A Conversation With The DOC On NWA, Humility & Taking Care Of Yourself First!

Words by Maxine Johns

His story reads like a cautionary tale that stretches far beyond the realms of the hip-hop music industry. It is a story of a man who has shared his extraordinary talents time and time again with the world, with his hip-hop peers in a selfless manner, and yet, has been overlooked for rewards and recognition that is rightfully his to bear. Don’t get it twisted, Tracy Curry aka The DOC is not a man who seeks acknowledgment, but when you cast an eye back on his resume as one of the industry’s most slept on songwriters, producers and rap artists in his own right, one could be hard pressed to wonder why he has done so much and received so little recognition in return.

As one of the original members of 90’s iconic hip hop group N.W.A, Dallas born Curry arrived in the City of Angels with a focus on just doing what he was good at and what he loved, making honest hip-hop with a cause, with a brotherhood he loved. Originally beginning his career as a member of Dallas based hip-hop group, Fila Fresh Crew, the group had four tracks featured on the compilation album N.W.A and the Posse, which was released in 1987. The same four tracks would later appear on the group’s album Tuffest Man Alive, released in 1988 with the group disbanding shortly after its release.

D.O.C was signed to Ruthless Records and wrote numerous lyrics for N.W.A’s debut album, Straight Outta Compton, Eazy-E’s debut, Eazy-Duz-It, as well co-writing Keep Watchin‘ from Michel’le‘s self-titled debut album, with all three albums produced by Dr. Dre. In 1989, The D.O.C. released his Dr. Dre-produced debut album, No One Can Do It Better, which peaked at number 20 on the Billboard 200 and achieved platinum status, solidifying Curry as a sure fire hit in the communes of West Coast Rap. As life would have it and often does, what goes up must come down. In November 1989, Curry was involved in a near-fatal car accident, leading to critically damaged vocal chords and other serious injuries. Falling asleep behind the wheel, Curry’s car veered off the freeway, and because he was not wearing a seatbelt, he was thrown out of the rear window and slammed his face into a tree. His voice and life thereafter changed forever. 

DOC is more than a survivor, he is a phoenix of spiritual proportions. A proud father of four (his fourth baby, a son, is due to be born later this year,) he has created a comeback career that has seen him embark on international live speaking tours, a forthcoming album and music and reality TV shows in the works, not to mention having made peace with NWA.

Happy New Year DOC – how are you and how has 2016 been for you so far?

I’m doing fine, I hope you are doing fine as well. The New Year has started off really well for me, I have just moved back from LA to Texas and just found my girlfriend is pregnant with my second son so I am so happy, it’s really cool.

Wow, congratulations, that is amazing news! It is such an honour to finally get to chat with you – I was blessed enough to be able to catch your speaking tour in Sydney last year and man was it an education of the highest order for me. You have such an incredible, important and necessary history in hip-hop and a story that is truly inspiring – do you ever sit back and think “how did I ever get through it all?”

Firstly, I am so thankful that the people in Australia were gracious enough to have me out there and listen to my journey, it’s a beautiful place and I really had such an awesome time there. It was a first for me to do this kind of tour and I thought it was really dope, the audience was really receptive and I really enjoyed doing it and some of the coolest things I noticed was that there were a lot of father and sons in the audience together. It was awesome to see them share that sort of love for the music and for the art that I created so that was something I really enjoyed.

I am spiritual person, and I believe everything happens for a purpose. I was actually thinking about this the other day, there are so many guys that are no longer here you know, Pimp C, Jam Master Jay, Eazy-E and Biggie Smalls, Tupac and all of these great artists and people who are no longer here. The fact that I am still here, there is a purpose for it and so I just try to recognise that purpose and do the right thing by it.

Looking back at your beginnings and your early days in Dallas, knowing what you know now about the hip-hop game and life in general, what do you think your advice would be to the younger version of Tracy Curry before he boarded that plane to LA all those years ago?

If I can tell that young dude anything it would be to know you’re worth son. You are special individual, and if you know that, they will be hard pressed to take advantage of you, because you love yourself enough to know what your worth is. I think I was just trying to prove to so many people that I was worth it, and maybe even prove to myself that I was worth it, that I let people take things from me that really cost me in the long run. But like I said I am still here, I’m blessed and I got a new son on the way. I know that boy is going to be special and I will make sure that he knows his worth every day.

You were part of one of the most influential groups in hip-hop history – NWA! You were instrumental in writing, creating and forming the basis of what that group was founded on, yet never got the credit you deserved for all the writing and collaborating on the NWA album and subsequent other projects you worked on with Dr Dre. I remember being so shocked hearing you speak on your reality of being in NWA, and at times felt a little robbed for you hearing of your experience yet being so amazing by your humility – how have you remained so humble in the midst of this storm for so many years?

Well I went through all of the emotions, trust me *laughs*. I went through anger, resentment, frustration, depression, all of it. But like I said, there are so many great artists that are no longer here with us, and I am still here. I realised I was so blessed that I had to let go of those feelings and find my own purpose before all of those bad feelings ate me up. I had to look in the mirror and realise that God loves me because I am a good man, I’m a good person and I gave to that group because I wanted that group to succeed. The fact that they never gave back to me isn’t a testimony to them or me, I don’t look at it on those terms. I gave all I could for their success and I am happy for them, and now it’s time for me to give all I have to my success and hopefully things will turn out the same.

NWA is the playbook group given to the beginner hip-hop lover and it is a story and journey that is bigger than hip-hop at times. Now that the story has been immortalised as the hit movie Straight Outta Compton, what are your thoughts on how the history that you are a part of has been captured by Hollywood, and the fact that your role in the movie was as small as it was? Is this movie an important legacy for NWA?

I think that the people that produced that movie did it for financial gain, and I’m just speculating, but it was a way for the guys who already have a shit load of money, to make another shit load of money and it worked. It premiered all over the world for which I wasn’t given one red penn, but such is life. I enjoyed the movie, I thought it was great. Was it honest? Hell no! But it was good. I never thought that when I was leaving Dallas all those years ago, moving to LA, that I would one day be a character in a movie. So it has its pluses but it also has its minuses. I hope that one day in the future I get to share my side of the story for the fans, as there was a lot of valuable information left out of this version. It would really help the younger generation coming up now.

The music industry is a dirty business and you have to be prepared, so the things we went through would really be important to show. This wasn’t a truthful account of what happened in the reality of what life was like being a part of NWA, and if I have to be the revolutionary to the buck the system and go out in front of the firing squad, so to speak, and be a martyr for the masses, I don’t mind that at all. I’ve always seen myself as the kind of person who cared about hip-hop almost more that I care about myself, so if I can be the one who can make these guys feel some of the pain that I went through during the last few years, as this is my history and story too, then so be it.

What are your thoughts on hip-hop community today and where do you think it’s headed from a cultural aspect?

 Artists like J Cole and Kendrick Lamar are offering, in my opinion, a very bright future for hip-hop art. They are being very honest and positive and conscious about what they are doing, as well as being really great artists. They are not just throwing crap out there to be sensationalised, they really are having an effect on our world socially, and reflecting on the times we are living right now. We need to get a grip on ourselves and try to figure out how to better as a human family or we are all going to be screwed up. If attitudes like Donald Trump’s are allowed to succeed in this world, then my unborn son won’t even have a fucking world when it’s all said and done. It’s just going to be a world full of fear, yet at the end of the day, we are one human family striving to live good lives. So I think hi- hop right now, needs to be honest and positive and continue to speak the truths we need to hear and make people more aware.

Looking at your own solo rap career, you were an artist on fire and you were one of the most sought after rappers in the game after you left NWA, giving us amazing albums including No one Can Do It Better, and Helter Skelter and Deuce, which were recorded after your horrific car accident. Now you speak on those as a heady cocktail of drugs, sex and alcohol pushed to the limit, yet you were always determined to get in the studio and knock out the hits no matter what came your way. Are there any stand out moments from those days that you can share with us on that particular time in your career?

The thing that stands out the most for me during those times is the way the way people who really loved me as an artist, and as a person, went out of their way to push me up even when I had no belief or love left for myself at the time. There were people who really worked hard at trying to make me know that I was worth it, you know, people like my friend MC Breed, who passed away, rest in peace. He really worked hard to let me know that I was great and I really appreciated him and the people that cared for that.

All the Long Beach Guys were there for me, too. Cube was there, Ren was there, but anybody else acted like they didn’t care and that bothered me for a long time. I put so much into their success that I just knew at some stage they would reach back and pull me up – but that never happened. I had to go through so some dark days dealing with all that, and it wasn’t pretty *laughs*. But now my spirit is free and I don’t hold anything against any of these guys. I wish them all the success in the world.

DOC, if I could be so bold as to ask, why do you think you have gone through this period of your life not being acknowledged, or even mentioned or paid at some parts for the work you have done on such a large scale? What do you think it is that made the men you started one of hip-hop’s most iconic groups with, want to shut you out of their success story?

To me, it comes down to a sense of power. So the men with the money have the power and the men with the power have the control, and they are only interested in more power and control. They don’t have consciences to want to make sure they do the right thing, but they want to allow their legacy to get more light – and sometimes that doesn’t include the truth. That’s just the way of the world unfortunately. 

What is DOC working on musically and creatively right now, as you continue to forge ahead on your own path?

Having just come back home to Dallas now and the fact that my vocal chords started working actively again last year, praise God, I am beginning to work on a new record. I am really excited and blessed to say that and begin that process. I also have a round of meetings involving a reality show, which was sparked after this network found out about the speaking tours I did in Australia and the great feedback I received from my fans down there. They want to look at developing a reality show chronicling my comeback effort. So I’m back working and I’m working for DOC and for my kids and it’s the best feeling. So God willing I can bring Hollywood back to Texas and show ’em how it’s done out here.

If you could take four albums with you into the afterlife, what would they be and why?

I would take Biggie Smalls Greatest Hits, I would take Slick Rick, I would take No one Can Do It Better and Eric B for President. Because those men, these artists are probably my most favourite rappers of all time, they did so much for hip-hop and for me as an artist and a lover of this music. And, I would have to take mine just so I could hear my voice again.

This was originally posted on Ms Hennessey Speaks Blog with full permission.