"It was just a moment in time."
The D.O.C. is characteristically modest when discussing how the highly-anticipated documentary about his life and legacy came together. It's early June and the Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing. The Dallas-born rapper is centerstage at this year's festival; as his story is being told via a new documentary, The D.O.C. The story of the man's personal, professional and spiritual sojourn to a place of wholeness and wellness, it's a look at a figure that is one of the rap game's most respected.
"I had to go through this journey," D.O.C. says. He has the wisdom of a man who has measured life's ups and downs into a ever-changing spiritual balancing act. He speaks about his life's purpose and the divinity he believes informs that purpose. Everything that he's done up to this point is just preamble to his greatest self, and he wants to be spiritually ready for that moment. "So that when I do fulfill [my purpose]," he says passionately, "I really mean it."
The artist born Tracy Curry has one of Hip-Hop's most storied and infamous life stories; a pillar for two iconic West Coast rap labels, a career-long cohort for iconic names like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. His 1989 debut album No One Can Do It Better is one of the most celebrated rap albums of all time, and his promising career was cut short by a tragic car accident that could have taken his life, but wound up leaving him with permanently damaged vocal cords. He co-authored classics for N.W.A., coached a teenaged Snoop Doggy Dogg on the art of songwriting, and remained Dr. Dre's secret weapon across the good doctor's famed stints on Ruthless Records, Death Row Records and Aftermath Entertainment.
Now, The D.O.C. is back out front and understanding the moment. He has the confident warmth of a man who knows who he is, but who is undoubtedly enjoying the fact that the world is finally getting hip to the game. When he talks about the process of making The D.O.C.; he shows respect and reverence for the teamwork it took to bring the documentary to life.
"All of us, the director, the producer, the editor—all of these guys were really geniuses in their own lane," says The D.O.C. "Just like an N.W.A. record, or a Chronic record, just a bunch of great artists who came together and made something. But after our publicist told me it was go time, I sat back and watched him do it. I can't take credit for any of this because I watched him do it."
The documentary is must-see for any Hip-Hop fan who is even remotely familiar with The D.O.C.'s story; and should be required viewing for anyone who isn't.
The film gives you the ups and downs of The D.O.C.'s career; examining his struggles with the "what if" that comes with a career abbreviated by calamity. He ponders surgery for his vocal cords; admits being unsure with his legacy, and takes the audience on a journey of self-awareness and faith.
"He was very involved because, obviously, it's his story," Caplan says. "I got really emotional towards the end when I got to see D.O.C.'s decisions...get more concrete. Our first interview we did a five hour-straight interview. By the end, I've got tears in my eyes and D.O.C. got tears in his eyes."
Both Caplan and The D.O.C. admit that the filmmaking process can be painstaking and when everyone involved has a strong vision, compromise is key. They found common ground in the story they wanted to tell, though it wasn't always easy. The proof is in the pudding, according to all involved.
"It was confirmation that collaboration is always the best way to do anything," admits D.O.C. "No one person can do everything. I used to say all the time that it takes five fingers to make a fist and be able to knock somebody the fuck out. I'm just glad Dave was on my hand." For Caplan, the chance to be a vessel for The D.O.C.'s story was a privilege he didn't take for granted. The veteran TV producer makes his directorial debut with The D.O.C.; and in documenting the rap legend's cathartic journey, the director found some clarity for himself.
"Just seeing how D.O.C.'s life has progressed," he explains. "Having really gotten your ultimate dream in life and then having it ripped away from you; and many, many decades later, finding your true purpose; that gave me a newfound faith that I don't know that I ever had—just in life and in my path and in [seeing] the way things unfold."
[This] was confirmation that collaboration is always the best way to do anything. I used to say all the time that it takes five fingers to make a fist and be able to knock somebody the fuck out. I'm just glad Dave was on my hand."
- The D.O.C.
The clip from the documentary that has been generating tremendous social media buzz features Eminem going full fanboy as he talks about The D.O.C.'s lyrics. The moment also means a lot to D.O.C., as he admits that the admiration is mutual.
"He's weird around me because he feels a certain way. But I share that same sorta vibe with him. He's Eminem!" he says. "But when he went to that, it felt real, and it made sense to me." The reverence for his talent and his reputation are evident throughout the project, and throughout the day. The D.O.C. is a brother-in-arms to so many—and a mentor and friend.
"I was blown away by how much people really look up to D.O.C." Caplan shares. "Eminem, Dre, Snoop—in a way that I did not anticipate. I learned that, in addition to being a legendary musician, he's a really good person."
Even with the adulation he receives, it's the rap legend's faith is what he believes sustains him to this day. When asked if throat surgery is still a priority for him, The D.O.C. pauses thoughtfully.
"I don't know," he says. "But what I do know is that I have work to do that supersedes that. G-O-D gave me a mission and I've got to do that mission first. Maybe afterwards, he'll pop that shit back!"
It's springtime in lower Manhattan, and everyone is on-hand at Tribeca in anticipation of the big premiere. The D.O.C. is one of the 2022 film festival's most talked-about entries; Kaplan and the man of the hour are fielding questions and mingling with attendees. As he soaks it all in, The D.O.C. reflects on the journey he's taken and the ongoing journey of the culture itself.
"I'm in the mecca right now of this dream, for all of us, called Hip-Hop," he says, reflecting on the moment. "And we all feed and [were] fed from this dream. I can't take credit for creating anything. I'm standing on the shoulders of all those powerful Black men who came before me that was bussin.'"
Don't ask The D.O.C. about any rankings or hierarchy; he's not here for G.O.A.T debates. He's here for celebrating the proud tradition from whence he came. "I don't have a Top Five," he says flatly. "They all my Top Five! I don't judge whose the greatest because we're all standing on the shoulder of the guys who came before us."