For the first time in many years, the man once known as Dat Nigga Daz is actually happy. As a rapper/producer who’s had his hand in creating undisputed hip-hop classics like Doggystyle and All Eyez On Me, Daz has every right to finally enjoy success. It’s been a long, arduous road from the Death Row camp, where he and his Dogg Pound partner in rhyme, Kurupt, dropped their debut gem, Dogg Food, only to later have a mysterious falling out and subsequent verbal beef. Scorned but unfazed, Daz trekked on, releasing a number of independent albums, all the while setting up his own imprint, DPG Records. Now, with his first major label release in eight years, So So Gangsta, on Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Records and the reunification of Tha Dogg Pound, Daz is poised to help bring Cali back to national prominence. XXLMAG.COM spoke with Dillinger while he was cruising through New York City and got him to open up about what brought him to Atlanta to work with JD, why he and Kurupt might be the next ones rocking the spinning G-Unit medallion and, most importantly, why Cali is indeed, still active.
Linking up with So So Def seemed like it came outta left field. How did that come about?
Well, we were friends for a long time and I wasn’t doing nothing. I just thought it would be a great move, so I went over there. I’ve been with him for like four years, just grinding, doing independent deals and waiting for my time to shine. Working with [Jermaine], I come in to the left, he come in to the right. I might be doing this and he tell me, “Nah, we’re gonna switch it up and do it this way.” I recorded a whole album before that’s not coming out.
After The Game did it big last year, a lot of people started talking about a West Coast revival. Do you think that’s happening?
We’re sticking together—unity. You see artists coming together like Ice Cube and Dogg Pound. It feels good. The West Coast is back. Game cracked the door [open], but we busted the door open. [He] couldn’t bring the West back like we could.
How do you think the whole hyphy movement fits into this revival?
It’s all the same, just different environments. Getting hyphy is poppin’ pills. That’s an E pill thing, so it’s all to the good. I like the hyphy movement, that’s that 100 [bpm] tempo type stuff. But gangsta shit, that’s my type of music.
Do you think the West will ever be back on top of the rap game?
As far as direct sales, we ain’t never went nowhere. Just the business left the West Coast, the big CEOs and all that shit. It’s just like an apartment that gets burned or robbed. Ain’t nobody going to live in there ’til they see there’s some new homes in the neighborhood. That’s what we’re bringing back with unity. We’re making sure the neighborhood straight, people can go outside, barbeque, eat.
After Kurupt went back to Death Row, most people never thought there would be a Dogg Pound reunion. How did you finally bring the group together again?
Snoop—you know we cousins—so he came to me with the idea, and I put it together. I wanted to go get Kurupt, and Snoop was with it. He quarterbacked the deal to go get that money. Kurupt was already with it. It’s like, You can come on over here and get this money. You ain’t getting nothing over there, so what you gonna do? You gonna go with the niggas who put you in the game.
So how’s the chemistry between you and Kurupt now?
Oh you know, it’s the same feeling as being in [the] bathroom and shittin’. It’s the same thing really. Ain’t nothing changed, [since] ’bout ’93, ’94, ’95. [As] soon as we got into the studio, the chemistry was there. We made the right decisions. It feels like back in the day ’cause we really got the business going the way we want it to go. [Kurupt] got a lot of things going on now too. He got a movie going on, he got a career going, I’m distributing his label and trying to bring in executive people.
You’ve been producing a lot of stuff for some big name artists. Why didn’t you do any beats on the new Dogg Pound album?
I didn’t produce nothing on the Dogg Pound album. That’s for the next one when we make a big mega deal with 50 Cent, hopefully.
You guys are thinking of heading over to G-Unit?
Yeah, [for] the next one. We trying to see what’s really crackin’ with the business and make it happen.  was speaking about me doing a deal with him. He was talking about it like three, four weeks ago, so I’m trying to see what’s really crackin’. A lot of bullshit trying to come up, but I’m throwing that to the side. I’m trying to see what’s really going on.
Are you at all worried about the fact that the G-Unit roster is getting a bit bloated?
We already did “DPG Unit” on the Young Buck [album]. You can have two power groups. We originators of this shit, so we making noise on our own with the real gangsta shit. It’s just a matter of getting the records out. [If G-Unit] gives me and Kurupt $2.5 million a piece, we all in the game [laughs]. That’s 500,000 records sold. Go ahead and put that in our pockets, man, we’ll give you one of those hella albums! If we show we can put an album out now on Koch and we can do a million independent, then they really gotta break bread.
Do you think it would sour your relationship with people out West?
Muthafuckas don’t pay my bills. I’m my own man. It’s Snoop doing the deal, I’m just chillin’. I’m handling my business. I’m just coordinating my piece of the pie.