Music

How ‘Doggystyle’ Introduced The World To Snoop Dogg, One Of The Most Popular Hip-Hop Figures Of All

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There’s a bar in downtown Long Beach living in the remnants of an old bank building. Every Friday night in that bar’s basement, a familial group of DJs throws an old-school hip-hop party called Snapback Live. I went there every Friday night for a year (and still go there occasionally, because it’s a reliable good time) and every Friday night I encountered the same experience. Inevitably, because it is an old-school party in Long Beach, one of the DJs will at some point during the night play Snoop Dogg‘s “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None).”

Every night for a year, hundreds of voices uplifted in drunken, enthusiastic, unison: “‘Cause I have never met a girl / That I loved in the whole wide world.” No matter how “woke” we’ve all gotten, how truly misogynistic and gross the song has become, there is just no erasing that ecstatic feeling. Snoop Dogg is a legend. Doggystyle is his very first myth, the first brick in the road toward his iconic status. There’s no one without the other.

Just two Fridays ago, Snoop Dogg received a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame, christening the concrete slab by crip-walking over it while news cameras and thousands of well-wishers and fans looked on. Just a few days before that, Snoop helped debut the return of one of video gaming’s most popular franchises with Spyro Remastered and far from being a corny brand sponsorship, it actually felt cool and organic. Just this past January, Snoop Dogg’s marijuana and hip-hop themed update of the ’70s-era game show The Joker’s Wild, Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild, was renewed for a second season by TBS after its inaugural season turned out to be a raucous ride propelled by the rap godfather’s compelling charm.

Likewise, a second season of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party again paired the witty master of language and laid-back rhymes with homemaking mogul Martha Stewart, mining their unusual friendship for laughs and surprising cultural insight. The show launched a multitude of memes contrasting the irony of their criminal status; while Snoop is renowned for his past as a certified Eastside Long Beach Rolling 20s Crip, it’s Stewart who is the convicted felon, serving five months at Federal Prison Camp Alderson in 2004 for securities fraud (the brevity of her sentence itself a commentary on the structure of the criminal justice system). It’s safe to say that Snoop Dogg is one of the biggest, most recognizable stars in the world. None of it happens without Doggystyle.

Much ado has been made in the past month about the legendary status of so many albums released in November of 1993. Wu-Tang Clan made their kung-fu movie-referencing, comic book-influenced, slang-coining over-the-top debut with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Established pioneers, game-changers, and hit-makers A Tribe Called Quest perfected their jazzy, socially-conscious formula with Midnight Marauders. But in 1993, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about either. Sure, they both had a profound effect on my tastes and awareness of hip-hop down the line — I realized Tribe would be my North Star sometime in middle school and Wu-Tang’s influence would provide the basis for some of my nerdier rap interests further down the line — but Los Angeles rap radio wasn’t playing New York jazz rap back then. They were playing Doggystyle.

That’s why Federal Bar’s Snapback goes up from the very first strains of that distinctive whistling lead from “Ain’t No Fun”: Because despite the truly filthy content and the fact that FCC regulations basically rendered the song an instrumental version on the radio, there hasn’t been one single day it hasn’t been played on Power 106 or KDAY or The Beat or The Real. Snoop Dogg is west coast hip-hop, but more than that, Doggystyle is the quintessential Snoop Dogg album. It’s isn’t just “Ain’t No Fun,” either. “Gin And Juice,” “Murder Was The Case,” and “Doggy Dogg World” are the defining singles of Snoop’s career — even now, 25 years later, with a Hollywood Walk Of Fame star and multiple, mainstream television shows to his name. Where would hip-hop be, where would music be, where would pop culture as a whole be without the answer to his famously posed, Parliament-sampling question, “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” Somewhere less vibrant, less hilarious, less smooth, less cool, somewhere less free.

Rappers might still be landing every rhyme perfectly on beat, instead of just a little bit behind it. Parliament Funkadelic may have faded away into obscurity, a curio of time and place, left unappreciated by the generation of teens and kids who discovered George Clinton’s alien Afrofuturism through Snoop’s homage on “G Funk Intro” and “Who Am I?” Live instrumentation might still have entered hip-hop — after all, “Rapper’s Delight,” the very first rap song ever recorded, was an interpolation of Chic’s “Good Times” infamously replayed by a live band for the duration of the recording — but never so perfectly engineered and retrofitted to the bumping, trunk rattling drum and bass programming favored by rap producers in the early ’90s.

Snoop found new pockets for his rhymes (which I’m still convinced were like 90 percent freestyled in the studio, which only makes them that much more impressive in hindsight), tipping his cap to the past while pioneering a new path for rap in the future, simply by being himself and paying homage to stuff he liked, like Blaxploitation films (the album’s skits are rife with references on The Mack and Dolemite) and then-old-school rap (his slick, gangsta remake of Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” on “Lodi Dodi”).

Snoop Dogg is foundational, a singular entity within the culture music and history of hip-hop. If Doggystyle hadn’t taken those musical risks or played with those pop cultural riffs, maybe G-Funk never takes off. After all, Warren G really only had the one big hit outside of California, and maybe he’s not as well known if not for the placement he earned on “Ain’t No Fun.” The same goes for Nate Dogg, the preeminent hook master of hip-hop soul, or Daz Dillinger, who’s credited with production throughout rap’s milieu, even outside of gangsta rap. Even Shad Moss, the rapping tyke who would go on to redefine pop-rap as the underrated star of a generation as Lil Bow Wow, got his start under Snoop Dogg’s wing on Doggystyle. Snoop Dogg deserved a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame a long time before now, but 25 years late is better than never.

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