d play that], or maybe [he’d have me] listen to a sample [and tell me to] “Do this over,” or [we’d] just come up with something hard and just see what we can do. We just created. So it was an even collaboration. I might do a bassline [and] he might [be like], “Well, change that note.” And he might [play] on there and I might change a note. It was just creativity.
Soopafly Recalls Getting Down With Tha Dogg Pound
DX: And then Daz came in and stole you away? [Laughs]
Soopafly: Dr. Dre fired me, matter of fact. Really, he didn’t fire me, he was not doing music. So it was really nothing for me to do. So, I met Kurupt first. And then we did a song together. And then he introduced me to Daz. And when I met [back up with] Daz the next morning, we went in the studio and we did [Tha Dogg Pound’s] “What Would You Do.” So, we kinda knew we was a match. And we became best friends – me, him and Kurupt.
DX: One last Dre-related question: Has he heard “Sumthin Better” from Best Kept Secret yet? ‘Cause if not, he’s gonna be mad as hell when he finds out you kept that heatrock for yourself.
Soopafly: What I did for this album – A lot through my little career, I feel like I gave my best ones away. I don’t regret that at all, but I just wanted this album to save everything for me this time. And [I just wanted] to come with an album that I think is pretty much complete – not to think that, Man, I shoulda put this on here ….
DX: I don’t know how to describe the sound … but I wrote down [it was] sorta futuristic Soopafly. Like, [with the song] “All This Game.” You agree with that assessment?
Soopafly: Uh … yeah, future and the past, kind of keeping ‘em together at the same time, but still [a] G-Funk feel to it. As sounds evolve, you gotta evolve too. Anything that catches a ear that I can make catch somebody’s ear, I’ma use it.
DX: I know producers especially don’t like comparisons, but I felt the same vibe listening to your album that I did listening to DJ Quik’s Book of David album that he put out earlier this year.
Soopafly: That’s a good comparison, ‘cause Quik is a great guy to be compared to. I know he puts nothing out but perfection.
DX: You got a nice string of perfection on Discogs.com.
Soopafly: I’m trying to hang up there with the big boys. It’s hard sometimes, but then again it’s easy.