Snoop Doggy Dogg Hard Knocks and High Times

Snoop Doggy Dogg Hard Knocks and High Times
Career longevity is rare in most musical genres but it’s practically unheard of in hip-hop where artists can be dismissed as old school after just a few years at the top. Consider the class of 1992, the year we first met a laconic gangsta rapper by the deceptively cuddly name of Snoop Doggy Dogg. It was a legendary year for hip-hop — Gang Starr, Arrested Development, EPMD, Pharycyde, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Kriss Kross, House of Pain — and yet these acts are all gone, most forgotten. Long Beach, California’s favourite son, however, looms larger over the landscape than ever before. Snoop has transcended gangsta rap — hell, he’s transcended hip-hop. He’s a pop cultural icon, reality TV star, porn flick producer, viral video seducer, courtroom regular, Hollywood actor, slang creator and even the head of a youth football league that ends each season with, yep, the Snooperbowl. Oh, and in case you think he’s gone soft, he’s beefing with America’s other beloved black icon Oprah and in the last few years alone has been arrested everywhere from Sweden to the Tonight Show parking lot and banned from the UK and Australia. But despite all of his extracurricular activities, Snoop has not taken the Will Smith or Ice Cube route and abandoned rap — in fact, he’s just dropped Ego Trippin’, his bound-to-be-blockbuster ninth studio album. Snoop’s story is, quite simply, that of the American Dream — a pothead from the projects who traded a prison cellblock for a multi-million dollar mansion thanks to a lot of talent, a little bloodshed, a head for business and a way with words.

1971 to 1982
Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. is born October 20, 1971 in Long Beach, California to Beverly Broadus and Vernall Vernado, a young unmarried couple who grew up in small town Mississippi and nicknamed their second son Snoopy, due to his resemblance to Charlie Brown’s beagle. His father, a mailman and Vietnam vet who will later re-dub himself "Poppa Snoop,” takes off while Calvin is still crawling, but leaves his son with some musically inclined genes. Gospel singers and blues men are common in the Vernall bloodline and Snoop’s father released a couple albums as part of the Sensational Varnado Brothers. Snoop’s aunt is an R&B singer with some radio play back in 1970 and Snoop’s cousin is Brandy. Young Calvin learns to play piano and begins singing in the church choir. Though ironic, given his later subject matter, this is where Snoopy gets his first taste of performing in front of an audience.

At 12 years old, Calvin has his first sexual experience — a threesome. He also becomes a player on the field as star quarterback for the Long Beach Rough Riders for the next four years. His coach would act as a surrogate father, though he would not be enough to keep the promising teen out of trouble. Snoop’s uncle Marvin would introduce him to blunts before moving onto harder drugs and dying of an overdose. Around this time another uncle would kill himself and his girlfriend. The crack epidemic was also about to turn America’s ghettos inside out. Death was all around. But so was escape.

1984 to 1986
Snoop and best friend Warren G — whose half-brother is aspiring rap producer Dr. Dre, who has just started making waves in Compton with his World Class Wreckin’ Cru — spends the next summer selling candy in white neighbourhoods and freestyling while they walked door-to-door. Snoop starts developing his own style, a slow, leisurely drawl that harkens back to his parents’ Southern upbringings. "I never considered myself as some kind of West coast answer to the East coast style,” Snoop would later write in his autobiography. "I just did what fit my personality, and niggers that know me will tell you I don’t like to be hurried.” Warren G regularly bugs Dre about his skinny friend, but Dre isn’t interested... yet. Figuring they must make some moves on their own first, G, Snoop and his cousin Nate Dogg start working on music together, presaging their later trio 213.

Snoop shoots up over six feet tall and graduates from selling candy to dealing crack. By senior year he rarely attends class and has joined the Rolling 20 Crips gang. Snoop later tells the UK Mail On Sunday that he got into gangbanging because he "had no money. If you wanted to get money, you got into drugs. You got into drugs, you got into guns. You don’t even think about it. That’s just your life.” In a particularly rebellious moment, Snoop arrives at homeroom smoking a fat blunt and is expelled. He shows up late for work and is fired. He is woken the next morning by the cops and is arrested, spending several weeks in juvie. His gang activities lead to drive-bys on his house, finally forcing his mother to kick him out. Snoop spends months sleeping in his car.

1988 to 1990
Snoop starts dating his future — and still current — wife Shanté. Eager to introduce her to his crew, he organises a party that turns out to be his debut as a rapper. While N.W.A. was selling millions with "Fuck Tha Police,” Snoop is content to rhyme about parties and getting high. Snoop will later recall hearing "the sound of clapping, and shouting and whistling and people calling out my name as loud as they could. I’d never heard a noise like that before, but I knew right then I wanted to hear it again, as much as I could, for as long as I could.” Snoop’s group 213 play Crip parties and develop a following, though their entry into the music business hits a roadblock when Snoop is busted slinging cocaine on the corner. Snoop gets out after six months, only to break probation within hours — he fails a drug test after a dentist pulls a tooth and prescribes codeine — and get thrown back in L.A. County jail to finish his sentence. Sensing talent, fellow Crips inside convince him to stop hustling and concentrate on a hip-hop career when he gets out.

Dr. Dre is running the gangsta rap scene, having produced monster hits for Eazy-E and N.W.A. as well as smaller acts like the D.O.C. and Above The Law. But as N.W.A falls victim to infighting, Dre abandons Ruthless Records to hook up with hulking ex-gangbanger Suge Knight and form Death Row records. He begins planning a solo album, but as he is a better beatmaker than MC, he needs a protégé to help on vocals.

Impressed by Snoop’s homemade demo — a freestyle over En Vogue’s "Hold On” — Dre finally sets up a meeting. Hired to write the theme for the Laurence Fishburne/Jeff Goldblum film Deep Cover, the G-funk single becomes Dre’s first solo effort and first recorded appearance of Snoop Doggy Dogg. Though too hardcore to climb the charts, that summer it becomes a street smash, largely thanks to Snoop’s star turn, especially his indelible hook, "It’s 1-8-7 on an undercover cop.” Though slang for murder, Snoop later tells Rolling Stone he avoided any post-"Cop Killer” controversy because "nobody in the white world knew what I was sayin’. But every real nigga in the hood knew exactly what I was sayin’.” That April, in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, L.A. is ripped apart by rioting that lasts for days and results in over 50 deaths. Snoop later claims he looted during the riots. It inspired Dre’s "The Day The Niggaz Took Over,” a jet-black track filled with gunshot percussion, dancehall accents and frightened news anchors — yet Snoop sounds as chill ever. On December 15, The Chronic hits the streets and its update on the P-Funk sound mainstreams gangsta rap, eventually reaching number two on the pop charts and landing the pair on the cover of Rolling Stone. "Nothing but a ‘G’ Thing” becomes a radio smash, is nominated for a Grammy and prompts school kids across the land to chant "bow-wow-wow yippie-yo, yippee-yay.” But despite The Chronic’s commercial success, very little money makes its way into Snoop’s pocket.

Dre takes his time working on Snoop’s debut, which also features Daz and Kurupt as Snoop’s crew "Tha Dogg Pound," in hopes of creating "the future of funk” and perhaps even craft a "perfect” hip-hop album. It is recorded in numerous studios across L.A. because they keep getting booted when fights break out between Suge’s Blood gangbanger buddies and Snoop’s Crip friends. On August 25, Snoop and his bodyguard McKinley Lee get in a confrontation with Ethiopian immigrant Philip Woldemariam, a gangmember who had earlier pulled a gat on Snoop at a video shoot. As Woldemariam reaches for his gun, he’s shot twice by Lee, who had only started packing a couple days earlier at Suge’s insistence. Though the pair eventually call 911, they flee the scene and stay on the lam for a week, finally turning themselves in following a performance at the MTV Awards. Both are charged with murder and manslaughter and released on $1 million bail. Snoop’s cousin (yes he has a lot of them) Sean Dogg is also arrested, but having hired Johnnie Cochrane, gets the charges dropped before standing trial. In November, a week or so after Shante tells Snoop she’s pregnant with their first child, he gives birth to Doggystyle. It becomes the first debut to ever land at number one on the Billboard pop charts, selling 800,000 copies in its first week. Singles like George Clinton-sampling "Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” and "Gin and Juice” (later remade as a country song by the Gourds) become instant classics and the album sells over six million copies. At least some of this success can be attributed to Suge using Snoop’s murder charge as a marketing tool. The media-stoked controversy will eventually cause Time Warner to drop its affiliation with Death Row.

After a crew of Bloods crash the video shoot for "Gin and Juice,” Snoop packs up his wife, mother and brothers and moves out of the ‘hood. He also releases Murder Was the Case, a Dre-helmed soundtrack to a short film that capitalises on Snoop’s legal troubles, much to the rapper’s chagrin. "I didn’t exactly feature being on the cover of an album called Murder Was The Case when a charge of murder was what I was dealing with in real life.” The single "What Would U Do” is nominated for a Grammy.

Snoop spends the year under house arrest, tethered to an electronic monitoring device and prepping for his court case, which finally kicks off late in the year. Meanwhile, conservative culture critics like C. Delores Tucker cite Snoop while testifying before in Congress as part of their war against gangsta rap.

After being in legal limbo for nearly two years, on February 20 the jury acquits the pair on murder charges and deadlocks on the rest. Prosecutors go home empty-handed while Snoop goes home with the jurors to party. "This is the best day of my life since leaving Vietnam,” father Varnado tells Newsweek at the time. "I am going to make sure my boy stays out of trouble, and only makes noise in the studio.” But this will prove difficult since Suge paid for his legal team, putting Snoop deeper in his debt. Death Row is in turmoil. Tupac signs after Suge pays his bail, leading to the ten-million-selling double-album All Eyez on Me. Though Snoop raps on the album — and gets roped into the East-West rap war when Tupac convinces him to collaborate on the Biggie-baiting video for "2 of Americaz Most Wanted” — its unprecedented success means he is no longer the label’s top dog. Meanwhile, the good doctor quits over a contract dispute and concern the gangsta rap label is taking the gangsta part too seriously. He launches his own label Aftermath Records. Snoop finally releases his second album Tha Doggfather. But without Dre around, production is handled by Daz, Snoop and DJ Pooh. It sells a couple million but has little lasting impact. Snoop and Tupac have a falling out after Snoop praises Biggie’s talent in a radio interview. The next time he sees ‘Pac is in hospital. On September 7, while driving down the Las Vegas strip with Suge Knight beside him, Tupac is shot down by a member of the Crips. The fight that precipitated the drive-by also breaks Suge’s parole. He goes back up the river and faces further racketeering charges. Death Row Records essentially collapses.

Snoop spends the summer winning over alt-rock fans while touring with Lollapalooza as the token rap act. He finally marries high school sweetheart Shanté.

After waiting out his Death Row contract, and testing his fans’ patience, Snoop finally flees to the safety of Master P’s No Limit, down in Baton Rouge. He shortens his name to Snoop Dogg and releases two disappointingly lacklustre albums: Da Game is to Be Sold, Not To Be Told and No Limit Top Dogg, though the latter features a brief reunion with Dre, Warren G and Nate Dogg.

Snoop rehabilitates his rap rep on Dre’s Chronic follow-up 2001, dominating the smash "Tha Next Episode” and killing the classic "Still D.R.E.”

Snoop releases The Last Meal, his swan song for No Limit while Death Row cobbles together an ominously titled outtakes album called Dead Man Walking. On the intro to "What's My Name (Part 2)” he says "Fo shizzle” and popularises the suffix-based slang, which permeates pop culture and leads to a translation website called Gizoogle that translates any sentence into Snoop speak. The Last Meal also marks Snoop’s transition from a gansta persona to that of a pimp and he follows it with Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle his debut as a porn director, which mixes hip-hop and fucking. It becomes the year’s best-selling porno, winning a pair of AVN awards, including best soundtrack. He also launches Doggystyle Records.

Snoops breaks into Hollywood, starring with Dr. Dre in the blaxpoloitation remake The Wash, the unintentionally hilarious hip-hop horror flick Bones and nailing an acclaimed supporting role as a wheelchair-bound crack dealer alongside Denzel Washington in Training Day.

Turning 30 and becoming his son’s football coach leads Snoop to briefly quit smoking weed. A nation disbelieves him. His comeback album Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ features his massive collab with Pharell Williams, "Beautiful” as well as "Pimp Slapp'd" which boldly calls his former boss Suge "a bitch and that's on my life.”

Snoop gets further away from music as he proves his comedic chops on the short-lived MTV sketch comedy series, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle. He also later claims to have moonlighted as an actual pimp, telling Rolling Stone: "That shit was my natural calling. Once I got involved with it, it became fun. It was like shootin' lay-ups for me. I was makin’ ’em every time. I had a bitch on every exit from the 10 Freeway to the 101 Freeway.”

Snoop, G and Nate release the 213 album The Hard Way, and land a forgettable hit with "Groupie Luv.” Snoop files for divorce from his wife, though he and Shanté later reunite. Snoop also releases the hyperbolically-titled R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, which nonetheless does boast one masterpiece, the Grammy-winning classic "Drop It Like It's Hot," on which Snoop drops Crip rhymes over a minimalist Neptunes beat built of clicks and aerosol sprays. It becomes the rapper’s first number one; his pop ascendance is further aided by a Justin Timberlake duet on "Signs." He also drops the mixtape compilation Welcome to tha Chuuch: Da Album. Snoop is becoming omnipresent, appearing on The View, taking guest roles on The L Word and (naturally) Weeds and starring as Huggy Bear in the Starsky & Hutch remake and as a pilot on Soul Plane.

Snoop is accused of sexual assault by Emmy-winning makeup artist Kylie Bell, who claims the rapper raped her backstage of The Jimmy Kimmel Show when he co-hosted the show’s inaugural week, and seeks $25 million. Snoop counter-sues for extortion and the charges are dropped before going in front of a judge. He also hosts a beef-squashing rap summit because "It ain't always cool to be gangsta to your homeboys" and launches the "Snoop Youth” Football League.

In the hilariously headlined Rolling Stone article: "Snoop Pisses Off Suge On Our Pages, We Cower in Fear,” the rapper boasts: "I stepped to him [four years ago] at the BET Awards with my n--s, and he [Knight] was more scared than a motherfucker. That was the scenario when n--s knew the balance had shifted. That's when everybody felt like the floodgates was open on Suge. Snoop dissed him in public, and he didn't do nothing.” Suge replies by telling the NY Post that "Snoop is a rat. He's a police informer. This is the only guy who never goes to jail no matter what. I don't like rats.” In April, after some of Snoop’s posse is denied entry to Heathrow VIP lounge while awaiting their flight to South Africa for a gig, a brawl breaks out. An airport employee tells the Guardian, "There were all these huge 20-stone men smashing up display cabinets and throwing people around. I saw Snoop Dogg on the ground with four riot police trying to put him in handcuffs.” Despite the fact that seven officers are injured, most media coverage consists of jokes about how Snoop could be headed for the pound — CNN gets creative by changing Scotland Yard to "Scotland Yizzle” — but instead he is banned from the UK. Footage later surfaces that indicates the fracas began when an unprovoked police officer shoved first. In early 2008, Snoop reveals the ban has been lifted during an interview with Larry King. His airport issues will continue throughout the year: he’s arrested in September when a collapsible baton is found in his carry-on, and again in October when police stop him for parking in a loading zone at Bob Hope Airport and find a gun and weed. It’s not all arrests, though. Snoop also releases Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, which debuts at number 5, features such guest crooners as Stevie Wonder and R Kelly, the return of Dre, the hardcore hit "Vato” and number one single "I Wanna Love You." Snoop supplements his musical income by becoming a spokesperson, hawking everything from gum and cell phones to Burger King, culminating in an infamously odd commercial with former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca.

Snoop is sentenced to five years probation on gun and drug charges. During his European vacation, Snoop performs at the Live Earth concert in Hamburg, tours Scandinavia with Diddy and is arrested by Swedish police for pot. He also gets barred from Australia — yes, a nation founded by convicts — for failing a "character test.” "He doesn't seem the sort of bloke we want in this country,” Australia’s immigration minister tells the press. Oprah agrees and has a show on misogyny in hip-hop that slams Snoop without inviting him on-air to defend himself. Snoop becomes a reality TV star with the launch of his hit, family-fuelled series Father Hood on E!, which features heart-warming at-home scenes and celebrity cameos, like when Snoop’s friend-slash-fan David Beckham teaches his kids to play soccer. Forbes magazine estimates Snoop rakes in about $17 million annually, making him the 7th highest-paid rapper. Part of that money is clearly from guest spots as his liquid drawl appears on tracks from Mariah Carey and the Pussycat Dolls to Akon.

On the heels of the hit viral video for the vocodor-assisted "Sexual Seduction” — also known as "Sexual Eruption” on the dirty version — he releases Ego Trippin’. Produced by New Jack Swing refugee Teddy Riley, DJ Quick and Snoop himself, it is his most creative album in some time, with digressions such as country track called "Johnny Cash” and a sung cover of the Time’s "Cool." It also features the street single "Neva Have 2 Worry,” on which Snoop reminisces about his past. "I done made some mistakes long the way/to become the G I am today/Who'd ever thought I'd make it this far, out the hood to be a big star/and I ain't going nowhere, only I ain't ever comin' down/I'm too high in the cloud to ever have to worry 'bout dat.” Speaking of, he’s busted for smoking pot. Again.