Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

Pop sociology cliche of the decade has to be the one about how urban black kids got rich on the rawness and lyrical violence of gangsta rap because suburban white kids got off on the rawness et cetera, tut tut. But that doesn’t explain the seductiveness of G-Funk, the style that really seemed to shift the units, where rawness was never on the menu. When Warren G croons “Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold” there’s no viciousness in his voice, hardly any inflection at all. Now it’s entirely possible that the insouciance of G-Funk was just as much a vicarious lure to our mythical Joe Baseball Cap as gory Geto Boys fantasies were, but it’s also likely something else was at play. G-Funk may have been turf music not surf music, but it’s hard not to see its heathazed menace as a continuation of the great Californian Music myth that Barney Hosykns outlines in his Waiting For The Sun. G-Funk’s lazy, deadly, darkly funny LA reached out to the world and touched nerves in the same way Jan and Dean’s “two girls to every boy” paradise had thirty years before, a place that couldn’t possibly exist, but once sung about couldn’t bearably not.

“Regulate”‘s creamy nihilism is total, and so totally gorgeous. “Rhythm is life, and life is rhythm”, says Warren, and he never misses a beat here. Even on pain of death, his disinterested smoothness never cracks, and when he’s off to the East Side Motel with his car full of girls he sounds as out-of-it as he does looking down the barrel of a gun. All the while the music rolls on, Michael McDonald’s soft-rock agonython “I Can’t Forget” turned into the unchanging soundtrack to a world where every event is just one of those things, so forgetting them or not seems kind of moot. The beauty’s in the tiny touches of smoked-glass menace that glide by – a drawn-out P-funk buzz that slides into the middle distance of your head, the vacuum-sealed keyboard production, the way the bass and beats tap you rather than punch you: the unbearable lightness of G-ing.