The Dogg has his day
August 16, 1999
By Andy Culpepper
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- There's a reunion of sorts in progress on a sound stage deep in a studio lot in Hollywood, not far from the intersection of Sunset and Vine.
That's the official publicity line, anyway: Two big rap stars are getting back together after a long hiatus in their work with each other.
But rapper Snoop Dogg (formerly Snoop Doggy Dogg) and his longtime friend, mentor and sometime collaborator, Dr. Dre, aren't thinking reunion. Dr. Dre is directing this video for Snoop's latest album, "No Limit Top Dogg." And both rappers say it's just an extension of a relationship that goes back several years.
"Behind the scenes, we've been basically helping each other out and critiquing each other's projects," says Snoop of the so-called separation from the guy who helped launch his career more than six years ago. "We just went back to working with each other publicly ... the public wanted it, and we wanted it, and we're pushing for it and we're doing it."
"Snoop has been around me for as long as I can remember," says Dre of his friend and protégé. "He grew up with my little brother. I mean, we've always been around each other."
Back when men were boyzDr. Dre's brother, rap artist Warren G., introduced him to a young man who went by the unlikely nickname of "Snoop" -- a handle picked up as a child. Young Calvin Broadus, as he's really named, came to Dre's attention carrying baggage heavy with a history of gang-related trouble.
But Broadus had talent. And by the time Warren brought the youngster to see his older brother, he'd had time to develop the ability to improvise on a dime. The story has it that Dre was so impressed with the younger man's free-styling skills, he put him to work almost immediately.
When Dre recorded his much-lauded 1992 album, "The Chronic," he used Broadus on every track. One year later, a new rap star named Snoop Doggy Dogg released his first album, "Doggystyle." It sold more than 6 million copies in the United States alone.
Many in the industry credited Dr. Dre with the speed of Snoop's ascendancy, a contention Snoop doesn't dispute today.
"Oh, definitely. Without Dr. Dre, I would not be this far," says the Long Beach, California, native, now 26 to Dre's 34. "With his direction, his guidance, with his leadership, just the way he carries himself -- it makes me want to conduct myself like him."
Both Dre and Snoop recorded for Death Row records in the beginning, and while Dr. Dre's mark on Snoop's career was unmistakable in those early days, other influences entered the picture, sending Snoop's career and life on a different path.
Taking the rap
Not long after Snoop's debut album installed him as a force in the rap arena, his old problems with the law resurfaced. On August 25, 1993, in Long Beach, a man named Phillip Woldermariam was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Snoop and his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, were charged in the killing.
The ugliness of that incident reinforced the negative stereotypes associated with gangsta rap. Turf warfare spread from the 'hood to the record industry. Shootings and assaults provided lethal percussion to the genre.
Snoop became a target, himself, for negative publicity and arrived as the new poster boy for gangsta rap. Civil rights leader and CNN talk-show host Rev. Jesse Jackson and others in the media criticized the recording artist. Snoop fired back with a verbal fusillade of his own -- and in the typical lingo of rap.
"Jesse Jackson, come conversate (sic) with us," Snoop said, addressing the African-American leader through the press assembled at the 1993 Billboard Music Awards in New York City. "Ya'll preachers. Ya'll got the plan to turn around the world for the black nation, come to us supposed-to-be black leaders and get our heads straight, if that's what you want to do. Don't be on the news trying to downgrade us, because it don't pop like that."
It was Snoop's trademark defiant attitude, a cockiness he demonstrated again, backstage at the MTV Music Awards beside the late Tupac Shakur, a fellow rapper who would die in a September 1996 shooting. But when Snoop was asked by a reporter, how he handled the negative stories he read about himself, he answered, "I keep God first, and everything else fall right in place."
On the Row
The name of Snoop's label at the time, Death Row Records, seems,in retrospect, prophetic. Founder Marion "Suge" Knight went to prison to serve nine years for violating probation on a prior assault charge in 1992. Then, four years later, Shakur, a fellow Death Row artist to Snoop, died in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
With a murder charge hanging over his head and with the threat of violence a real concern for anyone with gangsta ties, Snoop had become a rapper without an audience. It was was reported that no promoter could afford the insurance to put him onstage.
Still, Snoop kept a game face. At the MTV Music Video Awards, asked about his the upcoming release of his second album, Snoop was upbeat. "It'll be in stores Election Day," he told reporters. "So while you making the votes for president, vote for the president of rap, Snoop Dogg."
Someone asked him if he was on the ballot. "You goddamn right," was Snoop's reply.
Off the Row
"Tha Doggfather" debuted in 1996 to mixed reviews and didn't sell as well as "Doggystyle." It was to be his last record for Death Row. He would later undergo, in the words of one reviewer, a "messy divorce" from the label as he followed in the footsteps of Dr. Dre once again, this time signing with rapper-producer Master P at No Limit Records.
Snoop, who had since become a father, received more welcome news: He was acquitted, after three years, of murder. In fact, the jury ruled that his bodyguard, Lee, had fired in self defense.
With son in arms, Snoop greeted reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse. It was raining, but Snoop was all smiles. "He's tired," Snoop told reporters of his son, Spanky, cradled in his arms. "He's been waiting for his daddy to be all the way his again."
But violence in the world of rap continued. One year later, in March 1997, rapper Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a hail of bullets. Snoop overhauled his security measures. Rumor had it he feared he'd be the next victim.
During this period, Snoop began to retool his image. In a 1997 interview with the Chicago Tribune, the rapper was quoted as saying, "It's not the image -- it's me as a person."
The modern Snoop
Reminded of that remark during a break from his music-video shoot two years later, Snoop gives an enigmatic smile before responding.
"I don't remember saying that, but you know, life is built on changes," he says. "People have to change. They have to better themselves or they become negative influences in this world, and that's something I didn't want to do. So I had to make a change for the better, as far as me as a person.
"I'm more patient and more astute into the game, as far as wanting to know what it is that makes people buy records and what do they love about my songs."
If the admission sounds like a mature businessman's world view, it's no accident, says Dr. Dre.
"The first time he came in the studio was more like, you know, he's a rapper an he just wants to get in here and make a video and have some fun with it. And I think he realizes now that there is a big business here and there's a lot of money to be made with it if you handle your business correctly."
Indeed. Snoop's latest album, "No Limit Top Dogg," debuted in May at number two on the Billboard album charts, selling more than 187 thousand copies in the first week. Just like old times -- Dr. Dre had a hand in Snoop's success as producer on three of the album cuts. Snoop returns the favor, contributing tracks for Dre's upcoming album.
The two are to join forces onstage this fall in Hawaii, headlining a concert for a Los Angeles radio station. If anyone appreciates Snoop's renewed commitment to his future, it's Dr. Dre.
"I think Snoop is a lot more humble," he says. "As a matter of fact, I know he's a lot more humble. Like I said, he's a lot more focused. He shows up on time, and he comes in ready to do his thing, and he gets in there and performs and, you know, that's all you have to do: Handle your business."
Enjoying the Dogg house
His business -- and his family. Snoop welcomed a daughter into the family on June 22. She's one more reason to stay focused. Although he's not keen on being considered a role model, just yet.
"Not really," he says, "because all I do is, you know, raise my kids the best I know how, and I don't worry about everybody else's kids. Because it's my responsibilities. It's my kids and through my actions, and the way I raise my kids will hopefully rub off on America's kids and America's parents and see how they should raise their kids and not judge me on what I do and how I do mine."
He offers a bit of advice to any would-be critics. "Worry about you and yours. Fix your home first."
Home first. That phrase has taken on a new importance for this father of three.
"Mmmmm. I do more, you know, constructive things at the house instead of parties, clubs -- atmospheres of that nature. I do go out, but I cut it all in half now, and I'm more at the house now."
"I can have fun by sitting at the house, you know what I'm saying?" he asks. "Chilling with the homies or with my kids or my wife playing video games you know, living to see another day."
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