EXCLUSIVE – There’s a scene in The DOC documentary when Erykah Badu and The D.O.C. are sitting side-by-side talking about the condition of his voice and a potential surgical procedure that could either make it better or worse. He looks at Badu, the mother of his 17-year-old daughter Puma Curry, and says, “I’m just so lost in what was, makes it really difficult to make what is work. I can’t use this.” Badu gently replies, “I can hear you” and he smiles, a tear welling up in his eye. “Puma can hear you,” she continues. “Amber can hear you. The boys can hear you. You have a serious decision to make.”
It’s in this moment, the tender friendship between Badu and The D.O.C. is palpable. Their romantic relationship may not have worked out, but it’s abundantly clear just how much love and respect they have for each other. Badu appears elsewhere in the film and explains what ultimately led to their breakup.
After years of alcohol and drug abuse, The D.O.C. was struggling, but fate intervened in 2002 when he ran into Badu at the Hip Hop Summit in their hometown of Dallas. She understood the pain he was in and why he was trying to self-medicate.
“I was empathetic to his story,” she says in the film. “He just didn’t feel good. And when you don’t feel good, you try to numb that pain, you’re trying to self-medicate, and he self-medicated to a point where it clouded his mind and became kind of reckless.”
Badu was exactly what The D.O.C. needed at the time. Suddenly, he was clean and sober, eating vegan food and saying “fuck The D.O.C.” He was Tracy Curry for the first time in years. After welcoming Puma into the world, he was like “fuck rap” and focused on raising their daughter.
But then Dr. Dre called. Now The D.O.C. had a choice to make — continue on the path he was on or pack up for the studio to scratch his itch to make music again. He chose the latter, but Badu wasn’t thrilled about the prospect.
“Only thing I didn’t like about it was that he thought he needed to do this thing in order to be something,” Badu says. “I just didn’t sit with that. It didn’t sit with me. I want him to be happy. I want him to fully know who he is and when I say that, I mean here. Right now. Where we are. But that takes time to get to, so I could only say I hope it works out for you.”
The D.O.C. and Badu’s story is one of many illustrated in the Dave Caplan-directed film. The Hip Hop legend also goes into great detail about the 1989 car accident that ultimately stole his voice. But had that accident not happened, there’s a high probability The D.O.C. wouldn’t be here at all. In a recent Zoom interview with HipHopDX, The D.O.C. and Dave Caplan discussed how reuniting with Erykah Badu was a turning point, working with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and more. Check out Part I of the Q&A below.
HipHopDX: Do you feel like the accident was God’s way of telling you to chill?
The D.O.C: Oh yeah, no question about that. You don’t want to give your 10-year-old kid a new Ferrari and that’s what he did. He gave his 10-year-old child a new Ferrari, then I took it out and he was like, “Let me take this shit back.”
HipHopDX: You weren’t ready for the keys yet.
The D.O.C: He was like, “They’re going to drive off a cliff here, let me get them keys.” I’m kind of a spiritual guy, so it’s all divine to me. It was just a path that I had to walk. That was my path, and I feel super blessed.
HipHopDX: I think that really came through across in the film too. Dave, as the director, what was the most important message you wanted to get across about The D.O.C in this film?
Dave Caplan: Yeah, I mean, I think overcoming adversity is probably, for me, the most important message and universal message, because he achieved his dream in life and then he had it ripped away from him. And that’s got to be one of the toughest things to go through on many, many levels. While watching his friends go like that [motions to the sky] and sort of get through that and become a better person because of it, and really find your true calling. I mean, I think that message is really important.
HipHopDX: You did it beautifully, and I really liked how you included the doctor’s appointments The D.O.C. is still going to and letting us see everything he’s still going through. This has been a 33-year-long process you’re still dealing with today, and I don’t know if people understand that until they see this film. Let’s say you wake up tomorrow and your voice is completely restored to how it was before the accident. How do you think that would change your life today?
The D.O.C: If I’m being honest, if I woke up tomorrow and my voice was restored, I would know that God, he wants me to go show people, you know what I mean? I would know it’s time to go move some mountains around this muthafucka. If he did that — I don’t doubt that will happen one day. It’s still in the back of my head, but I know that there’s a mission that I have now for us, as a human family.
And his story is… I told Dre when we started this thing, that although I’m the vehicle, this story is about us, it’s not just about me. And when I say, “us,” I mean all of us, it doesn’t mean what race you are, what genre music you’re in, what career path you may have taken. There are principles in this story that we all can learn, live by, learn from and grow from. And so that, for me, is testament to what G.O.D does. He’s the greatest writer of all time.
HipHopDX: Better than The D.O.C? What?
The D.O.C: That’s right, that’s right. He’s better than me. He wrote me a great piece and I’ve enjoyed it.
HipHopDX: So what you’re saying is, the album title, No One Can Do It Better, there’s actually only one person who can do it better and that’s the G.O.D.?
The D.O.C: [Laughs] That’s right, all the time. It’s a G.O.D thing, it’s not a D.O.C thing.
HipHopDX: Speaking of growth, one of the times I cried during the movie was watching your relationship with Erykah. I feel like you reconnecting with Erykah was really a big turning point for you, and not just because you had Puma together, but it seemed like she really got you back on track. Do you feel like you owe a debt of gratitude to that woman?
The D.O.C: I owe Erykah everything. I owe her everything. I mean, Erykah is a soulmate. She brought amazing energy to this film in a lot of ways. She was really in touch with us in a lot of ways behind the scenes, and did a lot to help us push this thing forward. And just as a man went forward, my two sons, Erykah was the doula, she delivered my boys.
HipHopDX: Wow, I didn’t realize that.
The D.O.C: She was the doctor. Yeah, she delivered my sons. She brought my baby boy into this world from my wife, you know what I mean? And so, come on, you can’t … that chick is everything.
HipHopDX: I don’t think that happens too often. But she seems like a very magical person, and it comes across in that film as well. I teared up again when you guys were sitting outside together talking about your voice and she looks at you and says, “Well, I can hear you.” Dave, how important was it to get her involved and what did you think about working with her?
Dave Caplan: Honestly, she’s the coolest person that I’ve ever spoken to, ever. She is cool as fuck. I mean, she’s just got such a presence. I would describe her as ethereal. Being around her, I stuttered and got a little nervous here and there throughout the film, but interviewing her was one of those times where I was like, “OK, put your big boy pants on. Let’s go.” And yeah, every scene, every time she’s on camera, you just get this feeling of, I don’t know, comfort and female empowerment, and this mothering nature about her that I think was really good for D.O.C. at that point in his life.
I think that point where he decides to go back to Dre, I think as a viewer and as a friend of D.O.C.’s, that is a tragic moment for me. Because he’s gotten through it all, and he’s been able to let go of his ego and he’s happy carrying her bag and being with the kid, and then Dre comes calling again, and you’re like, “No, don’t go back!” And then he just goes on back.
HipHopDX: Apologies to you D.O.C., but I kinda felt the same way [laughs]. I didn’t want you guys to break up, but she understands how passionate you are about music. Speaking of, I loved seeing you in the studio too. I noticed you were working on the Mt. Westmore album with Snoop. How were you involved in that album?
The D.O.C: Whenever Snoopy’s working, I’m always a fly on the wall if I can be. We never stop being family and so whenever I’m in L.A., I’m really just out there to be in either Dre’s lab or Snoop’s lab. Jumping back and forth from one to the other, trying to jump out where I can. In fact, when I leave here, I got to go back to L.A. because Dre’s doing something, he and Snoop are doing something and they always want me there. Lord knows why. But if they call, I’m going to go.
HipHopDX: I do have an idea of why they might want you there, but that sounds good, got to keep me posted on that. There was something else you said in the film: “Ego and alcohol don’t mix” and that’s something that takes some time to understand. When did it dawn on you like, “I need to tone this down.” Was that an Erykah moment, or was that before Erykah?
The D.O.C: That was actually after Erykah. That was A.E. Well, that wasn’t B.E. Yeah, I got a lot of real grown man lessons from her.
HipHopDX: I can imagine.
The D.O.C: Yeah, she sat me down and loved on me. That hadn’t happened yet. We’re talking about Erykah Badu, you know what I mean? I should be fucking only so lucky to sit my ass down somewhere and have this woman bring me some soup.
Dave Caplan: I was like, “Wow, man, you must have some really good game to be able to pull Erykah” and he said — what did you say?
The D.O.C: I said, “I don’t have any game.” My game is no game, that’s my game.
HipHopDX: As you get fame, I imagine it’s so hard to find people you can trust and really rely on, so I’m sure she was kind of a little beacon of hope at that time, to find someone.
The D.O.C: That was one of the things that really drove that initial thing, is that we had that in common. It’s that light, in a way. The part that could make you jaded, we were sort of aware of it. When we first started hanging out, I was oblivious to the obvious sort of energy that I was there. She’d come over to my house and fall asleep on my couch, and I would tell people, “Yeah, man, she keeps falling asleep. She don’t like me.” If I do something with her and fuck up, everybody’s going to hate me. But she did like me, and it was all to my benefit, my blessing.
The DOC premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Friday (June 10).