One of the quirkiest intricacies of the human mind is the way it frames memories so that we fondly recall good times, often to the point that we can overlook the bad ones. My friends and I love to reminisce over our high school glory days every chance we get between long work weeks and time apart, but for some reason I have an inkling that if we were to hop into Doc’s Delorean and go back to junior year, we’d find ourselves counting down the days to graduation. Sure, we loved jayvee sports, warm nights at the beach, and the comfort of friends we’d known our whole lives, but we were most excited for the apparent opportunity and wide openness that awaited us once the monotony of block scheduling, yellow buses, and sneaking beers was behind. Everybody remembers the “good old days” Freud might say that our tendency to emphasize fond memories at the expense of unhappy ones is an adaptive form of repression to make us mentally stronger — but I would argue it’s that waiting itself that we subconsciously miss, and all the hope, optimism, and excitement that accompanies it. Once we grow up and face disappointment, we can’t help but look back wistfully at our anticipation for the magic of adulthood and everything we took for granted.
Around ’94 and ’95, young West Coast rappers were in a pretty darn nostalgic state of mind, and it wasn’t just happy-go-lucky folks like Ahmad, Domino, and Warren G reminiscing over ballgames in the park and auntie’s home cooking — even certified gangsters like DJ Quik, Lil 1/2 Dead, and South Central Cartel could be found waxing poetic over their relatively carefree earlier years. While this might present an apparent paradox, that these same emcees each went to great lengths discussing their everyday struggles growing up and the untold danger lurking around each corner in their rough neighborhoods, it might actually be more natural than you’d think. For these young men, many of whom were caught up in California’s gang culture by their late teens, childhood was a simpler, more innocent time just like everyone else’s, even if they were only a few years removed from it. Sure times were tough, but with adolescence things quickly became even more complicated to the point that they remembered the good times and missed high school, summer barbecues, and riding bikes even if they didn’t love those things so much in the first place.
Dewayne “Wayniac” and Deon “Trip Locc” Williams, identical twins from Long Beach, had recorded with the Foesum crew before hooking up with Warren G, each appearing on multiple tracks on the G-Child’s 1994 debut “Regulate — G-Funk Era” as Twinz. After the surprise multiplatinum success of “Regulate — G-Funk Era,” Warren inked a distribution deal for his upstart G-Funk Records through Def Jam, and in August 1995 “Conversation” was released along with “This Is the Shack,” the debut from another of Warren’s Long Beach protege the Dove Shack. Unlike “This Is the Shack,” which featured very little direct involvement from the G-Child, Warren played a heavy hand in “Conversation,” producing thirteen of the album’s fourteen tracks, the lone outlier “4 Eyez 2 Headz” supplied by a young Soopafly.
While not nearly as well known as any of his solo albums, “Conversation” makes a great case for Warren G’s having been one of the great producers to hail from the Golden State. Warren was at the height of his creative powers in ’95, and the age he dubbed the “G-Funk Era” had reached its pinnacle with rappers from across California stacking platinum plaques, expanding upon the sound pioneered by his own stepbrother Dr. Dre. While constructed from the same musical blueprint as “Regulate — G-Funk Era,” Warren had an extra year to hone and advance his craft between the two releases, and the beats on “Conversation” are just that much better. His rich orchestrations built upon deep, slow-rolling basslines, woozy drum patterns, funky wah-wah guitars, softly whining synthesizers, and classic soul samples comprise some of the most purely feel-good tracks imaginable, vividly evoking the sweet breeze and palm trees of Long Beach. Warren also employs a particularly soulful roster of crooners to lace many of the hooks, ensuring that “Conversation” is an even smoother ride than his own debut, and the result is one of the most relaxing, laidback records to emerge from the LBC. Warren’s a humble guy, but his touch is all over this LP to the point that he could have easily slapped his name on the cover and no one would have called him out.
Twinz wouldn’t have turned many heads for their technique alone; they sport nimble but unspectacular flows somewhere between Shade Sheist and Mack 10 and are as indistinguishable vocally as physically. But like their mentor, they’re on a whole other frequency from their Compton neighbors, and “Conversation” is all about good times and good beats. Opening with the breezy first single “Round & Round” featuring Nancy Fletcher of “Doggystyle” fame, Warren’s brilliance is immediately established with a simple, cheerful soundscape, and the Twinz do their part to usher the listener into the rough yet easygoing Long Beach lifestyle. Fletcher returns for the ultra-woozy “Good Times,” a classic deep track that finds both Warren and Twinz at their finest. Trip Locc sets the scene, narrating a morning on the block inspired by pleasant recollections of the night before and the voices and music he hears when he steps outside, but it’s Wayniac who brings it home, trying to place their current situations in a larger context:
“Who woulda thought when we was young this would be
The same old click that ran around in elementary
Was it the chemistry from Moms and Pops
Who went to school with they Moms and Pops, so it don’t stop
It was an everyday event, we spent
More time playin’ get like me, instead of hide and seek
And after school we’d play two-on-two
Philly versus the Lakers until the bus came through
Do you recall goin’ to the games
Straight actin’ a fool and when it’s over at the food chains
In the parking lot is where it all popped
We hangin’ around to watch the ladies and the brothas clown
Pick up some food, conversate a bit
‘Til it’s time for us to make our move, then dip
I enjoyed every minute of it then
I guess that’s why we in the wind”
These words may seem a bit premature coming from a man barely out of his teens, but who can’t relate? Childhood does go by too fast, and having signed to a major record label, Wayniac probably had sufficient reason to believe that his days as just another kid on the street were behind him.
“Conversation” contains its share of conventional accounts of mobbin’, hustlin’, and partyin’, but the glorious music and the Twinz’ optimistic outlooks seem to frame them in a unique light. “Jump Ta This” is constructed around a delicious funk guitar lick, winding bassline, and pounding drums:
“We still up in the party layin’ low
Wonder why them trick sick niggas playin’ hoe? (I know)
They still on the simp mode, you shoulda asked the Twinz
‘Cause they be on the real shit instead of givin’ ends
Now first things first, who’s the bait for the night?
We still trump tight and can’t be faded by the hype
Might be in the clouds from the herb, don’t trip
I’m like the Locc, I stay in focus when it’s time to dip
Grab my drink and it’s on (Yeah)
I see ya groovin’ to the music, well let’s get it on (It’s all good)
Playa haters in the cut on the prowl
Tryin’ to find a way to put some shit in my style
But I’ll just keep it on the DL
I don’t never put in work when it’s time to bail (Oh well)
Shoulda knew it wasn’t poppin’ like that
Now she’s caught up on this nigga Wayniac”
Not exactly thought-provoking, but nor is it meant to be — it’s got a monster of a beat and it’s a phenomenal party jam.
In ’93 Warren took Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and molded it into his classic single “Regulate,” and he uses the same formula for “Eastside LB,” itself a very faithful interpolation of Deneice Williams’ “Free.” Trip Locc takes the listener to a night in the past, celebrating his hometown but simultaneously hoping to escape it one day:
“The first stop, PCH and Atlantic, the home front
Poly apartments, where my party still jumps
From dusk to dawn, makin’ me yawn, ’cause I’m out late
Smokin’ in the cut with the homies, eighty-six the date
Don’t feel like trippin’ tonight, so I get back
More concerned with my paper, ’cause now I’m on contract
Wonderin’ if this meal ticket’ll guarantee
Me a way out of the Eastside of LB
But you know like I know, ain’t no place like home
Gone for a second, best believe that I’m back home
Twenty-four seven where the love just don’t stop
Comedy on deck, to help the homies on the block
Get together, ’cause ain’t nothin’ changed but my mood
I might get to tweak and start to trippin’ on fools
But I chill, I hangs with them niggas that’s real
Headed to the Eastside, nigga you know the deal”
The two best tracks are “Sorry I Kept You” and “Journey Wit Me.” The former is among the darkest songs here, with a wholly infectious g-funk beat upon which Warren crafts a hook subtly sampling Eric B. & Rakim and recalling of “My Melody,” “This is what the Loccs would sit back and rap to.” The latter is bright and lighthearted by comparison, featuring the deep-voiced Bo-Roc from the Dove Shack on a gorgeous arrangement meant for simple relaxation. The Twinz take a step back and marvel at how far they’ve come on the song that feels most like a “Conversation.” With their verses, Wayniac and Trip Locc discuss the pitfalls of the eternal paper chase yet the need for persistence to attain peace of mind, while Bo-Roc sets the mood and bridges their thoughts by asking that the listener “Just lay on back, fire up a sack, and peep my conversation.” Warren’s multi-layered beat builds from a soft vibe arrangement to a rich funk lick, and his inventive drum pattern is among the best here.
The album closes as strongly as it begins with the bass-thumping “1st Round Draft Pick,” another trip down memory lane, and the Foesum feature “Pass It On,” a good-natured weed ode. The only track that doesn’t quite stick is the Five Footaz feature “Hollywood,” but as a cautionary sellout tale even it serves to explore the crossroads at which Twinz found themselves in ’95. The final standout is “Don’t Get It Twisted,” anchored by a dramatic hook from New Birth. Backed by a swirling, soulful track, Twinz innocently note how differently their longtime acquaintances approach them since they hit the big time:
Trip Locc: “Back in the days it was you that wouldn’t speak
Now you breakin’ your neck to see what’s up for the week
You should have been down, that’s on the real right from the jump
But now I got to treat you like a toss-up, who’s caught up?
You got some nerve to be actin’ like it’s all good
I see your phony side as I slide through the neighborhood
Miss Goody-Good I wish you would think you would
Get some love from this way, you better keep away”
Wayniac: “Man, didn’t they know that they eyes are the window to they soul
You dirty lowdown ice water cold
Person that I used to see, eatin’ my dust as I mash
It’s all about the family makin’ cash
Non-stop for us, got that business deal to work
Sign some autographs, give away a grip o’ shirts
I know it hurts to see a nigga doin’ his thing
You shoulda maintained before the fame
Now you get an X by your name”
There’s a heavy air of nostalgia around “Conversation,” and those who picked it up in ’95 probably feel similarly, perhaps wondering whatever became of the brothers Williams. Hell, I remember watching Nickelodeon’s “All That” after school and seeing Twinz as the featured musical act. Although “Conversation” cracked the Billboard Top 40, it soon went out-of-print, commanding high prices among collectors. While simple in concept, it is an album marvelous in execution, featuring ingenious production and a compelling coming-of-age philosophy from two brothers who forecasted an impending departure from the life they knew and were already nostalgic for their hometown and a simpler time. All things considered, “Conversation” was an accurate title; it’s a ride through the brothers’ neighborhood and a listen into their thoughts on life as they perceived it at that moment in time. Sadly, as it turned out Twinz may have jumped the gun a bit. Despite steady guest appearances for a few seasons, further recordings were shelved, and the only follow-up that ever materialized was a small scale Snoop Dogg-presented EP over a decade later. Ironically, part of what works so much about this album is the promise that never materialized. Their wide-eyed optimism for a new life of rap stardom inspired charismatic reminiscence and a celebration of anticipation, but sadly, the waiting was as good as it ever got for Twinz.
It’s funny how nostalgia works. It may be naive, but I like to fancy that the Twinz got the best of both worlds, getting a taste of chart success without ever having to leave their beloved home behind and experience the separation they seemed to dread. If not, at least they got to release one great rap album with the help of Warren G, and as far as soulfully evocative, superbly produced, and sunny-smooth g-funk records, they didn’t come much better than this. “Conversation” contains the type of music to make listeners nostalgic for the good days they might have never even known.