Please Enjoy Scarlett Johansson's 20 Finest Contributions To GIF Cultu...
Here's The Best College Basketball Anti-Showboating Video Of The Week

‘Doggystyle’ Turns 20: How Snoop Dogg Transformed From Accused Murderer To American Idol

By 11.22.13

A friend of mine asked recently who I thought was the most popular rapper on the planet. Not the best, not who sold the most records, not who has the most songs currently earning spins on the radio.

Without hesitation, “Snoop Dogg. Yeah, probably Snoop. Definitely.”

The answer comes with its obvious amount of subjectivity. With today marking the half-century anniversary of one of the darkest moments in American history in the President John F. Kennedy assassination, November 23 holds its fair share of significance in pop culture, too. Albeit for totally different reasons.

Tomorrow celebrates the 20th anniversary of Calvin Broadus’ groundbreaking debut, Doggystyle. As the sequel of two albums which muscled Death Row Records in to arguably the most feared American business venture of the mid-1990s – the first being Dr. Dre’s The Chronic – Snoop’s masterpiece is everything it has and will be described as in the coming days.

The linchpin that became the face of “gangster rap.”

The album that became one of the leading suspects in the perceived misogyny epidemic in Hip-Hop. Violence, too, as evident in the now immortal Newsweek cover.

The album whose controversy was heightened by a murder indictment the week before.

Hell, the album that turned Snoop into the most feared rapper in America. The most intriguing, too, as Jon Shecter of The Source described in 1993, “[The arrest] will only make the record blow up even bigger because it will generate even more curiosity among those who have never heard of him.”

To a degree, perhaps every claim was valid, yet focus on the last statement. Twenty years ago, the combination of Snoop’s impending murder case and Doggystyle helped place rap’s civil war with a media still struggling to understand the culture’s rapidly-evolving place in a rapidly-violent society. And Snoop stood near the apex of entertainment’s battered and bruised Mount Olympus.

Snoop’s arrival was a not only a year in the making following his scene-stealing roles on Chronic, but a defibrillator jolt to rap’s collective chest. Artistically, the sound was more Louis Armstrong or B.B. King with a blunt in his mouth than carbon-copy, run-of-the-miller “gangsta rapper.” Never in rap had an artist addressed rugged topics and vomited them back to America in such an effortless and hypnotic manner accelerating pass controversial limits with records like “Murder Was The Case” and “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None).”

As the calendars passed and rap came under siege for its increasingly graphic overtones – and Snoop himself beat a murder charge – his approach to music and his image began to change. Following the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, a popular and cryptic assumption was The Doggfather standing next in line for rap’s brightest stars with abbreviated careers.

Snoop survived, but the reality of representing the last standing member of a Death Row empire that had crumbled with Dre’s exit, Pac’s death and Suge’s imprisonment was daunting. Suddenly, a career which had made him Hip-Hop’s 1993 Rookie of the Year had involuntarily placed him at one of the most perplexing and public crossroads only three years later.

An undervalued aspect of Snoop’s career is adaptation. He’s like a weed-smoking chameleon in that regard. His relocation to No Limit Records proved Snoop was more than simply a product of a Death Row system that produced as many platinum plaques as it did legal woes. And his head-first plunge into the world of acting bolstered his profile with credits in Baby Boy, I Got The Hook Up, The Wash, Half Baked, The Bernie Mac Show, Training Day, the voice of “Alabaster Jones” on King of the Hill, ESPN’s short-lived, prophetic Playmakers, The Boondocks and countless other roles between 1998 and 2013.

There was even the porn DVD, Doggystyle, in 2005. The point being Snoop understood the importance of impacting different demographics.

Whether as America’s Most Wanted in the ’90s, fully embracing his inner-pimp with Don Magic Juan, everyone’s favorite uncle or his present-day Rastafarian trek, Snoop’s been relevant for a good 21+ years with no true threat irrelevancy. I tell people all the time Snoop had a hit record from when I was learning to write in cursive (third grade, 1993, “Gin & Juice”), a four-single run from my senior year in high school through sophomore year in college that still defies logic (“Beautiful”-“Drop It Like It’s Hot”-“Let’s Get Blown”-“Signs”), to my senior year and post-grad matriculation (“Sexual Eruption,” “Life Of The Party,” “I Wanna Rock”). His ability to spawn another Doggystyle (the album, not the flick) has long since passed the same vein it has for someone like Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley to maneuver around a basketball court as they did in the 1993 NBA Finals.

Yet, like Barkley, Snoop’s natural ability to endear himself, musically and otherwise, to a public who once pegged him as a hazard is almost mythical (some view it as selling out, evident with this Tumblr). It’s the reason why someone like my grandmother is even a fan of Snoop, despite not knowing any songs aside “What’s My Name?” but saying, “He’s more than welcome to come Thanksgiving dinner. He seems like a funny young man. And he looks like he’s changed his life around. He just has to smoke outside. None of that in my house.”

And like Bun B, consistently making the effort to connect with a younger generation of musicians, athletes and the everyday fan – who were still in elementary school when he demolished New York skyscrapers – has produced an invaluable element of longevity to a career in its third decade.

Tay James, Justin Bieber’s official DJ, told me a few weeks ago, “We were in Bali working, all day. I remember going to my room and falling asleep. I’m talking for hours! This is in Bali, Indonesia, mind you. So out of nowhere, I feel someone just tapping on me on my shoulder. I finally wake up and it’s Snoop Dogg.”

James continued, “At this point, I think I’m dreaming and I’m like, ‘Where the hell did you come from, Snoop?’ He’s all like, ‘Wassup, nephew? Wake up!’ Snoop had a party out there he was hosting. In Bali! He was just coming up to hang out with us and listen to some new music. Everybody rocks with Snoop.”

In the 20 years since Doggystyle topped Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra in its first week, Snoop’s career and life have been one THC-filled chapter after another, ultimately making him one of the most recognizable entertainers in the world. The same man who scared America shitless during the first Clinton administration now boasts Princes William and Harry as fans and could probably convince Tea Party members to rethink their stance on Obamacare by smoking with them. All while eating Hot Pockets with Kate Upton, too. You know, if the fate of the free world ever depended on such.

Perhaps not realistically, but neither was the trajectory of Snoop’s public perception when revisiting Rev. Calvin Butts’ line-in-the-sand statement, “…Snoop Doggy Dog, indicted for murder. We’re not against rap. We’re not against rappers, but we are against those thugs who disgrace our community, our women, who disgrace our culture and who have absolutely nothing of redemptive value to offer except the legacy of violence, and sexual assault and foul language.”

The fact remains rap would have survived had Snoop Dogg never come along. But it’s hard to imagine the culture without him, without Doggystyle, without the 1995 Source Awards, without the movies, without helping secure Barack Obama’s second term, without “nephew.”

The legacy and impact of Snoop Dogg bases very little on being remembered as the greatest rapper of all time. He’s not. Chances are Snoop never based success on earning such a title anyway. He has never came off as the type to be concerned with rankings, likely because he’s been too high to give anything resembling a damn. The journey has been more about becoming an irreplaceable titan in a genre where shelf lives for artists are shorter than a NFL running back’s.

Not bad for a career spanning three presidential administrations, timeless music with everyone from Charlie Wilson, Tupac and Justin Timberlake and one playing a small part in altering the country’s perception of marijuana. Not bad at all.

Share This

RelatedMeet The Artist Behind Snoop Dogg’s Iconic ‘Doggystyle’ Cover

Photo: Getty


TAGSDoggystyleEVERYTHING ELSESMOKE BREAKSnoop DoggVIDEOS

Join The Discussion


[avatar]

Join the discussion. or Register





Powered by WordPress.com VIP