For more than 14 years, Daz Dillinger has known survival. Daz watched a Death Row dynasty being built from his early days as an MC while living off of Popeyes Chicken. Five years later, he saw it all unravel even though he left with a Dogg Pound Gold solo album, Revenge, Retaliation, and Get Back.
Financially, Daz has thrived - not survived - over the years, with an endless stream of independent releases, side projects, and business ventures. But the MC who was so quotable to Hip-Hop heads on Doggystyle and Dogg Food seemingly slipped out of the national artistic consciousness. Somewhere in between albums, the man who helped put Long Beach on the map, moved his operation to Atlanta.
There, he had a friendly collision with Jermaine Dupri, who was rebuilding a dynasty of his own in So So Def. A decade after Kurupt and Daz poked fun at JD and DaBrat in What Would U Do video, Daz found his healthiest home with the ATL super-producer. Today, Daz is more mature, and hes doing much better than surviving. But as any veteran would want, Daz wants to relive the mainstream success that he once had. On the verge of releasing So So Gangsta, the son of an evangelist preaches his beliefs on longevity, while taking on some tough topics in between.
AllHipHop.com: So many fans identified with records like "In California" a decade ago. With this album recorded in Atlanta, do you think it'll be a challenge to attribute the oncoming success of this record to bringing back the West?
Daz: Its not going to be a problem because really, the South grew up to West Coast music. The cultures really arent that different, so yeah, itll bring the West back even more and the South will be feeling this s**t too, everyone will.
AllHipHop.com: Dem Franchize Boyz have been So So Def/Virgin's largest success for the last few years. Did JD and Virgin put that same promotion and energy behind your record?
Daz: Yeah, the label situation is right; we got a lot of focus and energy around this project and JD just set it off with a lot of flavor.
AllHipHop.com: At the same time, as a West side artist, did you find yourself with any pressure to perform well with being signed to a southern label? We all remember Snoops Da Game is to be Sold and Not to be Told
Daz: I mean, I have to deliver, so Im going to deliver. Im not new to this s**t.
AllHipHop.com: You have had two previous major solo LPs... Revenge, Retaliation, and Get Back and R.A.W both garnered major acclaim. To get back to that level with your music, whom did you turn to so that you really knew that this record had that level of quality?
Daz: Nobody really; I went to myself! [laughs] With music, I learn from myself, from watching TV, from going state to state to know what people are feeling and to know how to make my own music. JD and No I.D. brought they own sound to mix with mine, but its really just Daz at the end of the day.
AllHipHop.com: Is the sound on this record different from the Daz that the fans have heard throughout your career?
Daz: In a way its different. Same West Coast s**t for the fans, but the southern style and the collaborations makes it better, more current. We got joints wit Snoop, Kurupt, Shante, Jagged Edge, Avery Storm, JD, Rick Ross, and Ice Cube of course.
AllHipHop.com: Guys like Dip Set and other artists have decided to stay indie because more of the money goes to the artist. Youve experienced major indie success since Tha Row, why did you decide to run with a major label again?
Daz: I really just want to get my music out there for more people to hear, and the money will come. Im not worried about that. I mean, before, wed put out a mixtape on the West coastme and my man DJ Pooh, we started all that indie s**t in Cali before anyoneand sell 30 or 40 thousand at $13 a pop and thats all my money! Now, Im not tripping Ill go like double Platinum and make that just from performances. Performing everywhere is the s**t that I get most of my money from; I got houses in a lot of places.
AllHipHop.com: Are you strictly an artist with JD or were you able to bring your own company DPG Recordz/Gangsta Advisory to the table?
Daz: Im an artist, but that dont stop me from my other music. I just cant rap on any project, but we got production deals in Europe, Asia, all over, they love us over there so it aint a problem.
AllHipHop.com: What other businesses are you into besides the So So deal?
Daz: Man production deals, my label, doing performances, and makin beats. I do everything. I want do clothing so we sell Dogg Pound Gangsta t-shirts because I own the rights to the name. We got shirts in every color and the fans buy em all! Sometimes you dont even need a [clothing] line, you can make a million off of tees. DPG is going to do it big too. Kurupts album is dropping on the 27th, same day as DPG. I want to set up my moves like Jeezy. He came out with his group and then his solo album at the same time, Im trying to do that too. Plus we're doing movies. I got a movie Go Hard that Im producing with Snoop and Kurupt and DJ Pooh coming soon. I got another movie coming out called My Summer Production with Ice Cube and the trailer to the movie is included on the disc for the album. We just hustlin for real.
AllHipHop.com: There was lots of speculation that a couple of years ago, you had a serious drug habit that went beyond the medicinal." How do you react to that, and how has your lifestyle changed going into So So Gangsta... your biggest LP in nine years?
Daz: I never had a drug problem. The only thing I ever f**k with is a little weed. Thats some s**t [started by] Suge Knight and them, I can only speak for myself, not them. But Im just more focused and working harder than before.
AllHipHop.com: It's no secret that a lot of Dr. Dre beats left in the vaults are and were credited to other producers. Is it a coincidence that Blackstreets "Don't Leave Me This Way" has such a similar sound to "I Aint Mad At Cha"?
Daz: [laughs] Hmmmm so you heard anything about [Spider] Loc leaving G-Unit?
AllHipHop.com: Anything else going on the camp?
Daz: I have a project with Kurupt to do a remastered album of some of the old classic rap records from Kool Herc, Run-DMC, and Whodini. I want to bring back that old school feeling. I think the fans of this generation would love it like we did coming up.