“California Love” by 2Pac (ft. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman)

“California Love” is an iconic song that touts the California partying lifestyle – from a hip-hop perspective of course. It was released during the height of the East Coast vs. West Coast feud which dominated rap music in the mid-1990s.  As such, it is meant to recognize the entire “West Coast”. However, this is not a beef song, as in it is not meant to promote violence. Rather its purpose is to, once again, present California as a place that “knows how to party”.

But as alluded to earlier there is also a street side to this track also. In other words, the artists keep it ‘hood while bigging up California, acknowledging the likes of “pimps” and hot women. And overall, they present “the sunshine state” as a place where residents enjoy lots of bedroom fun, high-grade grass and are primarily concerned with “making pay”, as in generating income. And amidst it all they give a shoutout to quite of few California neighborhoods such as “Hollywood”, “Compton” and of course “L.A.”

Deeper Meaning behind “California Love”?

But ultimately as inconspicuous as this track may sound, once again it was released at a certain era in the life of Tupac and the overall history of American rap music. So nowadays, long after the East Coast / West Coast feud has died down, this song may be perceived as simply an ode to California.  But it was initially released in the aftermath of Tupac going through a number of life-threatening incidents in New York (i.e. the East Coast).  And this was on top of his and Dre’s label boss, the infamous Suge Knight, having his own personal tiffs on the East Coast. 

So in a way you can say that Pac was cleaving to the idea of bigging up the West as a means of striking against the East. And he wanted to taunt his New York-based rivals, in a roundabout way, by showing them that after all of the hardship he had gone through (including freshly coming out of prison), he was indeed chillin’ and enjoying life to the fullest. And despite its geographic setting that’s what “California Love” is really about – the homeys partaking of the actions they love best (making money, women and getting intoxicated) in a joyous, party setting.

Official Music Video

There are two separate music videos for “California Love” and indeed two different versions of the song.

The most-popular of the two videos is the one which had Hype Williams as its director and was based on the 1985 movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”. This featured Pac and Dre, along with Roger Troutman and guest stars singer George Clinton, actor Chris Tucker and actor Tony Cox, partying in an apocalyptic future. In fact they used one of the actual sets from the movie (the Thunderdome itself) for the video. 

And reportedly the whole theme was an idea that was given to Pac by his friend, Jada Pinkett, who is also credited as a co-director of the video.

Second Video

The second video, which serves as a continuation of the first, uses the remixed version of “California Love” and features a slew of celebrity guest appearances from the likes of Deion Sanders, Danny Boy and Jodeci. This is the rendition which is actually featured on “All Eyez on Me”.  It sounds similar to the original, though the original itself wasn’t really released to the public until it was featured on Tupac’s posthumous “Greatest Hits” (1998) album. In fact it was initially slated to be featured on a Dr. Dre project entitled “The Chronic II” which never came out.

California dreamin’

During the first line of the second verse, Tupac utters the phrase California dreamin’. This is actually the name of a song The Mamas and the Papas, a folk-rock group from the 1960s, dropped back in 1965. And it is a classic in its own right which, though using a different approach, is also based on an appreciation of the Golden State.

2Pac’s Signature Song

“California Love” is Tupac’s signature song if you will, as in his most-successful single. In fact it marked the first time either he or Dr. Dre topped the Billboard Hot 100. This was partially due to it being released as a double A-side along with another of Pac’s most-memorable songs, “How Do U Want It”, featuring K-Ci and JoJo.

Release Date of “California Love”

Death Row Records in conjunction with Interscope Records released “California Love” on 3 December 1995. In fact it was the first track Tupac dropped, as a member of Death Row Records, after he was released from prison a couple of months earlier. Pac is said to have written his verse in just 15 minutes. It was also the lead single from his classic “All Eyez on Me” (1996) double CD.

There’s a number of ‘greatest songs’ lists – which were compiled by prominent music institutions such as Rolling Stone, VH1, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even Time magazine – that “California Love” has been placed onto.

Moreover the track was nominated for two rap-based Grammy Awards in 1997.

Chart Performance

In terms of its chart history, “California Love” flew to the first spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to replicate this amazing feat in Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and on RPM’s Canada Dance chart.

The song also charted in a dozen other countries, including peaking at number six in Britain.

Additionally “California Love” went double-Platinum in the United States.

Pac and Dre part Company after “California Love”

Shortly after “California Love” was released, Tupac and Dr. Dre’s relationship completely dissolved. This was at least partially due to a general tiff Dre had with Death Row Records, which ultimately resulted in him leaving the label and founding his own, dubbed Aftermath Entertainment.

Popular Usage of “California Love”

“California Love” has had a steady presence in pop media throughout the years. For instance, Ellen DeGeneres occasionally uses it on her famous The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It has also been featured on television series such as “Moesha” (1996) and “The Simpsons” (2011). Additionally there are a few movies, such as “Iron Man 2” (2010) and “CHiPs” (2011), that have used this song.

And of course Californians tend to have a special affinity for this tune. For example, the Major League Baseball team the Oakland Athletics play this song when their players hit a home run at their home stadium (in Oakland, California).

Samples and Writing Credits for “California Love”

The instrumental to “California Love” relies on samples from other tracks. For example, the bridge (“shake, shake it baby”) was derived from a 1982 tune entitled “Dance Floor”. That song was sung by a funk band called Zapp which had Roger Troutman (1951-1999) as its frontman. And he uses an instrument called a vocoder to get that computer-voice effect in the song.

And partially due to these samples, there are quite a few writers credited for creating “California Love”. As a result of “Dance Floor”, both Troutman and his brother, Larry, made the list. 

Then there’s the English singer by the name of Joe Cocker whose track “Woman to Woman” (1973) was also sampled. Therefore he is acknowledged along with his collaborator, Chris Stainton. 

And the third sample is a track called “West Coast Poplock” (1982) by a group called Ronnie Hudson and the Street People. Thus Ronnie Hudson is also given songwriting credit. It should be noted that Larry as well as Roger Troutman also co-wrote “West Coast Poplock”. 

Then there’s Tupac himself along with his ghostwriter, Mikel Hooks (who is also a co-writer of “West Coast Poplock”). Also on the list is Dr. Dre’s ghostwriter, J-Flexx. And finally there’s a couple of other musicians named W. Cunningham and N. Durham, who were formerly members of a 1970s funk group called Kleeer.

Who produced “California Love”?

Dr. Dre is recognized as the sole producer of “California Love”.

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