Dr. Dre’s Son Curtis Young Wasn’t Upset By Not Being Cast In The N.W.A Biopic
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.
Those two combine a bit with the Seeds Of Hip-Hop show, right?
Right, yeah. The Seeds Of Hip-Hop show is based around, you've got these characters who are the sons of legends, and it's based around us stepping out of our fathers' shadows. I wouldn't say there's a character involved in the reality series we're doing; it's real life, it's really our real life. But they will see things like that on film—okay, this guy is stepping out of his comfort zone, he's acting, whatever it is. I've got the clothing line, just stepping out. Doing the women's line—that's not something you see a guy doing—and doing stuff like that. I have a men's and women's line for my line that I'm working on. But it's like, I'm looking at all these women's pieces and I'm like, this is so out of my character. [Laughs] But you know, women buy things more than men nowadays, you know?
Where are you guys at with Seeds Of Hip-Hop?
We're actually pitching it to different networks, so it's at the baby stages. But we definitely have a production company—Bunim/Murray, the creators of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, are behind us—and we're all working collectively on making it a grand show that's more of a Run's House-type series on my end. I can't speak for everybody else, but I have the family, it's not about the groupies and all that stuff out there, it's more of a positive message that' I wanna give out there. It's me; Jam Master Jay's son; Droop-E, E-40's son; Waxxie, MC Ren's son; and Lil Eazy, Eazy-E's son.
How did you link up with Lil Eazy and DJ Yella for your guys' upcoming tour?
The funny thing was, I hooked up with Yella at one of my friends' weddings, his name was Juice, and he was there. I was like, wow, is Yella here? And then he was like, man, I've been wanting to hook up with you. As far as Lil Eazy, we were at a show and we just kinda hooked up like that and kept in touch. I put it together and called all the guys and asked them if they were comfortable with me shopping it to booking agents, and we shopped it around and we got a lot of offers. A lot of people have been picking it up; possible tours in Europe, we just got picked up for the Ace Of Spades, we have another that's a hemp convention out in Vegas, and then in Norway. That one's at the baby stages, too, but we're just marketing it and seeing how we all work together. But for the most part, if you combine different energies, it's gonna work out. And we wanted to keep that older essence of it, by involving Yella.
Do you feel like it's gonna be an N.W.A nostalgia-type tour?
I think it's gonna be big because it's what the people want. Just by dedicating something that's already been done before, or really just bringing it back, resurrecting what Eazy-E and my father did to the game. We're gonna be doing more songs of their background and showcasing our new talent as far as continuing the legacy. So I think it's gonna be good, because it'll still have that old school feel, but it'll have that new school feel, too. Everything now is like going back in time and coming back around, so it's kind of the best of both worlds.
They just announced the cast for the N.W.A biopic, and a couple years ago Dre had mentioned that you were being considered to play your dad. Did you want to play him in that role?
I actually tried out for the role, 'cause the casting company called me. But my father wanted somebody with more acting experience, and I haven't been acting for a long time, so I'm happy for the guy that got the role. It's one of those things where we want what's best for the movie and for the film. I had a lot of fans that were upset about it, but whatever's best for the film, that presents it in that light, then I'm for it.
You weren't disappointed by it?
I want my father to be represented in the best way, so I didn't feel any type of way about it at all.
Musically, what do you have going on?
Doctor's Note, my album right now on iTunes, that's out right now. And what's in the works is Product Of My DNA. It's a story based on my life, what I've been through, and me finding out who my father was in a DNA test. Feel good music at the same time, but it's gonna be more story tracks, more all-around talking about the struggles and me overcoming them. Really more personal, things I have to get off my chest. Let people understand who I am and know me for Curtis Young and not just as the son of Dr. Dre.