In OnCentral's "South L.A. Snapshot" series, we provide you with a glimpse into the lives of everyday women and men in South Los Angeles. This time, we talked to a motorcycle club member – Nathan "Nate Dogg" Beasley, 46. Beasley is a member of the Defiant Ones – the DOs – which he says is the oldest black motorcycle club still in existence in the entire world. The DOs, who are based on Central Avenue and 82nd Street and require its members to own a Harley-Davidson, go on rides (called "runs") together and host social and community events. We sat down with Nate Dogg to get a glimpse of what life in a South L.A. bike club is like.
OK, first: Why "Nate Dogg"?
I've had that name since I was in the ninth grade, actually. I went to Carson High and one of my friends just came out and started calling me Nate Dogg. And I kind of liked that. So when I joined the DOs, I kept that handle. People also call me "Zipper" – because I'm here, I'm there, I'm everywhere. And – [laughs] – because of things I do.
We'll get to those "things you do" in a moment – tell me about what you do in the DOs.
In the DOs I'm kind of like the minister of information. I can get on anybody's level, whether you're the most intelligent or dumbest guy in the world. I can talk, I can read. So now, when something is going on, they call me and say Nate, handle this, text everybody and let them know what's going on. When we go on runs, to Oakland or Fresno or wherever we go, I also make sure everything is taken care of for us to get there, that we've got the fryer or barbeque or grill. I'm going to make sure we have something to eat for when we get in and make sure everything's jumping.
OK. Now what did you mean about "those things you do"? Why do people call you Zipper?
I was taught things by my uncle and my brother – one of those things was they'd have several women. One to do this, one to do that. They would consider themselves players; I consider myself a hell of a player. I had 15 girlfriends at one time, at one point. I'm serious. You don't even want to know. You tend to call everybody baby, because you don't want to call this one by that one's name. [Laughs] But it's just in me. One woman really doesn't satisfy me. I have one of the greatest girlfriends in the world right now – she's a hard worker, she supports me wholeheartedly and for the life of me, I cannot stop my womanizing ways. That's all I've ever known. I don't know. I'm going to seek counseling.
OK. Let's bring it back to biking: Do you find that you're up against certain stereotypes as a biker?
All bikers are bikers, but we have one-percenters, and then we have the other 99-percenters. I'm a 99-percenter. But a one-percenter is an outlaw biker. The Chosen Few [bike club] is an outlaw bike club. So are Hells Lovers, Wheels of Soul – these guys are outlaws. Ninety-nine percent of motorcycle riders ride their bike for the joy and pleasure of riding motorcycles, not to sell drugs or kill people – that's BS. That's not what it's for. It's for the joy and pleasure of riding your motorcycle. That's one thing we all have in common as bikers: We ride. It is the greatest, freest feeling in the world. You feel like you're on top of the world, the wind blowing in your face, the sound of the motor. I'd say it's euphoric.
DOs is a black bike club. Is there something black bikers do differently?
Yeah – we take everything we do above and beyond the normal. We'll fix our motorcycles so much and end up putting $80,000 into it. No two motorcycles are the same in a black bike set in L.A.. We go above and beyond norms. We're flashy people, especially the West Coast bikers, baby. Look at California – we've got sunshine almost 365 days a year. East Coast bikers are grimy and dirty. You can ride around here year-round – they can't ride during the winter sometimes on the East Coast.
No two motorcycles are the same. Why not? What does your bike say about you?
It's an extension of who I am. I'm going to fix my bike the way I want to, so it reflects who I am. Mine says flash – with class. I try not to go too far out, but I want it to be flashy. When I ride down the street on my bike, I want to get looks. [Laughs] But I'm not going to go with the [stupid] pink paint.
Everyone's got their own style, their own flavor, as we like to say. But even though all of our bikes are different, all of our helmets are the same. That's what identifies us as the DOs.
What if someone who's not in the DOs wears that helmet, or wears your club's colors?
They can't. Believe me – it's coming off their back, one way or another. Let's just leave it at that.
What's your day job?
I'm a medical laboratory technician. I'm a phlebotomist. I stick needles in people. I'm very good at what I do. People look at me when they first come into the draw station like [what in the world] is this guy going to do to me – and when I draw their blood they don't even feel it because I've honed my skill.
What's the difference between the DOs and, say, a gang?
Look at a gangbanger. They're going to go out and kill for their gang. We're not going to do that. That's not what we represent. We are a club; we're an organization. We have a charter and bylaws. We're not a gang. And people look at motorcycle clubs as gangs, but we're not.
But does the gang mentality ever creep in?
Oh, yeah. Because you're going to have ex-gang members. But if you join the club, you'd better be putting that gang [stuff] to the side – because suppose someone's looking for you. How are you going bring that to the club? We're just not associated with that lifestyle. You become a DO – you are no longer a Crip or a Blood. And we have both in our club, dudes that would be mortal enemies in gang culture, but now they're brothers. Our slogan is "The Power of Togetherness."
Talk to me about South and South Central L.A.. What do you see?
For one, we just don't have enough positive black male role models. There's really nobody for a lot of these kids to look up to except O.G. [original gangster] gangbangers, instead of looking up to doctors or lawyers. I think a lot of black kids believe they can't be [anything]. But look at Barack Obama. With this man in office, hopefully it'll be on a lot of kids' minds that they can be whatever they want to be – they don't have to be thugs or gangbangers. I was talking with about five or six of my friends one day, and I realized that out of all those dudes, I was the only that hadn't been shot. That's crazy.
What effect does that lack of male role models have?
Can't no woman teach no boy how to be a man. She can raise him up but she can't teach them how to be a man. Only a man can teach a boy how to be a man. That's why I try to teach these young guys [in the area] something. If they don't want to listen, I don't [care]. You're going to be a product of your environment.
What kinds of struggles did you experience, growing up in this kind of environment?
Cocaine, marijuana, alcohol. Since I was 16 years old. I've been clean for a while now – I just had an epiphany that let me know that I had to change the way I was living. My mental capacity was diminishing. I will remain sober; my sobriety is the most important thing to me right now. My sanity.
So as someone who's been in that realm of South L.A. – what's it like?
If you're a rich white kid, it's not hard to buy dope. But down here, we've got to do whatever we have to do to support out habit. Everybody gets high. There's always been drugs and there always will be. But we don't have the resources to support out habit, so we fall to the wayside trying to get high. People collect cans just to support their habit. One of my other sayings is that aluminum cans is the new gold! [Laughs] Because people are like prospectors for aluminum cans.
Jobs and credit is the other thing. Most black guys have [messed] their credit up, because they don't know how important your credit is. If a store is going to give you something, you need to pay for it to keep your credit rating up, because that's all you have. I [messed] my credit up, but God blessed me and I was able to purchase a home. I got lucky.
Why do you single out black guys for that?
Because I think a lot of young black guys live for today and not for tomorrow. It shouldn't be like that. You have to look forward for the next generation; you want your kids to have more than you have. Look to the future, man, don't just live for today. I ain't never heard about a black man having an inheritance.
The so-called "Black Male Code" has been a buzzword in the media since the killing of Trayvon Martin. Any comments on that?
I say it's BS because it's not a code. That's just the way it is. Any country a black man goes to, he is treated as a second-rate citizen. He's not treated like anybody else – the white man, Hispanic, Chinese, Arab – even in Africa, black people in their own country are second-rate citizens. It's crazy. It's not a code. It's just how it's been.
Two more questions about biking: What do you listen to when you ride?
I noticed that different types of music make you ride in a different way. If I listen to rap music, I'm going to be aggressive. But if I listen to the blues, which I like a lot, I ride real easy. Big Joe Turner, Howling Wolf – that's what I was raised on. But if I listen to Too Short or E-40 or anything like that – it's on! That's when the aggressive mentality kicks in.
Finally: It's said that there are two kinds of bikers – ones that have crashed and ones that haven't crashed yet. Which are you?
I haven't crashed yet and I think that when I do, it's going to be a big one because of the way I ride. I ride hard. I'm going to pull that throttle back as far as that [thing] will go. My speedometer is always laid as far as it can go. I'm going to represent the DOs. We've got some of the fastest bikes out here in our club, and anyone who wants to challenge that, come on out.
When we're out on these runs on the highway, I might be on the side of you. You're talking [smack], I'm going to get out of the pack and call you out. You can either stay there or you can come, but we're gonna get down. We'll be sitting there at a steady 80 miles per hour, and then you turn it on. As long as my front wheel is in front of yours, I'm winning. But I'm going to kick some ass. I might crash, but I'd rather kick ass.