JEWELL (November 2011) | Interview By:
Former Death Row Records singer/songwriter Jewell has sung the
choruses to several Death Row classic records during the early-to-mid 90’s,
including some of their biggest hits, and was known as "The First Lady of
Death Row Records”.
Signed to Death Row Records as their first original artist from 1992-1996,
Jewell more than held her own among the other inmates of Death Row by
blending her smooth, talented vocal abilities with the G-funk-infused
gangsta productions to Death Row albums like "The Chronic", “Doggystyle”, "Dogg
Food", "All Eyes On Me" , “Above The Rim” and "Murder Was The Case" , where
she also had a Billboard Hot 100 charting hit with "Woman to Woman” .
On Tuesday, November 21, 2011, WIDEawake/Death Row Records will release the
album "Jewell". The never-before-released tracks from the Death Row vault
showcase the artist’s undeniable talent and edge, while digging into her
Dubcnn recently caught up with Jewell for an exclusive interview to discuss
her time at Death Row Records, what it was like working on “The Chronic”,
how she broke into the music industry, who her musical influences were,
being in the middle of the NWA/Ice Cube feud, and so much more!
Interview was done November 2011
Questions Asked By: Chad Kiser
A Dubcnn Exclusive
By: Chad Kiser
Dubcnn: Let’s start at the beginning. Who were some of your
singing influences growing up?
Well, when I was smaller I only really remember my grandmother
playing a lot of Shirley Caesar, I began to get in to the Clark Sisters,
Tremaine Hawkins, the James Cleveland Choir, and people like that. As I got
older, and into my teenage years, I had a school buddy named LaChelle
Sanders, who’s actually Suge’s first-cousin, I used to go around the corner
to her house and her grandmother would be playing people like Teena Marie,
Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, the Four Tops, and the Isley
Brothers. And I heard all this music that I had been sheltered from and it
was all new to me, it was like a kid who had never tasted candy before, I
just wanted more and more!
Dubcnn: Who were some of your favorites then, and now?
Sade happens to be one of my favorite artists, Lalah Hathaway – I
love her sound, Denise Williams, and Minnie Ripperton. These are people, I
feel, that have mastered their craft and making material of substance, where
it uplifts you, soothes you, and make you forget about your problems.
Dubcnn: Where did you grow up, are you originally from Compton?
I’m originally from Chicago, IL, and I left Chicago when I was 10
years-old to move to Los Angeles, CA.
Dubcnn: How did you initially break into the music industry, with Ruthless
Records, from the beginning?
Back in Chicago, I would do the school talent shows, but when I
came to California I was able to get into the Ms. Sugar Ray pageants, the
Ms. Ebony pageants, so I started getting involved in pageants because I knew
that talent was one of their areas of qualifications. Well, 1580 KDAY had
put together a performing group, where they would go around Los Angeles and
perform at various recreation centers, and that’s when I met Barry White. He
became my godfather in a way, and he would call me up and I would have loads
of questions for him to answer, and he would kind of guide me in certain
situations a little bit.
Anyways, there was a club called Eve After Dark, which was in LA/Compton,
where my home girl LaChelle used to frequent. She had met Dr. Dre there, and
one night she told me about a club called Marvin’s Memory Lane where she
wanted me to go sing at. We get to the club kind of late in the evening, and
people were already signed up to sing, but she found Dr. Dre and told him
that her home girl could sing. He says, “Oh, yea? Sing for me.” We went off
to this little corner, and me never being shy in my life, I just started
belting out Chaka Khan. Hey said, “Damn! Well we’re working on an NWA album
[Efil4zaggin], here’s the number, and I want y’all to come to the studio in
Torrance. So I did!
Dubcnn: What was your first recording?
Well, when I go the studio, they put on the song, “I’d Rather Fuck You”. I
was thinking, “Oh, my God, my mom is going to kill me.” [laughs] Dre said,
“You think you got something for this?” I told him I had something for
everything! So I went into the vocal booth and started singing, and he’s
looking at me like he was just amazed. When it was done, I came out and he
was like, “Damn, this shit is awesome!” So the rest with us is pretty much
history. They went on tour shortly after that, with JJ Fad & Michel’le, and
Dre’s number changed, so we lost touch for a while until the Death Row
Dubcnn: So, while at Ruthless Records, what other things did you
work on there? Something I don’t think a lot of people know is that you’re
the singer on Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “For The Love Of Money”.
I mean as the story is told, it’s blam, blam they went on tour and
that’s it, but, there were a lot of things happening during that time. I had
been at the studio almost every day listening, recording, and hanging out
with Ice Cube and MC Ren as they were putting the “Efil4zaggin” project
together, so I was sort of absorbing Dr. Dre work. I was there for various
skits, like with the D.O.C., and then I did the song for Eazy-E and Yomo &
Maulkie,”For The Love of Money”. For whatever reason, Eazy never put that
particular song out until years later when he signed Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
What they did was take the rappers [Yomo & Maulkie], but they kept my voice
and used the song as it was.
Dubcnn: So were you around during the implosion of NWA when Ice Cube
decided to leave the group?
Well, that didn’t happen until after the tour, and the only thing I
don’t like about the west coast is that if they were mad at someone then
they expected their artists to carry that beef. So, when Cube decided to
leave the group, I remember we came in and was wrapping up some stuff and
Dre was like, “I want you to do this skit.” I’m like, “What skit?” He told
me he wanted me to say, “Since Ice Cube is sucking so much New York dick,
let him come eat some of this Chicago pussy.” [laughs] I said, “What?”, and
Dre said, “Yeah, he’s dick-riding, he’s riding with New York.” [laughs]
That’s what I don’t like about the west coast because that blew my chances
of working with Ice Cube!
Dubcnn: Ok, so with Death Row Records, tell us about your
involvement there, because you were the first and original artist signed to
the label, correct?
So, a few years later, I knew Suge because he played football with
my high school boyfriend, Big Moose, and Sharitha Knight was one of my
friends from school. LaChelle had told me I should go to the studio, and
that Suge was doing something with Dre. So we go to the studio, and Dre’s
like “What’s up?” And we’re saying hi and everything, and Suge says, “Me &
Dre are starting this label, and I want you to be a part of it.” I said
I was the first one signed to the label, but a lot of things weren’t etched
in stone when I go there. I met Dick Griffey, and one of the first things he
asked was for me to sing for him. So I sang for him. And then, there was
this entity that we started to call the studio. We didn’t have a lot of
money in the beginning; we had some, but not a lot.
At the time it was only the D.O.C., myself, Suge and Dr. Dre, we were the
only people there. The label didn’t even have a name. The D.O.C. was in
there drawing stuff, and writing, trying to come up with a name. He had come
up with Future Shock, and then came up with the name “Def Row”, like Russell
Simmons’ Def Jam. So, Dick Griffey got us an opportunity to do a soundtrack
the movie “Deep Cover”. Warren G had brought Snoop to the studio one day to
rap for us, and Suge asked me what I thought about him I and I told him I
thought he was dope! From there, the world got its first taste of Dr. Dre
and Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Dubcnn: If you can, take us back to those early days at Death Row Records.
And what were some of the early discussions as far the direction of the
label, your project, and the projects being worked on.
Well, so, after the soundtrack, Dre said he was going to do his
album, so Snoop ended up bringing the Dogg Pound, and shortly after RBX came
in. Rage was doing something in New York, I think Suge found her living in a
studio or something in New York because she was messing with Eric B. So they
all end up being signed and we’re all together, and we do “The Chronic”
album. Of course, you know it was a lyrical masterpiece, it’s undeniable. It
blew the west coast up!
My album was supposed to come out after that, but after the success of The
Chronic, they wanted to do a Snoop album, so I got pushed back. Then came
the Dogg Pound after the success of “Doggystyle”, and I was pushed back
again. And then with the soundtrack successes of “Above The Rim” and “Murder
Was The Case”, it was hit after hit, and I just kept getting pushed back.
Our hits were happening so fast, they were just trying to keep up with
everything that was going on. So there were no decisions made from sitting
down and having a pow-wow to see who we’re going to do next because there
should have been several albums done. They should have been able to do a rap
album, an R&B album and whatever else genre of music of talent that they had
on the label.
Dubcnn: You had several songs featured on well-known soundtracks like
“Murder Was The Case” and “Above The Rim”. Was that part of any plan, to
feature you on some of these projects and albums, to lead up to a solo
project from you?
No, it just happened, like something’s missing on this song, go
call Jewell, we need a hook. A lot of the times I would be in the studio
when stuff was being made, sometimes I wouldn’t be because if I’m not
working I’m not just going to be hanging around the studio like that. My
thing is I like to work, I like to get paid..I like to work, I like to get
paid, and I wasn’t into the playing around. Once things began to slow down a
little bit after the soundtracks, and the releases from Dre, Snoop, and Tha
Dogg Pound, that’s when Suge came in 1995 and said they were going to do my
album. People had kept asking him what was up with me, when were they going
to put my album out because the more songs I did like “Harvest For The
World”, “Woman To Woman”, “Gonna Give It To You” with Aaron Hall, the people
were ready to hear my solo stuff.
We had just moved to Can-Am Studios, and there were so many artists in the
studio, so Suge introduced me to Demetrius “Meech” Shipp, and we cut our
first 2 songs at Can-Am. Meech had a studio at his house, so I chose to
records over there instead of in the chaos that was going on in and around
Can-Am, so most of record was done in Meech’s private studio. That’s how I
created the “Black Diamond” album, which was supposed to be released in
Dubcnn: With “The Chronic” being put together, what was the
atmosphere like during the recording process, and what was your specific
There was a lot of involvement with me and The Chronic! Musically,
at that particular time, me and Dr. Dre were boyfriend/girlfriend as far as
music is concerned, we stayed in that studio. I think I would leave to go
get some food, but we were all pretty much there on a daily basis doing The
Chronic, and that’s probably what made it one of the most successful
projects of the entire label. In the beginning, it was just us, the chronic,
and the chicken. [laughs] You got talent, you got chronic, you got liquor,
and you got Dr. Dre? That’s what you need for success right there!