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For Curtis Young, the oldest son of Dr. Dre, carving out a name for himself in the entertainment industry has been an uphill battle. Young started rapping at the age of 12, right around the time a DNA test revealed that Dre, whom he had never met before, was his biological father. But with such enormous shoes to fill, becoming someone other than the son of a legend was always going to be a difficult task. “I wanted to take [rapping] more seriously, because I felt like it was a calling for me,” Young said in a recent phone call with XXL. ”My father that raised me, he was not too supportive with me doing music. So I had to take it as my own calling and understand that my father had built his own legacy, and I wanted to continue it.”
Starting out using the moniker Hood Surgeon, Young dropped a handful of projects in the mid-to-late 2000s under his own So Hood label before branching out into clothing lines and acting, with his last album, Son Of A Doctor, out in 2007. It was his acting exploits that have put Young back into the national spotlight again, with rumors surrounding the upcoming N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton claiming that Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dre were to be portrayed by their sons. When the cast was finalized earlier this month, only Cube’s son was involved with the film; Jason Mitchell was cast as Eazy-E, while Corey Hawkins had signed on to play Dr. Dre.
Meanwhile, Young and Lil Eazy-E announced that they’d be going on tour with N.W.A’s DJ Yella, with select dates still to be set, and the two have teamed up with Jam Master Jay’s son, E-40′s son and MC Ren’s son for a reality show called Seeds Of Hip-Hop, which is still in its development stages. With a lot going on and increasing interest in the film about his father, XXL spoke to Curtis Young about stepping outside of Dr. Dre’s shadow, his bubbling acting career, and his reaction to the biopic’s cast. —Dan Rys
Has it been difficult for you to step out of Dr. Dre’ shadow?
Yeah, it’s like waking a sleeping giant. [Laughs] You can’t get out of that giant’s shadow. So I’m still in his shadow—and because of him, I have the Young name, and the Foundation—but what I understood was, he paved the road that I gotta walk down regardless, so I need to brand myself as an artist to understand that. And by me saying that, I mean I have different entities besides music, so that’s what helped me kind of stay out of his shadow, because I’ve got things that he’s not doing. Kind of like how he’s got the headphone thing, I’ve got other things.
How did you get into acting?
It was funny, because there was this guy that played in the Karate Kid, the bad guy [Billy Zabka]. He happened to come to my studio one day and he was doing some acting, and he asked me if I wanted to try a movie role. And I played in this movie called My Trip Back To The Dark Side. It was just a small little role in it, and then I started getting more into acting. That was about four, five years ago.
You’re in an upcoming movie called Blame It On The Hustle, right?
Yes. They’re finishing up on the funding for the movie and working on some things, sending me the script, getting some things together. I’ve also got some music placed on the soundtrack as well. It’s a lot of big actors, so it’s just staying focused on the character; getting into that character and becoming that person, I think that’s the hardest part of it. If this person is a person who has to grow out his hair or cut his hair, you’ve gotta live like that person, talk like that person, actually be that person, you know? I think that’s probably the most difficult part of acting.
Does acting relate at all to music, or do you feel like you have to tap into a different part of yourself?
Yeah, in a sense. In music, you have to be a character. Sometimes I’ll do something where I’ll do a record for Down South, so I gotta sound a little country; whatever it is, you gotta relate to the people, and people gotta relate to you. They gotta understand where [I'm] coming from with this character and this record. It has to tell a story.