Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were the West Coast rappers generating the most media attention during the purported East Coast-West Coast rap feuds that fascinated the pop media in the '90s, but it was another Los Angeles rapper, Kurupt, who launched some of the West Coast's most stinging musical attacks.
As part of Tha Dogg Pound, he dissed New Yorkers in 1995 with the song "New York, New York," stomping on the city's skyscrapers in the tune's video. Later, in the scathing "Callin' Out Names," he lashed out at New York rapper DMX, who was rumored to be involved with Kurupt's then-fiancee Foxy Brown.
This was the hostile East Coast-West Coast rap climate that had some fans wondering if the tension contributed to the still-unsolved killings of stars Tupac Shakur in 1996 in Las Vegas and Notorious B.I.G. the following year in Los Angeles.
Even the possibility of such a connection weighed heavily on Kurupt while he was recording his new "Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey" album, which entered the pop charts at No. 10 last month.
In the collection, the L.A. rapper shows a more laid-back side on such songs as the dance-friendly "Just Got Paid" and the celebratory ode to California, "Sunshine."
These songs represent a calmer Kurupt, one who says he wants to be a more responsible father and be around to raise his children.
"I used to be a fool," he says. "I'm 28 and I said that I can't do what I used to do. I stopped not caring about things. I've got four kids and a family that loves me. I'm trying to do more family-oriented things."
Kurupt's change in attitude has been obvious to his manager, Suave, who started representing Kurupt while the rapper was on the road with Dr. Dre's Up in Smoke tour last summer. Suave, who also represents Tha Liks, says he believes "Space Boogie" has the potential to appeal to more fans than either of Kurupt's first two solo albums.
"This is a more universal album," Suave says. "He's going to reach out to more people than those just in the 'hood. He's got songs for the ladies, the older people. A lot of it is gangster, but there's something for everybody this time around."
Nothing marks this new direction more than lead single "It's Over," in which Kurupt exchanges playful, good-natured raps with fiancee Natina of the R&B pop group Blaque. The track sounds as if it could have been featured on Nickelodeon.
Even though he's known for his abrasive work with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger and others, Kurupt has enjoyed the most radio and video play of his career with the candy-sweet "It's Over," a fact that has surprised the hard-core rapper.
"I'm astounded right now," he says. "That's just not my type of stuff. I'm into gangster stuff. When I made the song, I was like, 'That's cute, something my kids will like.' But I never thought about it being my first single."
Kurupt's four children, three of whom live in the Los Angeles area, all enjoy the song and video and participate in a family performance of sorts when they're together. Kurupt is vague about the children's mother or mothers, but says none is by his fiancee.
In addition to his kids, Natina is someone who can calm Kurupt.
"She's shown me that there's more to life than being in the streets," Kurupt says. "Even the people in the streets go home to take care of their family. That's done a lot for me." Kurupt's relationship with Natina isn't the only place where the fiery rapper is making progress. He's recording with the supergroup the 4 Hrsmn (short for four horsemen), which also includes lyrically inclined rappers Ras Kass, Canibus and Killah Priest. The quartet has 10 songs recorded for its first album, which is due next year.
Also due in 2002 is an album from DPGC, another supergroup, featuring Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg. Tha Eastidaz will also make a substantial contribution to the project.
In addition to his own album, Kurupt's also been featured prominently on two other albums released this year. First was a DPGC album with Daz Dillinger, released in May. The second was from Death Row, a Tha Dogg Pound album that featured revamped material Kurupt and Daz recorded before departing the label several years ago.
Kurupt also made a major move by appearing on the "Change the Game" remix with Jay-Z earlier this year.
The move surprised many in the rap industry, as Jay-Z is the East Coast's most prominent artist, while Kurupt is one of the West Coast's top-tier performers.
Rather than dwell on past differences that rappers from the two coasts had embraced, Kurupt wanted to prove with the song that he can work with anyone.
"I've done a lot of growing up," he said. "It takes a man to stand up and face the things that they don't like and approach them, come to an agreement and walk away. When [I met some of the artists I had problems with in the past], we found out that there's nothing that we really dislike about each other."
Even with his new outlook, Kurupt will return to his gangster roots with "On Sight," the second "Space Boogie" single.
"I'm always going to keep something gangster in there," he says. "That's just how it's going to be. But I'm going to keep playing with new music and keep going in different directions."