In 1992, the world of music changed and civility in the arts became a pejorative, as the once unacceptable and inflammatory content of hardcore rap valorizing misogynistic, homophobic, gangster and other bigoted themes were mainstreamed into music and pop culture. The style that ushered in the change was infectious and irresistible for the times. Even the “victims” of the musical assault were “bobbing” their heads.
Snoop’s unctuous mellow voice pelting winnowy lyrics in collaboration with Dr. Dre, was arguably responsible for mainstreaming the maestro’s The Chronic album, which soon became a global phenomenon. The laid-back and lanky Snoop was a natural. And why not, since music and “stardom” run in Snoop’s family, as he is cousins with not only his “posse” Nate Dogg, Daz, and RBX (who featured on The Chronic), but also Brandy and Ray J – remember them?
Dre had always been the consummate hardcore/gangster rap producer. What changed with The Chronic? He introduced the 19-year-old 6 ft. 4, Snoop Doggy Dogg, who used The Chronic album as a “launch pad” for his own solo career.
The Chronic featured several “diss” tracks in which Dr. Dre and Snoop lyrically and graphically excoriated their artistic foes, including Dr. Dre’s once alter ego and NWA collaborator, Eazy E. Dr. Dre’s style and strategy in The Chronic was commercially successful, and the album peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200. The single Nuthin but a ‘G’ Thang peaked at number 2, on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s production and commercial success earned it a spot at number 138 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Snoop Dogg’s distinctive style and inventive lyrics made him a superstar before he’d even released a recording of his own, according to the New York Times. Their musical invective against Eazy-E was deemed ‘creatively offensive.’ And then Eazy E came back with a track, Real muthafuckin G’s, which I had thought was a decent riposte. But my boys from Lagos to London weren’t feeling it…neither was the world’s new stage and base of hip hop fans.
While Eazy E had been the undisputed leader of NWA, Dr. Dre had taken over hip hop and it was clear, if you were going to have the global audience or be anything in rap, you had to be affiliated with Dre – either rapping with him or against him from the East Coast…until somebody else came along and made his mark with another formula in rap. In 1995, Eazy E died due to complications from AIDS.
Snoop’s global acceptance would be rewarded two years after his introduction on The Chronic, as he sat in jail, only to discover that his debut album Doggystyle had set worldwide records in the music industry on release, becoming the first album to debut at number 1 on Billboard. At the time of its release, Doggystyle also set the record as the fastest selling album of all time, with sales of almost 1 million copies in the first week.
Prior to Dr. Dre’s collaboration with Snoop, rappers had to whittle down their edginess for mainstream appeal and commercial success. However, Dre’s hardcore production was unapologetic and Snoop’s voice gave it a commercial and global appeal. The enterprising Puff Daddy would understand this appeal and replicate it with the smooth voice of Notorious BIG, to whom he served as hype-man and producer, on the east coast.
Significantly, while the art appeared to glamorize crime, the artists invoked global awareness to the harsh conditions of Black Americans in urban cities in America. The art form drew the world’s attention, concern and empathy, while it kept them partying and “balling.”
I remember as international students in an MBA class were asked, who their favorite musicians/artists were back home: In unison, from India, China to Turkey everyone said, “Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur!”
On April 7, 2017 as Snoop took the stage to eulogize his late friend and collaborator, Tupac Shakur, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he looked remarkably the same even 25 years after he made his splash, as being “unapologetically ‘gangsta.’”
Image: dodge challenger1 via Flickr