A lot of people thought your sophomore album, Doctor’s Advocate, was a dedication to Dr. Dre, where you went as far as imitating his voice. Was that intentional?
When I was recording Doctor’s Advocate, it was a real dark time for me. I was really pissed off and my voice was a little bit deeper. I was still battling back from gunshot wounds and my voice was kind of tampered with from that shooting; it wasn’t until about 2008 where I got my real talking voice back. I was in N.Y. half-sick recording, drinking 40 oz. every night. So I don’t know, I was just in that Dre bag, I guess.
Jesus Piece has a religious tilt. What spurred you tapping into your spiritual side?
The thing is, it’s not a change. I believe in God like you believe in God, like my brother that’s out there gangbanging in Compton. It’s just balancing that belief with the streets. In the ’hood, you pray and rock Jesus pieces but at the same time, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. We’re still fighting the devil. That’s basically what it’s about.
Do you regularly attend church?
Nah, I can’t go to church on the road because I don’t know these pastors out here, man. They could be preaching that false thing. I got to go to my church. My pastor is a G. Bishop Noel Jones, a preacher in Compton.
Are you two close?
Yeah, spiritual guidance is key. Whenever I have a problem or come to a place in my life where I’m between a rock and a hard space, I just call him or text. That’s how cool and how dope he is.
You revealed in a 2006 interview that you had suicidal thoughts. Did spirituality play a role in you overcoming that?
[Suicide] didn’t happen, so I think it played a role—not necessarily something that had to exist for me to change my mind. When I [used to] get down—which is never these days—I’d just use my kids to fuel my fire. Whenever I think about my kids, I just think about life, longevity, love, and things like that. It’ll bring you out of that slump every time.
Are there lessons that you instill in your kids?
My kids are young, the oldest one being nine years old. It’s not really about teaching them lessons yet; it’s about letting them have fun, keeping them safe and financially taken care of and in good schools. The life lessons are taught later on when their brain starts to fully form and they can comprehend [more complex] things. They’re kids, they mess up, and you just got to let them be kids.
What did Harlem say when you played him “Like Father, Like Son”?
He never heard it.
Nah, and it’s funny that you ask because yesterday I was playing him “California Dream” [from The R.E.D. Album], the song about his sister. And he was like, “Is that really Cali being born at the end of the [song]?” I was like “Yeah, and you have a song.” I didn’t have The Documentary in the car, so I told him to go home and download “Like Father, Like Son.” I recorded that song so one day he’d hear it and know how much he changed my life. If I didn’t have Harlem, I would be in a box dead. That kid changed my life.