When Curtis Mclemore was 12 years old, he found out that his father was global music icon and business mogul Dr Dre. Three years later, he decided to pursue a meeting with his world famous dad and finally met him when he was 20.
Like his father, Curtis grew up in Compton and surrounding cities, and showed a natural flair for music from a young age. The talented rapper later changed his name to Curtis Young and has been carving out his own path with hard work, determination and thinking out of the box ever since.
Most recently, Curtis collaborated with British Asian artists Dr Zeus and Rameet, and was in the UK earlier this month to shoot a music video with them. He also has his sights set on India and hopes to reach a global audience.
Eastern Eye caught up with the rising star in London with a huge legacy to talk about music, future plans, India and more.
When did you first get connected to music?
Music is definitely something that was with me growing up. I felt connected to music at the age of 12 with influences of legends whose music had a message.
Who was the first person that discovered you had talent?
(Laughs) I would say just the fans. I really don’t get too caught up in the talent part. I am very humble when it comes to things like that. I just feel like it is a continuation of growth every day. I hear it from the fans and deep down I knew the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. It is in the DNA.
What was the moment that gave you the self-belief to really pursue music?
I started really getting into music at the age of 20 after meeting my father (for the first time). When I met my pops, I really felt like music was something I wanted to pursue. At the time I wanted to be just like him, until I evolved over the years to see the value in just being myself. I started opening for the likes of Sean Paul, E40 and Fat Joe, which led to touring with DJ Yella internationally and more recently blessing the stage with Wyclef Jean. I enjoyed rocking stages worldwide and sharing the message of my story with the world. That’s when music became a lifestyle.
Have you got advice from your legendary father Dr Dre?
My pops is a man of very few words, but every piece of advice he gave me made a statement. He told me: ‘You got the name now, run with it’ and ‘People will respect you for making a name for yourself’. All I asked for was time, since time was taken from both of us. And that’s when I stepped out of his shadow and was led towards creating a legacy of my own.
Were you intimidated by having the biggest shadow in rap music to come out of?
Growing up, I wanted to be just like him instead of being myself. My music takes listeners through a journey. It’s an expression of how I came to find myself and evolved from Hood Surgeon to becoming Curtis Young. The Hood Surgeon alias was who I identified with when I was trying to be just like my dad.
But as I grew as an artist and a person, I found myself. I was like: ‘Okay world, get ready because I am coming and this is who I am’. I want everybody to know the story of who Curtis Young is, not just be known for being the son of Dr Dre. I wanted to pave my own lane and create my own legacy.
You look and sound like your father, but are you consciously creating music that is different from his?
Yes, the music I create has a universal sound. On certain tracks I sound like him, but I have my own style and delivery in the cadence. I spit in a rich baritone bass voice. Some have referred to me as a Dre Z, with production influences of my pops and a flow similar to that of Jay Z. My music will take you back to those storytelling days, timeless tracks and a vintage universal sound that the world will gravitate to.
Where do you draw your inspirations from today?
I draw inspiration from the greats, including the most high. I listened to a lot of 2Pac, Biggie, Nas, Jay Z, Big L, Big Pun and Wu Tang growing up. (Laughs) I grew up on Wu Tang, they were one of my favourites. I was inspired by so many legends. I feel a lot of the new artists today take out storytelling in their rhymes. To create your own legacy, you have to know the message of your life story which you want to share with the world and in the ultimate fulfilment of purpose.
Talking of legacy, do you have a master plan?
Yes, I do, Asjad. I started my corporation Forever Young Legacy LTD. It has four subsidiaries within our family of companies. Each company was tailored to represent the Forever Young branding in support of independent artistry and alternative medicine.
I started Son of Chronic, which benefits patients consuming medicinal cannabis. I also launched my Music and Medicine Tour this year to bring global awareness to the natural healing benefits of the medicinal herb through music artistry.
Also included in the master plan is a future film project titled Product of my DNA, as well as a book detailing the journey of my life.
So you have a lot going on?
I have been building an enterprise, entrepreneur-wise, and over time have become an international ambassador. I’ve met with the First Lady of Zambia and have been invited to many countries to bring our independent music and alternative medicine movement worldwide. Most recently, we started a Forever Young Legacy (non-profit) Foundation as a way to give back to patients and artists worldwide.
What about musically?
As far as musically, it’s about having your own sound, being a trendsetter, telling your story and making an impact on the world. My upcoming project Product of my DNA is set to be released next year. I want to get that off my chest because it’s an expression of the pain and humility I experienced in my life.
Is India on the radar for you?
Yes, India is on the map. I definitely plan on bringing the universal music I create to the people of India and other countries worldwide. I want to bring different sounds that
are universal, which people can gravitate towards across the globe. You have to reach out and touch different cultures.
What has the experience of collaborating with British artists Dr Zeus and Rameet been like?
I had a great experience. This was my first Indian fusion track collaboration. We started working on it when we were all in different parts of the world. Then we all met up at Dr Zeus’ studio in Birmingham and that’s when the magic happened. It was like the track spoke to me and I think it’s going to be big.
Snoop and Akon have both done Bollywood films. Is that something which interests you?
(Laughs) You know like Nike, we are just gonna do it! I would love to do a Bollywood film. I am definitely down to collaborate in film and music projects, whether it is in India or anywhere else in the world.
Bollywood leading ladies like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra are coming into Hollywood. What do you think of them?
They are classy and beautiful! I love, respect and appreciate women of all cultures. They are royal gifts from the creator and one of the world’s most beautiful creations.
Have you tried Indian food?
(Laughs) Oh come on, of course I have. Yes, I love Indian food. I actually had a nice dining experience at Bacaba in Birmingham. They have great Indian food.
Do you have any ambitions away from music and business?
I want to continue to serve the divine artist, provide for my family and be a voice to the people. I push on all fronts and give back where I can.
Finally, why do you love music?
I love music because it’s a therapeutic form of expression used to share a powerful message with the world.