By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
You can't help but think of what could have been, listening to him speak, sitting with him here in his office. Just past the front door is an oversized reproduction of No One Can Do It Better's cover; it's maybe four feet tall and an even bigger reminder of past glories. And D.O.C. carries a much more permanent memento: His voice, once as hot and smooth as liquid steel, is now a high rasp, the echo of his old self dialed in on a broken transistor radio. He sounds like a three-packs-a-day smoker struggling through his last days.
D.O.C. doesn't worry about what might've been. All he cares about is what could be. He doesn't look like a broken-down man; he's in fighting shape, bouncing in anticipation of Deuce's release, barely able to contain himself. And the more you listen to him speak--both in person and on the record--it strikes you that his new voice is just as powerful as the old one. He doesn't completely believe in it yet, not the way he used to, but he's coming around. "Shit, I still ain't got it," D.O.C. admits. "I still haven't been onstage and felt like myself. I haven't done it yet. But I feel it just in being around other people. Like, I feel like myself. I feel pretty confident about everything. Whereas, for the past 10 years or so, I felt more comfortable just being in the background. Staying out of motherfuckers' way."
Though he didn't return to the studio for almost seven years, D.O.C. didn't go away completely. You can probably hear a song he had a hand in on the radio every day. As with N.W.A., he was one of the main writers behind Dr. Dre's solo debut, 1992's The Chronic, and one of the main reasons the record exists at all; Dre credits him in the liner notes for "talking me into doing this record." And he was a strong influence on Snoop Dogg, mentoring him during his first years on Death Row Records, showing him how to write songs, hit songs, on 1993's Doggystyle. He was always there, and never around. You could see him riding shotgun with Dre in the "Nuthin' But a G Thang" video, but for the most part, you never saw, or heard, D.O.C.
Not until 1996, when he released Helter Skelter, a dark, troubled album about secret plans and Armageddon dreams. This wasn't the same D.O.C. who made "The Formula," not the same good-time rhymes and house-party beats. His voice was barely there, and he was in the middle of a lawsuit against Death Row. D.O.C. admits he wasn't himself then but says he had to record that album to prove that he could still do it. Of course, while it needed to be made, he's not really asking anyone to go hunt down a copy.
"When I made Helter Skelter, I was going through a lot of turmoil," D.O.C. says. "Inside myself, you know? That's why the record was so dark and apocalyptic. But that's never really been my music. It's always been happy, go-get-drunk, fuck-a-bitch music. That's what I do. Have-a-good-time music. Even though some of the shit, maybe, that we talk about is, you know, pretty hardcore shit, still, it's all in good fun. It's just records, you know? That's why I named this record Deuce: In my heart of hearts, this is really The D.O.C.'s second album. This is the follow-up to No One Can Do It Better right here."
While D.O.C. is anxious to show off his new record, to remind everyone who he is, to introduce Six-Two and Uptight and the rest of his new crew, there is no master plan at work. It comes down to only this: "I just wanted to make some dope-ass shit and put it out there."
"I didn't have any real issues about me," he says." What I've done, and woo-woo-woo and woo-woo-woo. Pretty much, people know. And I'm not tripping on that. It's a new day, man. The things that have been in the past, we're gonna leave 'em in the past. We're fixing to write us a new thing, and it's all about D-FW now. I love everybody else, but it's really about Dallas-Fort Worth being the shit. Now. Like Six-Two says in one of the songs, whoever goes next, we're not really concerned. But it's our turn right now. We want all our shit.
"There's always been a D-FW presence," he continues. "People have just never taken the time to look, I guess, or give a fuck about it. They'll just take it at face value and run with it. Which is the way, I guess, people are in general anyway. So you don't hate on it; you just do what you do. But like I said, now, at least in my mind, it's all about Dallas-Fort Worth. And I've got the perfect little team around me to really shake it up."
His business partner, Vernon Norris, may be the most important part of that team. Silverback Records is only part of the plan; the real idea is Silverback Entertainment, a company Norris believes can help Dallas become "the Hollywood of the South." They're dreaming big, and you can't fault them for that, since too often, no one in Dallas-Fort Worth dreams at all, still thinking that Los Angeles or New York is the only place it can happen.