A Dogg’s life Readying his first album and aleady a star, rapper Snopp Doggy Dogg faces more than the usual career obstacles

A Dogg’s life Readying his first album and aleady a star, rapper Snopp Doggy Dogg faces more than the usual career obstacles

Newsday; 11/18/1993; CHUCK PHILIPS

Newsday

11-18-1993

a dogg’s life
Readying his first album and aleady a star, rapper Snopp Doggy Dogg
faces more than the usual career obstacles

BY CHUCK PHILIPS. Chuck Philips is a Los Angeles free-lance
writer.

KEYWORD HIT
SITTING in a West Los Angeles recording studio, just around the corner
from the police station where he was booked as an accomplice to murder,
gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg has two important dates on his mind.
On Nov. 23, Interscope Records will release the 22-year-old’s debut
solo album, “Doggy Style.” Because of Snoop’s co-starring role in Dr.
Dre’s recent smash album, “The Chronic,” Snoop’s collection is expected
to enter the Billboard pop chart at No. 1 – something no debut album
has done since SoundScan began monitoring record sales in 1991.
Then, on Nov. 30, he’ll step into a West Los Angeles courtroom to
face a murder charge stemming from an Aug. 25 shooting. Snoop, whose
real name is Calvin Broadus, was arrested after driving the Jeep from
which his bodyguard fired the shots that killed a man. If convicted, the
6-foot, 4-inch rapper could spend the rest of his life in jail.
“There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for what I’m going
through,” says Snoop, twisting on his stool in front of the studio
console. “But I believe everything happens for a reason. The ups. The
downs. I just got to deal with it and keep on going.”
Snoop is part of the most dramatic confluence of violent art and
violent reality the modern pop world has witnessed: gangsta rap. The
controversial musical genre – first popularized in the ’80s through
stark, obscenity-laced albums by Ice-T, the Geto Boys, Schoolly D and
N.W.A – has long been criticized for glorifying violence and degrading
women. Gangsta rap became a front-page issue during last year’s
presidential campaign after police groups threatened to boycott Ice-T’s
Time-Warner-owned record company because of “cop killer” lyrics.
The debate escalated further when artists such as Snoop began
running into trouble with the law. On Oct. 31, Tupac Shakur, who also
records for Interscope, was arrested in Atlanta for allegedly shooting
two off-duty police officers. (Although not part of the gangsta rap
scene, Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav was booked in New York the following
day for allegedly trying to shoot another man in a domestic dispute.)
Unlike the stark, confrontational tone of much gangsta rap, Snoop’s
lyrics and funky, laid-back delivery are not concerned with racial
politics. They celebrate survival in the misogynistic gang-war era,
delineating what it’s like to be an urban black male in the dangerous
’90s.
“Anyone who knows anything about music in this industry has
tremendous respect for Snoop as an artist,” says Russell Simmons, chief
executive officer of New York-based Rush Communications. “He is the
dopest new vocalist on the scene.”
Ken Barnes, editor of the trade weekly Radio & Records, thinks the
rapper demonstrates a potential for huge crossover success. “His work
with Dr. Dre is extremely seductive and approachable,” he says. “I can
see him getting even bigger – as long as his image doesn’t scare the
pop [radio] stations away.”
* * *
It’s 21 days past the deadline for the new album, and Snoop still
hasn’t finished the vocals for the last two tracks on the collection. A
half-dozen musicians hover around him in the studio as Interscope
Records president Jimmy Iovine anxiously questions producer Dr. Dre as
to whether they will meet the latest deadline. Dre reassures him the
deadline will be met.
The pressure is on, but Snoop looks calm. Dressed in a baggy purple
sweat suit, the rapper jokes with his buddies and launches into a
dead-on Beavis and Butt-head impersonation, explaining, “I like things
that make me laugh.” After boasting about his skills on a computer game,
he reminisces with his homeboys about the R & B group they formed “back
in the days.”
Given the hardcore gangsta persona he perpetuates in photos and on
record, the polite and gentle manner in which he speaks with his pals is
not what you’d expect. But Snoop is full of surprises.
For the most part, his musical heroes are not contemporary rap
artists, but soul singers like Al Green, Curtis Mayfield and L. J.
Reynolds of the Dramatics. He can recite the lyrics to classic love
songs and speaks reverently about their influence on his vocal style.
“I’m just a student, man,” he says quietly. “It’s like I’m studying
for an exam. My goal is to outdo everybody – to get the highest
grade.”
Unlike other hardcore rappers, Snoop seems unafraid to show his soft
side. He talks warmly about family and friends, and waxes philosophical
about faith and his desire to perfect his craft and improve his lot. In
fact, his favorite track on the new album is a gospel-tinged tribute to
his mother, titled “Gangsta Life.”
“It’s about how my mama raised me and my brothers on her own and how
we got caught up on the streets,” he says of the song, which features
the backing of a gospel chorus.
Those who know him well say Snoop remains relatively untouched by
the excitement surrounding his sudden rise to stardom. While his bank
account gets fatter by the day, they say he still hangs out with the
homeboys and visits his old stamping grounds.

SUCCESS, however, is helping Snoop put his own turbulent past into
perspective. Despite criticism from media watchdog groups and family
organizations that he glorifies criminal behavior with his music, the
rapper sees himself as a positive role model and hopes his fame will
inspire gangbangers to put down their guns and pick up a mike.
“The media is quick to point their finger when trouble strikes, but
nobody ever asks a successful rapper like me how he feels about what’s
going on in the ‘hood,” Snoop says. “I guess they think I’m macho and I
don’t care or something. But man, I’m someone who’s trying to turn his
life around.
“A dozen people I know have been smoked for no reason at all. I wish
the violence would stop. I mean, right now, I got some little homeboys
coming up who are happy to see me doing right, but it’s so dangerous out
there they might not even live to see my album come out.”
Snoop is no stranger to gang violence. Born and raised in a tough
section of eastern Long Beach, Calif., he tells of being caught up
early on in the crossfire of turf fights between various factions of the
notorious Crips gang. The community he grew up in is a hodgepodge of
window-barred wood-and-stucco bungalows police say is plagued by crack
dealing, cartheft and drive-by shootings.
“On a danger scale of 1 to 10, Long Beach rates about a 9,”
suggests one Long Beach Police Gang Task Force agent.
As a child, Snoop sold candy, delivered newspapers and bagged
groceries to help his mother and two brothers make ends meet after his
father moved to Detroit. He says he was a dedicated student and athlete
who looked forward to attending weekly services at one of the
neighborhood’s storefront churches.
Despite his mother’s best efforts to keep him singing in the choir
and playing football, Snoop says he fell in with the wrong crowd during
his teens and started running the streets and hustling dope. But he
denies reports that he was ever a bona fide Crip.
Barely one month after he graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High
School, the rapper was incarcerated on a drug charge, and he returned to
jail several times on probation violations.
“I want to stress something to the little kids out there: There
ain’t nothin’ cool about selling dope,” Snoop says. “I did it because I
thought it was cool but I was wrong and I went to jail for it.
“But when I was rappin’ in the county jail, a lot of the older
inmates told me, `Man, you’re too talented to be in here. You need to be
outside, illustrating yourself, not wasting your life away with crime.’
“I don’t want anybody to get the wrong idea, though. Life in the
ghetto ain’t easy like they want to make it seem. People take wrong
turns for a reason. You wake up in the morning and there’s no work.
Nobody has nothin’. That’s what makes them want to go take it from the
next man. That’s what leads to all the trouble and commotion.”
After his release, Snoop says, he quit dealing drugs and began to
concentrate seriously on becoming a professional musician. By this time,
he had already been rapping for seven years – ever since performing a
song called “Super Rhymes” in front of his sixth-grade class.
His classmates’ positive response was so overwhelming Snoop began to
devote long hours every night after school studying rappers and honing
his craft with neighborhood friends. He patterned his style after East
Coast rappers, his biggest idol being Slick Rick (who also eventually
got into trouble with the law over a shooting and is now in jail). By
the time he was 15, Snoop had a reputation on the streets of Long Beach
as one of the city’s hippest young rappers.
“When I rapped in the hallways at school I would draw such a big
crowd that the principal would think there was a fight going on,” he
remembers. “It made me begin to realize that I had a gift. I could tell
that my raps interested people and that made me interested in myself.”
Before long, Snoop was writing and recording his own material. After
working with several rap partners, Snoop and his friends Nate Dogg and
Warren G formed a rap and R & B group named 213. The trio was so popular
in Long Beach that they were able to sell more than 500 homemade tapes
of Snoop’s material from the trunk of a car. One of those cassettes
eventually found its way into the hands of Dr. Dre, the N.W.A member who
was trying to launch a solo career.
“One day the phone rang and the voice on the other end says to me,
`This is Dr. Dre,’ ” Snoop recalls. “Man, I couldn’t believe my ears. I
said, `No way, who is this really?’ He says, `You want to make a record
with me or not?’ I said, `Hell, yeah.’ ”
Less than a year later, Snoop’s voice was blasting out of boomboxes
from Compton to Harlem as a featured vocalist on Dre’s first solo
outing, the title sound track single from the feature film “Deep
Cover,” which describes the murder of an undercover cop. His deft
phrasing and catchy melodic chants also played a prominent role in the
success of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” album, which has sold 3 million
copies since last December. He wrote most of the album’s lyrics, raps on
the whole album and is featured soloist on four of the tracks. Even
before Dre’s “Nuthin’ but a `G’ Thang” – which Snoop wrote in 1990
and raps on – cracked the Top 10 last spring, critics began hailing
Snoop as the nation’s hottest hip-hop attraction.
“Snoop is the most unique rapper to emerge in years,” says James
Bernard, senior editor of The Source, the nation’s leading rap journal.
“Nobody out there matches his melodic flow. What you have here is an
extremely talented guy who has clearly brought his own world view to the
mike.”
The intense interest in Snoop not only demonstrates the commercial
viability of graphic hardcore rap, but also provides the clearest
example of a talented young artist grappling to rise above the violent
inner-city lifestyle depicted in his music.
“What I’m doing now is something I’ve always dreamed of
accomplishing,” Snoop says. “You can’t pre-plan for overnight success.
There are too many obstacles. People try to give you advice, but there
ain’t nobody out there who can understand what’s goin’ on until they
actually ride in the front seat.”
* * *
Snoop was sitting in the driver’s seat of his black ’93 Jeep on Aug.
25 when, witnesses told police, an argument broke out between his pal
Shawn Abrams and Philip Woldermariam. That argument, sources say,
followed a shouting match that afternoon in front of Snoop’s apartment,
during which Woldermariam allegedly brandished a weapon and threatened
the rapper’s life. According to police, Snoop, his bodyguard McKinley
Lee and Abrams chased Woldermariam three blocks to the West Los Angeles
park where Lee shot Woldermariam.
Lee says he shot in self-defense after Woldermariam allegedly
pointed a pistol at the vehicle. (According to Deputy District Attorney
Edward Nison of the Hardcore Gang Division, a coroner’s report revealed
that the victim was shot in the back.) David Kenner, Snoop’s attorney,
says Woldermariam – on probation after serving a one-year jail term
for negligently firing a firearm on public property – had previously
assaulted Snoop with a gun on two occasions and threatened the rapper’s
life during the filming of a video.
Kenner and the Los Angeles Police Department negotiated an agreement
for Snoop to surrender immediately after appearing as a presenter on the
MTV Video Music Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre Sept. 2. He pleaded
not guilty to the charges on Oct. 1 and has been free on $1 million
bail.
When the subject is raised in the studio, Snoop looks somber, but
says his lawyer has told him not to comment on the case. It’s only when
the conversation shifts back to the music that he begins to come alive
again.
“My music makes people happy, not violent,” he says, hunched over
the mixing board. “I try to write songs that people will enjoy enough to
reach into their pocket and spend their money on. I try to write classic
songs that will last and reach all audiences: the gang-stas, the
gospels, the whites, the blacks, everybody. Me and Dre are doing
something new. It’s art.”

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