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Snoop Dogg

There are few more distinctive images in rap music than the trademark braids and deceptively sleepy visage of bad boy extraordinaire and impressively enduring hip hop godfather, SNOOP DOGG. A fully paid up gangsta who co-founded the West Coast G-Funk sound with mentor DR. DRE, he went on to maintain a prolific side-line in acting (and a consistently high TV/media profile) à la ICE’s T and CUBE. As fate would have it, his first collaboration with DR. DRE was a theme for Bill Duke’s drug noir movie, Deep Cover (1992), recorded the same year as the former NWA dude’s seminal debut, `The Chronic’.
Born Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr., October 20, 1971, Long Beach, California, he was given his nickname “Snoopy” by his mother and step-father. From singing at Golgotha Trinity Baptist Church in the late 80s to allegedly becoming a member of Eastside’s Rollin’ 20 Crips, SNOOP was changing fast, and changing faster was the gangsta music biz in which the man wanted a bigger part. Reputation had to be earned in “tha hood” and, as a convicted teenage drug dealer in and out of jail, it got him was arrested when a local rival was killed; shots were allegedly fired by his bodyguard Malik from SNOOP’s car.
Music-wise, the hip hop hype had been generated by his group 213 (named after his local L.A. area code and featuring WARREN G and NATE DOGG), but as a commercial project songs like `Deeez Nuuuts’ (used for `The Chronic’ set) were put on hold while SNOOP DOGGY DOGG’s career loomed large on the horizon. Signed to producer DR. DRE’s Death Row label (he also guested on the man’s `Nuthin’ But A G Thang’), the canine sensation sniffed out a Top 10 position for the `Who Am I (What’s My Name)?’ single, before notching up record-breaking sales of his chart-topping debut album, DOGGYSTYLE {*8}.
Unleashed in the fall of ‘93 and creating furore amongst the moral majority in America, SNOOP swaggered his way to the forefront of the new G-funk strain of Gangsta rap like a Doberman on heat. Just weeks before its release, the Dogg’s trial now got underway due to his attorney Johnnie Cochran being slightly busy with the O.J. Simpson case!
The rapper was bailed for a $1m and, early in 1994 he hit London under a storm of protest, not least from the tabloid press; The Daily Star’s memorable front page headline ran: “Kick This Evil Bastard Out!”. Of course, this only spurred on British youngsters’ enthusiasm, especially after he was premiered on UK TV’s Channel 4’s The Word, complete with nasty interview.
One of the hottest stars in hip hop, a DR. DRE-directed short film/soundtrack, MURDER WAS THE CASE (1994) {*6} – named after a Dogg track – was issued in the midst of the real life murder trial (on January 13, 1995) relating to the said death of a gang member; SNOOP was acquitted of murder and attempted manslaughter, although the legal complexities rumbled on for some time to come.
In the meantime, he’d contributed to another Dre-produced Death Row landmark with the soundtrack for Jeff Pollack’s basketball drama, Above The Rim (1994). Duly featuring heavily on – Death Row duo Daz Dillinger and Kurupt – THA DOGG POUND’s 1995 No.1 set, on bail SNOOP guested on 2 PAC’s `All Eyez on Me’ album; other credits were with NATE DOGG on his late 1996 Top 40 single, `Never Leave Me Alone’.
Later in the year, the rapper finally delivered his sophomore set, THA DOGGFATHER (1996) {*6}, another chart-topper (Top 20 in the UK) but not now associated with DR. DRE who’d left Death Row to executive producer Suge Knight. SNOOP DOGGY DOGG was indeed back on the prowl; the man even delighting his funk fans with a hit cover of The GAP BAND’s `Oops Up Side Your Head’ (re-titled `Snoop’s Upside Ya Head’).
From 1997-1999, SNOOP DOGG – as he was now known – was never far from some sort of controversial headlines (either drug busts, shootings or whatever) and it was amazing he found the time to deliver two further long-players, DA GAME IS TO BE SOLD, NOT TO BE TOLD (1998) {*5} and NO LIMIT TOP DOGG (1999) {*7}. After acrimoniously departing Death Row, SNOOP had pitched up at MASTER P’s Southern-fried No Limits office, contributing the track `Hooked’ for the P-scripted mobile-phone farce film, I Got The Hook Up! (1998), adding a cameo to that year’s healthy quota of screen credits for similar P-scripted fare, MP Da Last Don and Da Game Of Life (his first full-length starring role); other P movies followed suit. A role as Savenger Smoker alongside the likes of WILLIE NELSON in the Dave Chappelle-written comedy Half Baked and a part in Menace II Society-producer Darin Scott’s crime thriller, Caught Up, kept the man occupied. SNOOP was then part of a MASTER P script for 2000’s Hot Boyz (also starring alongside ICE-T in low budget Albert Pyun thrillers, Urban Menace and The Wrecking Crew), along with DOUG E. FRESH in Marc Levin’s Whiteboyz (1999) and – with a re-grouped NWA – on the soundtrack to ICE CUBE comedy, Next Friday. He kicked off the new millennium by producing and starring in his own gang-based crime drama, The Eastsidaz (2000), and later appeared alongside ICE-T – and JA RULE – in Donald Goines adaptation, Crime Partners (2001).
THA LAST MEAL (2000) {*6} featured a whole host of up-and-coming producers such as Jelly Roll, Meech Wells, Scott Storch and Soopafly. Although sounding as if it was entirely produced by DR. DRE (who actually worked on 3 proper tracks), “tha set” failed because of SNOOP alone, who’s half-baked half rhymes sounded more and more like a marinated old man. Add this to the fact that SNOOP had nothing left to rap about (he did bitches, blunts and bouncy cars about three albums ago) and that he basically regurgitated his old material, said something about the mainstream West Coast scene; the rapper duly went into making a soft-core porn video available through “tha intanet”.
As well as moving into porn – paving the way for his peers to do the same – with the Larry Flynt-produced Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, and starring as Jimmy Bones alongside Pam Grier in Blaxploitation-cum-horror-spoof BONES {*5} (for which he also supplied several songs for the soundtrack), 2001 saw a number of higher profile credits, including John Singleton’s Baby Boy and – alongside Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke – Antoine Fuqua’s Oscar-winning Training Day. He also executively produced and starred – in tandem with DR DRE – ensemble comedy The Wash (2001), likewise supplying its title song as well as the theme for the Eddie Murphy-starring Dr. Doolittle 2 (2001).
The canine one redeemed himself to a certain degree with PAID THA COST TO BE DA BO$$ (2002) {*7}; the JAMES BROWN reference of the title not the only nod to the past with a stodgy update of the PARLIAMENT classic `Flashlight’ (imaginatively re-titled `Stoplight’). A re-hash of ROBERT PALMER’s `I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On’ was equally uninspired, although SNOOP was in his element on the sleaze-hop of `Lollipop’ and the two NEPTUNES productions, `From Thu Chuuuch To Da Palace’ and `Beautiful’, probably the strongest tracks he’d put his name to in many a year.
Meanwhile, on the movie front, he was in the rarefied company of BOOTSY COLLINS and FRED WESLEY on the soundtrack to Blaxploitation spoof, Undercover Brother (2002), going on to surpass himself as Huggy Bear alongside Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Fred Williamson in the inevitable remake of Starsky & Hutch (2004). Less well remembered is his part as Captain Mack in Mile High comedy, Soul Plane (2004), while a narration credit – alongside the likes of MANDY MOORE and Whoopi Goldberg – in talking-animal family feature, Racing Stripes (2005), suggested the ageing gangsta was beginning to mellow.
Trailed by classy No.1 single, `Drop It Like It’s Hot’ – his first for Geffen Records – the Top 10 NEPTUNES-centric R&G (RHYTHM & GANGSTA): THE MASTERPIECE (2004) {*7} saw a 30-something SNOOP regaining momentum. While there was nothing to match the robotic cool of the single (a quintessential PHARRELL WILLIAMS and Chad Hugo pop miniature), the man with the most horizontal flow in hip hop proved himself un-perturbable in both his love of 70s/80s grooves (RICK JAMES/late FUNKADELIC synth mewling especially) and his misogynistic lyrical tendencies. `Can U Control Yo Hoe’ saw him laying down the usual macho ground rules, and everyone from NELLY (`Girl Like You’) to BOOTSY COLLINS (the Hi-Tek-produced `No Thang On Me’, a virtual cover of the CURTIS MAYFIELD song) came along for the ride; `Welcome To Tha Chuuuch: Da Album’ (2005) was SNOOP’s official contribution to the underground mixtape phenomenon.
His continuing brushes with the law notwithstanding, it was an impression compounded by an uncharacteristically bohemian role in retro race drama, The Tenants (2005) and another narration credit in Luc Besson’s Arthur Et Les Minimoys (2006), if not by a pimping lead part in another Blaxploitation tribute, Boss ‘N Up (2005), the debut feature of his production company Snoopadelic Films; itself inspired by his aforementioned multi-platinum Neptunes-produced album “R&G”. Comic book-inspired trilogy Hood Of Horror, served as the company’s 2006 follow-up, with SNOOP taking a demonic starring role.
Following on from a PUSSYCAT DOLLS credit on `Buttons’ and guest appearances on records by ICE CUBE, THA DOGG POUND, TOO $HORT and COOLIO, SNOOP DOGG was back in the Top 5 with THA BLUE CARPET TREATMENT (2006) {*7}. Once again famous for its jerky beats and samples as much for its explicit lyrics and stellar cast of homies from E-40, KURUPT, B REAL and MC EIHT to NATE DOGG, ICE CUBE and GEORGE CLINTON, several street-smart stick-outs were `Vato’, `Crazy’, `That’s That S***’, `I Wanna F*** You’, `Psst!’ and `Conversations’, the latter two with JAMIE FOXX and STEVIE WONDER respectively.
In the several subsequent years that found him taking on major voice roles and acting parts in movies from Arthur And The Invisibles (2007) and Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder (2009) to We The Party (2012) and Scary Movie 5 (2013), SNOOP DOGG also performed alongside old mucker Wiz Khalifa for the film and soundtrack to MAC & DEVIN GO TO HIGH SCHOOL (2011) {*6}. All fun and frolics from the rap duo, a spin-off Top 10 single `Young, Wild & Free’ (featuring BRUNO MARS) sold more copies than the album itself.
When EGO TRIPPIN’ (2008) {*7} was originally intended to be a solo set, without all the usual trimmings and whatnots, the SNOOP would’ve been commended for sheer bravery, but then as one addition came on board, so did another, and so on, and so on. Working with several big gun producers, they in turn brought about some inspired collaborations and samples, although just about a dozen cuts were left to the rapping genius himself (the Top 10 `Sexual Eruption’ the strongest). Roping in Charlie Wilson (of The GAP BAND) on `SD Is Out’ and `Can’t Say Goodbye’, JAMIE FOXX again on `Gangsta Like Me’, plus Pharrell, EVERLAST, KURUPT, TOO $HORT and Mistah F.A.B. on a spread of other sticky cuts, SNOOP’s “ego” was never in question.
The man’s move from Interscope to Priority Records heralded a drop in sales for tenth album MALICE N WONDERLAND (2009) {*6}. As chairman of the Priority board, recession had no place in the Dogg eat dog world of the Snoop and his hedonistic hounds of hate. Equally embracing gangsta hip hop and R&B, the pseudo-pimp rapper tried in vain to suck up the charts with another `Drop It Like It’s Hot’ type track, instead it dropped out after reaching only number 23. Once again it showcased several producers and the lifestyle of the pony-tailed bling king, but even guest spots from BRANDY, PHARRELL WILLIAMS, R. KELLY, LIL JON, et al (plus cutesy-pie promotion pieces from his son), couldn’t give an edge to `I Wanna Rock’, `Secrets’ and `Special’; the companion mini-CD/DVD combination of MORE MALICE (2010) {*5} included the movie of his previous set.
2011’s DOGGUMENTARY {*6} barked up the same tree, with only the cringe-worthy WILLIE NELSON duet of `Superman’ keeping him free from the obligatory profanity. Sampling Holland-Dozier-Holland and utilizing P-Funk geezer BOOTSY COLLINS (on `We Rest N Cali’ and `Toyz N Da Hood’), the thuggish soul of Snoop was never in question, while YAZOO’s `Don’t Go’ was on board `Boom’, his piece with T-PAIN. Of the other street-smart tracks, `Eyez Closed’ bowled along with JOHN LEGEND and KANYE WEST, while GORILLAZ took part in adult nursery rhyme, `Sumthin Like This Night’.
Returning from a transitional trip from Rastafarian Jamaica, the REINCARNATED (2013) {*5} SNOOP LION (his revised moniker) was as close to BURNING SPEAR as he’d ever be. Discarding gangsta violence for peace and real brotherhood, the new-found reggae man rapped on weed, almost horizontal on a handful of cues with Angela Hunte (`Here Comes The King’, `So Long’ and `Get Away’). More ASWAD than PETER TOSH, Snoop’s dancehall rebirth was as fake and commercial as ever, the evidence in respective closing pieces `Torn Apart’ and `Ashtrays And Heartbreaks’ alongside lap-dance pop stars RITA ORA and MILEY CYRUS.
The proof in the pudding would be if this alter-ego would withstand another album of songs. The answer was no. The SNOOP DOGG was back out of the pen for the much-anticipated BUSH (2015) {*7}, partnering him with man of the moment Pharrell. Augmented by the harmonica of STEVIE WONDER, opener `California Roll’ enabled the woofer to subdue his tweeter and relax with the funky soul groove. Although not commanding sales of the past (squeezing into the Top 20 US and Top 30 UK), a transitional Snoop was ready to combine a voice that both sings and raps with a certain slickness that’s probably down to Pharrell. Featuring CHARLIE WILSON, `Peaches N Cream’ sampled P-FUNK, while other guest spots went to GWEN STEFANI (on `Run Away’) and KENDRICK LAMAR and RICK ROSS (on `I’m Ya Dogg’).
Spreading his sexually misogynistic, crip-bashing, gangsta lifestyle on 2016’s Top 40-only COOLAID {*6}, the soi-disant superstar combined old-skool hip-hop alongside a stellar posse of affiliates: Trick Trick, Wiz Khalifa, Too Short, Jeremih et al. Executive producer Swizz Beatz took his bow on several G-Funk-like cuts, while new-kid-in-the-hood Bongo curried favour on `Point Seen Money Gone’. There was little disguising `My Carz’ as the GARY NUMAN-sampled tune, but as the set turned over 77 minutes of tongue-in-cheek tropical rapping, maybe only his true acolytes would appreciate the OTT explicit nature of `Kush Ups’ and `Ten Toes Down’.
© MC Strong 1995-2008/GRD-LCS // rev-up MCS May2015-Aug2016

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