Typically, the offspring of successful people grow up privileged. Not only do they usually have access to more money at an earlier age, they also have connections to resources and networks that make achieving success a lot easier.
For Curtis Young, however, this wasn’t always the case.
Young is the oldest son of hip-hop legend and Beats By Dre co-founder Dr. Dre, whose net worth sits at an estimated $700 million. He had Young when he was just 17-years-old and known by his real name, Andre Young, with then girlfriend Cassandra Joy Greene, who was 16 at the time. The relationship ended shortly after, and Greene started dating Andre Weeks, who became Young’s stepfather.
For the first 12 years of his life, Young, who is the spitting image of his famous father, had no idea Dr. Dre was his real dad. Coincidentally he idolized NWA, his father’s former rap group, growing up and wanted to become a rapper because of their music.
Recently, NextShark spent the day with Young, now 33, who told us about his childhood and what the years leading up to meeting his father for the first time was like. He also gave us a tour of Compton, California, where he was born and raised.
While Dr. Dre was rising in fame and success, Young was facing the challenges of growing up on the tough streets of Compton.
“My childhood was like any childhood growing up in Compton. There was definitely a lot of trials and tribulations. Growing up in Compton, if you wanted to be a part of a gang, you can easily jump into it. But I grew up with some good friends, and we told ourselves that we definitely didn’t want to be involved with any of that. We had friends who were involved with gangs, but they went through struggles like going in and out of jail — some of them are not here with us. I wanted to do something different with my life.”
At the age of 12, Young learned about his biological father after he tried to calm his stepdad down during an argument with his mom and, in a fit of rage, Weeks blurted out at Young:
“Nigga I ain’t your dad! You wanna know who your real daddy is? Your real daddy is Dr. Dre.”
Young was dumbfounded, and for the next several years, he felt there was a void in his life. He wanted to meet his biological father, but he wasn’t allowed to.
“I wanted to meet him when I found out, but my mom was still with my father that raised me and he didn’t want Dre in my life. He told my mom, ‘I’m his dad, there ain’t no reason for him to meet him.’
It wasn’t until his parents split when he was 15 years old that Young reached out to meet his biological father. It proved to be extremely difficult to get in touch with the rap star, however.
“When I finally got in touch with his attorney’s, we took a DNA test. And of course, it came back 99.9% he is the father.”
By the time Young finally got a chance to meet his biological father, he was already 20. He recounted the first time he met his father, whom he had watched from afar for most of his childhood:
“It was definitely a crazy experience, just talking to him on the phone for the first time. You could feel the energy through the phone. I think we both were nervous.”
“It was like looking in the mirror seeing him face to face. We met at Skybar in Hollywood for the first time. It’s really indescribable. The best way to describe it is meeting your favorite basketball player or football player.”
Just that moment, it was epic. We sat down and couldn’t stop staring at each other. The first time we met, we shook hands, looked at each other, sat down. We couldn’t look at each other because we looked so much alike. There was so much tension. My mom was actually in between us, and it was just monumental.
At 16 years old, Young started working and got his first job.
“I was a seller of newspapers. I feel like I was getting pimped, because they would drop me off and I would go door to door getting people to sign up for the newspaper. And I was actually good at it.
From 15 to 16, I was on and off jobs. I could keep a job not even 90 days. I worked at Ikea, Chuck E. Cheese’s and security jobs. I was always getting fired or doing something stupid. My last job was at a cell phone shop. I was just trying to make money, just hustling. I’d always try to figure out when I was working somewhere how I’d make more money.
I knew it just wasn’t me to have a 9-5 job; it was up to me to do something on a greater and bigger level and to just evolve myself and be my own self-employed business.”
Although he wasn’t raised by Dr. Dre, Young says that they still share profound similarities.
“In terms of character, I think we’re like the same person, except he has more life experiences than me and he’s older. Even his wife said we laugh and sound the same. I think from where we come from, we’re all about evolving and building empires.”
Many people assume Young became wealthy when it was confirmed that Dr. Dre was his father, but he’s quick to refute the assumption.
“They look at it like, ‘He must have crazy money too!’ It’s like when you walk around, you’re a target now.
I’m here to set the record straight about me being spoiled. That’s definitely not the case. I don’t ask for shit from my father. I don’t want nothing from my dad. When I met him it was different. I was a kid. He got me a car and some cash, but that was pretty much for my birthday. After that, it was really just birthdays. I wasn’t asking for handouts. I didn’t really want anything from him; I just wanted time spent with him.
I never would ask him to help me out in business. One thing he always told me was, ‘You got the name — run with it. Just by having that birthright of the name, it helped me push myself as a business person.”
Young initially released some mixtapes and went by the rap name “Hood Surgeon,” which was inspired by his father’s rap moniker. He admits that he was previously trying to sound and act too much like his father in his records, but that he eventually realized he had to become his own artist and try to step out of his father’s shadow. Now, he’s simply “Curtis Young” — with his father’s complete blessing.
Young is currently working on his upcoming album “Product of my DNA,” set for release this year, with the theme centered around his life growing up in Compton. He’s also set to star on a new Bunim/Murray-produced reality show, “Seeds of Hip Hop,” centered around the sons of pioneering rappers.
Photography by Melly Lee