By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
From his seventh-floor loft office just south of downtown, The D.O.C. can see his grandmother's house in West Dallas, just behind the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. From here, he can see it all. The city is his personal model train set. Reunion Tower looms close enough to palm like a basketball. Through his floor-to-ceiling windows, the view is straight out of a Dallas Visitors Bureau brochure, a wish-you-were-here postcard. Here, The D.O.C. is Big Tex. He is J.R. Ewing. He is the 1992-'93 Dallas Cowboys. He is the king of Dallas.
That's what he wants to be, anyway. He's wanted it since he moved back to town in 1997. Actually, he's wanted it since he was 17 years old, trading rhymes with his partners in the Fila Fresh Crew. Every morning, when he looks out of those windows, he gets inspired all over again.
"I want Dallas," he says, smiling, spreading his arms out in front of him as he walks toward the window from the kitchen, looking out on his kingdom. "I want that. That belongs to me, and I want it."
Soon enough, The D.O.C. will get another chance to take it back--along with as much of the rest of the world he can get his hands on in the process. Backed by a talented crop of local MCs (including Six-Two and Uptight) and a new label (Silverback Records, the imprint he started with business partner Vernon Norris), The D.O.C is set to release Deuce--his third album and first since 1996's Helter Skelter--in February. Featuring guest appearances by heavyweights such as Ice Cube, MC Ren, Xzibit, Nate Dogg and Kurupt, along with his new local stable, Deuce is The D.O.C.'s return to the national stage, the last stretch of a long road back. The album is, as he says, a mix of the work he did with N.W.A. and Eazy-E and his first solo album, 1989's No One Can Do It Better, continuing to dig at the ground he broke back then. It's a party record. And this time, everyone in his hometown is invited.
"For the most part, man, it's a new day in Dallas," D.O.C. says. (His birth certificate reads Tracy Curry, his albums say The D.O.C., and everyone calls him Doc.) "I don't know if anybody else sees it, but I see it. It's a new day in rap music. It's a whole new game. I'm in the position to hold a lotta cards. I may not be holding 'em all, but give me a minute. I got real strong business people in my corner these days, and we're making good decisions. I ain't falling short. There ain't gonna be no shortcomings, no sad stories from here on out. We're gonna do it the right way now."
D.O.C.'s had his share of sad stories so far. A decade ago, he didn't know there was a right way. Or, rather, he didn't know the right way was any different from what he was doing. It didn't really matter: All he wanted to do was write rhymes and make records. He was so unconcerned with the business side of the music industry that he traded his songwriting royalties for a gold necklace. He was cocky back then, and he had a right to be; when he released his debut album, No One Can Do It Better, it was a statement of fact. D.O.C. met Dr. Dre (then in N.W.A.) while Dre was a guest DJ on KKDA-FM (K104), and soon after, his writing skills could be heard all over such hip-hop landmarks as N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-It, both released in 1988. And the Dre-produced No One Can Do It Better lived up to its title and then some; songs such as "The Formula" and "Mind Blowin'" are just as good today as they were then. He was a hip-hop legend in the making, one of the first artists whose record played on both coasts.
Right now, he's more Tracy Curry than D.O.C. Still sweaty from a morning workout, he turns from the window and returns to the task at hand: cooking lunch. Lean in his sleeveless T-shirt and Air Jordans, he looks younger than he did when No One Can Do It Better was released. He's living healthy these days, running upstairs to the gym every day, eating right; at the moment, he's seasoning a chicken while swigging apple juice. It's a lifetime away from where he was just over a decade ago: in a hospital bed, in a coma, with a crushed larynx, the result of a few too many drinks and an ill-timed nap behind the wheel of his Honda.
When he woke up, he couldn't speak; he wouldn't regain the use of his voice for a few months, and his vocal cords are permanently damaged. But there was a record to promote, shows to play. No one seemed to care that a rapper without a voice is little more than the punch line to a bad joke. So D.O.C. got back onstage, against his better judgment. "I'd just lost my voice, and they was trying to have me lip-synch onstage," he says, remembering his last performance in Dallas more than 10 years ago. "And I did it, you know, but I had to get real drunk in order to get onstage. Because I'd lost my presence, you know? At least in my mind, I couldn't do it. And, I mean, the show was probably real sloppy; I don't even remember it. Tom Joyner went bad on me on the radio the next day. My mama called him and cussed him out. She'll do that; you gotta watch her." He laughs.