In 2006, after reading online that Dr. Dre had a son recording tracks under the name Hood Surgeon, I got the hair brain idea I would find him and write about it for the L.A. Times.
It was an experience that gave me some good practice as a reporter. I tracked him down all the way to a home-built recording studio in Corona, CA. I also got a hold of his sister, Manaj, who was also trying to become a recording artist, charging that her bloodline to Dr. Dre gave her the right. Both were telling me that dad wouldn´t help them get on. Worst of all, after I did all the interviews and running around and writing, nobody wanted to touch my work, either.
A couple reporters at the paper tried to help me out. Zilch, nada. Nobody cared about Dre´s offspring. All they cared about was, ¨When is Detox coming out?¨
So, here I present to you gentle reader, in all of its unedited, 2006 glory my never-ran story on Dr. Dre´s two kids. Enjoy
¶ Inside the tiny recording booth, above a custom detail shop in the Inland Empire, a young man, at least 6’2, raps into a microphone. His back to the Plexiglas partition, he rhymes fiercely. Starting and stopping…assuring clarity in ever phrase.
“Stop. Go Back,” says the recording engineer, Rik Brown. “Hear the kick?”
It’s a process that takes longer to complete than one would imagine. How hard is it to rhyme into a microphone?
Using the moniker, “Hood Surgeon,” the rapper, born Curtis McClemore (he likes to tell people it´s young, but CA business records show otherwise), needs a deft hand to continue a legacy that has defined rap music in the West.
A fan of 90’s rap music, McClemore says he always was a fan of N.W.A’s music, but he also held admiration for East Coast rap. “I ain’t gonna lie, I grew up on Wu-Tang. I used to like how they put their lyrics together.”
“I thought the East Coast was the ones. Then when I found out,” he says referring to when his mother told him who his famous father was, “I was like, ‘the West,’ this is where it is.”
He said as he delved into the music characterized by the G-Funk sound made so famous by his father.
It was a zeitgeist for him, at 12, finding out he was Dr Dre’s first-born, “It pushed me harder. I said I was going to meet him one day.”
Long Road to meet his father
To the left of a flat panel computer screen showing Pro Tools rests a picture with a thin black frame. In it, Dr Dre stands next to a slightly taller version of himself, Curtis. It was at the “8-Mile” premier.
The picture shows a strange mix of nervous familiarity, and in some way resembles the kind of unfamiliarity a fan might share with his idol. It also exists on his myspace page. Further proof that he is who he claims to be.
Unlike his half-sister Latoya Young, who says that she’s always known who her father was, “Since I was 3.”
McClemore, who likes to say his last name is Young, didn’t meet Dr Dre until he hit legal drinking age.
“It’s like crazy growing up, not knowing who your real dad is, ” he says.
From his early 20’s, Dr Dre has documented his gritty upbringing on the streets of Compton. A founding member of seminal gangster-rap collective, N.W.A, Dre is often credited with creating the ever popular West Coast ‘G-Funk,’ a synth-heavy sound with a deep bass line that recalls the beauty and danger of California life.
McClemore, born in 1981, would have been born when Dre was 16.
In areas such as Compton, with its high poverty, drug use and murder rates, lack of education, and jobs–teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births are common.
“The behavioral characteristics of people who define themselves in terms of the rap community is much more linked to street culture than middle class culture, says Ellis Cose, a Newsweek columnist and author who examines African American culture.
“Street culture doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on good parenting. Regardless of income,” he adds, addressing the world of rap musicians at large.
McClemore, a father, too, says he’ll take a different approach than his famous father.
“I know I’ve got to be there for my kids, man, that’s the bottom line,” says the 25-year-old. He’s got two boys of his own, ages 1 and 4 (perhaps signaling a possible 3rd generation rapper extending from Dr Dre.)
‘They’re already trying to rap, the four-year-old. I’m not pushing my sons to just get on the rap thing, but if they want to do it, I ain’t stopping them.”
McClemore says he didn’t grow up a child of extreme privilege as many might think.
“My mom took good care of me,” he says about his mother, a nurse at Kaiser Permanente. “I ain’t gonna lie and say that I was the grimiest.
My mom did her thing, she struggled. She was a single parent, you know what I mean.”
He mentions two other brothers living with his mother, “It’s still hard. ”
“Everyone here is struggling,” he says adamantly, referring to his So Hoods records partners. “I’m still struggling, man. I’m trying to do my thing.”
Sometime in 2002, a producer McClemore was working with decided to reach out to his father. A call was put in to Dr. Dre´s attorney, he says. “He called Howard King, and he told him Dr. Dre has a son, and his name is Curtis.”
The attorney wasn’t buying it; McClemore was told he needed to make the call himself. And he did.
With 9 years of wanting to meet the rap icon, he made a heartfelt pitch, “I was like look, man, ‘I’ve got a son…he looks just like [Dr Dre], I do too.”
“I said, ‘Just find it in your heart to tell him this, I want to meet my pops.’”
“And he told him.”
McClemore was asked to provide a genetic sample to a lab to prove he was Dre’s son. “I go to the genetics place,” he says, “I did [the test]. My mom did too. It came back 99.9% accurate.”
After some initial hesitation and phone-tag, he was contacted by his father. McClemore said he could “feel the energy.”
“I wasn’t nervous, I was just like…this is my pops?”
McClemore recalls meeting Dre, and how they both remarked at their likeness, sitting at a table, “just looking at each other, for like 20 minutes…we look just alike, man.” And they do.
He said Dr Dre invited him to visit Encore studios in Burbank.
On a drive to the studio, McClemore, feeling the liquor he says he drank to steel his nerves, rapped a few bars for the empresario. “I was just faded, just feeling him out…he was like, ‘reminds me of me in N.W.A days.’ ”
“He kept saying, ‘We going to get him in the booth.’
But that didn’t become a reality. “He made me wait, man. I didn’t never get to spit.”
“We was just chillen out, man. I think 50 Cent was there, I didn’t know it at the time.”