Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

California Loved 

Roger Troutman and his family brought funk to West Coast hip hop and influenced everyone from Ice Cube to Tupac Shakur. Then his older brother put four bullets in him.

Wednesday, Aug 14 2002
Comments

Page 4 of 5

"Dre and Roger were in the session," says Terry, remembering the story as Roger told it. The pair had met several years earlier when Dre called Troutman for help with a talkbox effect on Snoop Dogg's first album. Now they were working on "California Love," which Dr. Dre originally intended to put on his own album. "There was a song called 'Woman to Woman,' by Joe Cocker. ... It was funky. Dre took a loop of that, and that was all [he] had. Roger was like, 'No.' He said he kept challenging [Dre], saying, 'Are you sure you want me to do this?'" Dre was sure, and pushed back. "So Roger did the best he could. He really didn't have any lyrics. He just did some ad-libs on it."

The year was 1996, and Tupac Shakur was fresh out of jail, bailed out by Suge Knight and working for Death Row. He needed a hit, a song that would jump out of the gate, and unlike Roger Troutman, he liked "California Love" and Troutman's now-classic chorus: "California ... knows how to party/ California ... knows how to party/ In the citaaay ... of L.A./ In the citaaay ... of good ol' Watts/ In the citaaay ... the city of Compton/ We keep it rockin'!/ We keep it rockin'!" Released as part of Shakur's 27-song double album All Eyez on Me, "California Love" exploded on the pop charts, selling a whopping 2 million copies en route to becoming the rapper's biggest-selling single. In 1997, "California Love" earned Shakur, Dre, and Troutman a Grammy nomination for best rap performance by a duo or group.

The song's success shocked Troutman. "Rog just looked at me and said, 'They went for it,'" says Terry. "He and Tupac performed it a couple of times in L.A. at the Strand. Suge was there. Aww, man! We did the song, and when it came time for Pac's verse, he came out and people went crazy. You couldn't even hear him rapping, they were so far outta their minds."

"California Love" marked the beginning of Roger's artistic resurgence. In short order, he was handpicked by Martin Lawrence to write the score for A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, and was beginning to get calls and offers from all over the world. Terry says Roger loved the newfound attention. "He did all the way up to the day he died. And we love it. People are still sampling us. Roger was a stand-up type of guy. Real down-to-earth. Obviously, he left an indelible mark.

"For guys 20 and 30 years younger than him to want to use his music to make their music? To Roger, that was a rejuvenation. Ask any successful musician and they'll tell you that you have to always reinvent yourself. [The rappers] did that for Roger."


Police found Roger Troutman at about 20 minutes past 7 that April morning in 1999, in the alley behind Roger Tee Enterprises, the family's Salem Avenue recording studio. Roger had four bullets from a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver in his torso, two in the front and two in the back. Witnesses said he'd been shot as he tried to get out of the passenger seat of a black sedan.

Minutes later, dispatchers got a call: A black Lincoln had slammed into a tree less than a mile away. When officers arrived at the 2100 block of Harvard Boulevard, they found Larry Troutman in the driver's seat, dead from a self-inflicted shot to the head. The bullet, a coroner later confirmed, came from the same .357.

"My brothers and I rode around and tried to collect our thoughts," says Lester of the days following the murder-suicide. "We went to my sister's house, and we wouldn't let nobody come in for a week. ... We got through it with love and bonding.

"A week before was Columbine, and I think there was some type of military conflict [going on]. My mom was watching TV, and she was like, 'I can understand how all those boys' mothers feel.' That killed me."

Word of the shootings ricocheted around Dayton, with pastors somberly reporting the news during Sunday services. The community was stunned.

"It was just so unthinkable," says Dale Degroat. "Larry was the guy in the beginning who told me, 'A lot of money is gonna cross your hands. But never let the money be more important than the people.'"

Nobody knows exactly why Larry Troutman did what he did, but family members say Roger wanted to break off the business relationship with his older brother and manager. Roger's career, independent of Zapp, was on an upswing, and just when Roger's fortunes could have brought new money into the flailing Troutman Enterprises, he was asking for a split from Zapp and, particularly, from Larry's management.

But it was almost certainly more than purely an issue of money. Roger was 47 years old, Larry was 54; for more than a quarter of a century, from Little Roger and the Vels to Roger and the Human Body to Zapp and Roger to just Roger, they'd been part of a team. Now Roger wanted to break that up.

"At a certain point, Roger wanted to do his own thing," says Terry, "which presented a conflict. And so therefore, you've got a conflict that was deeper than business. It was their whole life they'd been together. And then for it to break off? That was a strong move, man. Strong move."

Asked if he resents Larry for taking his brother and best friend, Lester answers quickly.

"Of course I resent it. I resent that my brother Roger is gone more than anything else in the world. I resent whatever sickness came over Larry that caused him to do something like that."

About The Author

P-Frank Williams

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular

Slideshows

  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"