In 1994, Warren G and Nate Dogg took a different approach to gangsta rap on their smooth single "Regulate." The result was one of the summer's biggest hits.
Warren Griffin III, a Long Beach, California native, struggled with the law as a teen, serving time for gun and drug possession. He took inspiration from his older stepbrother, Dr. Dre, a member of legendary hip-hop group N.W.A. and later a solo rapper/producer/mogul in his own right. Griffin and two friends, Nathaniel "Nate Dogg" Hale and Calvin Broadus - better known as Snoop Doggy Dogg - had formed a trio called 213 (named for Los Angeles' area code); Nate and Snoop would both sign to Dre's Death Row label.
Though Warren didn't follow the two to the roster, he did put together "Regulate" for the Death Row-distributed soundtrack to Above the Rim, an inner-city drama co-starring Tupac Shakur. Warren's laid-back flow, combined with Nate's smooth singing, made for a classic combination on this slice of urban life, in which the duo avoid a mugging and romance some women over the course of four minutes.
"That record was things that I went through, and friends of ours went through," Warren later told NME of the inspiration. "We’d witnessed that and we’d been a part of it. We just told the story, and then on the hook we just let everybody’s imagination flow." The song's intro samples dialogue from the Western drama Young Guns, which Warren enjoyed, comparing the outlaws favorably to his own crew.
The other key element to "Regulate" was its sample of Michael McDonald's 1982 hit "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)." Warren had stumbled across a vinyl copy, remembering how his father and stepmother were fond of the track. McDonald, for his part, was excited to clear the sample. "There's great stuff that's taken the genre to a new level over the years, and 'Regulate' was one of those tracks that was kind of a landmark," he later told Billboard.
Everything came together beautifully: "Regulate" peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later named one of VH-1's greatest hip-hop songs and Pitchfork's greatest songs of the '90s.