Snoop Dogg ~ DoggyStyle (1993)

Posted on August 18, 2012

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November 23, 1993. That date still rings clear as a bell. This was the date when, after several months of suspense, Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, and Death Row Records launched their second consecutive cruise missile on Hip Hop: Snoop Dogg’s debut album DoggyStyle.

The story of Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus) is fairly well known to most true-school enthusiasts. Born and raised on the Eastside of Long Beach, California, Snoop gravitated to rap as an adolescent; studying the mic techniques of New York icons like Melle Mel and Jimmy Spicer. As he matured, Snoop befriended fellow Long Beach natives Nate Dogg and Warren G, and split his time between running with his neighborhood set (the Rollin 20’s Crips), and recording underground tapes with Nate and Warren, as a trio known as 213. In 1991, at a bachelor party for a friend, Warren G played one of 213’s tapes for his step-brother, West Coast rap legend Dr. Dre, who was entranced by Snoop’s style, and offered him a contract with Dre’s then-new label Death Row. In early 1992, Snoop entered the rap game with authority, through a magnetic performance on Dr. Dre’s debut single “Deep Cover”. With his distinctively smooth delivery and super-cool demeanor, Snoop Dogg seemed destined for stardom; and his scene-stealing spots on Dre’s landmark, multi-platinum ’92 album The Chronic had rap fans everywhere waiting impatiently for Snoop’s solo debut. For much of 1993, Snoop and Dre split time between touring to support Dre’s enormously popular full-length, and recording Snoop’s own album; and that same year, just days before Thanksgiving, Snoop and Dre gave the public something historic to savor: Snoop’s timeless debut DoggyStyle.

As an album, DoggyStyle is like a lighter, free-flowing version of The Chronic. Whereas The Chronic was couched in lowrider sludge funk, with tracks that mostly moved at similar beats per minute, DoggyStyle has breezy melodies, along with tempo and mood changes, that give it more rhythmic diversity. There are two traits this album does share with The Chronic, though: its splendid synthesizer grooves, and the astonishing symmetry of its tracks. As you’d typically find on Dr. Dre related albums, even the skits on this album are engaging, and it begins with a perfect case in point: “Bathtub”, the album’s fade-in, where Snoop Dogg and his friends (including Warren G on co-lead) re-enact scenes from the blaxploitation film Super Fly, over the intro to Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love”, from the Super Fly soundtrack. “Bathtub” then gives way to “G Funk Intro”, the album’s official jump off, where Death Row’s mic mistress The Lady of Rage murders a Funkadelic interpolation in two and a half minutes. “Gin And Juice” is up next; a slinky jam set to rum-soaked chords, a drum loop of George McCrae’s “I Get Lifted”, and a chorus reworking of Slave’s “Watching You”, where Snoop recounts a day of smoking, spirits, and debauchery, and a house party that runs from dusk till dawn. The next several selections are superb and skip-proof, starting with “Tha Shiznit”, an air-tight number where Snoop flows divinely, his Long Beach homie Nate Dogg scat-bops on the chorus, and Dr. Dre concocts a jazzy swing groove that may be one of the best tracks he’s ever made. “Lodi Dodi” is a “G” rated update of the Slick Rick – Doug E Fresh classic “La Di Da Di”, where Snoop pays tribute to his idol Rick the Ruler, over a crisp Dr. Dre track that crawls like a centipede. On “Murder Was The Case”, Snoop channels his idol’s fabling abilities, through a spiraling story that begins with Snoop’s homicide, moves on to Snoop making a pact with the Devil (voiced by Daz Dillinger, of Tha Dogg Pound), and ends with Snoop paying for his unholy covenant, through a hellish stay in a maximum security prison. And on the psychotic “Serial Killa”, Snoop spits macabre metaphors with Daz Dillinger and Kurupt the Kingpin (also of Tha Dogg Pound), and his bass-voiced cousin RBX, while The DOC chants like a ghoulish Cryptkeeper, and a female death angel coos in the background.

As the second half of DoggyStyle begins, Snoop Dogg brings back the good vibes. “Who Am I (What’s My Name)” revisits the Funkadelic well, utilizing the melody from Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” – also used on both the “G-Funk Intro” and Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day” – and gives it a face-lift; smoothing it out, and blending it with lush synths, and vocals and rhythm shuffles inspired by George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog”, which Snoop uses to coast in the most cavalier manner possible, and make one of the most jubilant rap songs of the 1990’s. The Lady of Rage and Tha Dogg Pound go for theirs on “For All My Niggaz & Bitches”, with Rage, Daz, and Kurupt taking turns smashing while Snoop rides shotgun on the chorus. The drunken orgy anthem “Ain’t No Fun” is as enjoyable and obnoxious as it’s ever been, with Snoop, Kurupt, Nate Dogg and Warren G pulling guilt-free stick and moves on pigeons, over a whirling R&B groove from Dr. Dre that could fill any dance floor. The head nodding “Doggy Dogg World” unites Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound with soul legends The Dramatics, for a slick zone-out session set to a silky, after-hours instrumental from Dr. Dre. Snoop is in rare form on “G’z And Hustlas”; spitting with a force and vigor rap fans would not hear again for several years, atop a thundering Cadillac backdrop from Dre. “G’z Up, Hoes Down” is a liquid thumper only included on early pressings of DoggyStyle, where Snoop sips from his pimp cup for a few ticks, while Nate Dogg croons the chorus, and Dr. Dre re-tools a sample of Isaac Hayes’ “The Look Of Love”. And DoggyStyle closes out in grand fashion, with Snoop and teen mic wrecker Lil Malik a.k.a. Mr. Malik – of the duo Illegal – playing cloak-and-dagger, on the rudeboy closer “Pump Pump”.

Snoop Dogg had a tall order to fill with this album, and he most certainly did. Before this set was released, there were questions as to whether Snoop could carry an album on his own, and Snoop proved these doubts to be unfounded. His basic song structures, infectious hooks, syrupy drawl, and megawatts of charisma were all he needed to do the job. It also didn’t hurt that he had a astonishingly fluid rhyme flow; perhaps one of the greatest of any emcee ever born.

And though Snoop Dogg’s name is first on the marquee, Dr. Dre deserves equal billing here. This album owes much of its cohesion to Dre’s production skills. Since his N.W.A. days, Dr. Dre has been known for his complete-package albums, where every track fits perfectly into the overall framework, and DoggyStyle is no different. Dre also does an excellent job varying the tempos and moods. Wherever Snoop goes lyrically, Dre’s soundscapes follow him. And, frankly, Dre’s instrumentals on this album are spectacular. Whether it’s the next dimension creep on “Murder Was The Case”, the graveyard stomp on “Serial Killa”, or the Times Square bounce on “For All My Niggaz & Bitches”, Dre’s tracks are wide-ranging, and strictly top-shelf.

DoggyStyle holds a special place in both Hip Hop history, and pop music lore. In its day, the album was so heavily anticipated that record stores across the United States opened at midnight on its release date, to service throngs of record buyers lined up outside their doors waiting to purchase it. The album managed to achieve the impossible: be hotly anticipated, and actually live up to its hype. It sold more than 800,000 copies in its first week, spawned gold [“Who Am I (What’s My Name)”] and platinum (“Gin And Juice”) singles, and was certified quadruple platinum within six months of its release. Snoop Dogg was prevented from doing a victory lap over this album, due to personal dramas that stemmed from both this release, and his growing celebrity. In August of 1993, three months before DoggyStyle dropped, Snoop and his bodyguard McKinley Lee were arrested in the shooting death of Phillip Woldermarian, a gang member that regularly accosted Snoop in the streets of Hollywood, and who threatened Snoop at gunpoint on the day of the shooting. While facing murder charges in a Los Angeles courtroom, Snoop also grappled with the morality police over the content of his music; most notably C. Delores Tucker, a Civil Rights activist that would wage a crusade against Snoop, his labelmates 2Pac and Tha Dogg Pound, and Death Row Records for many years.

In time, the period surrounding DoggyStyle would be looked upon as both a watershed point in Snoop Dogg’s life, and the creative zenith of his music career. In February of 1996, both he and his bodyguard would be acquitted in the Woldermarian murder trial; but, just one month later, while savoring his freedom, Snoop faced the sudden separation with his mentor Dr. Dre, who left Death Row that March due to the label’s violent atmosphere. Though Snoop himself would part ways with Death Row in 1997, he continued to enjoy solo success; with the New Orleans-based No Limit Records, and his own imprint DoggyStyle Records. Snoop has continued to bask in platinum prestige through the early millennium, but to date, DoggyStyle remains his crowning achievement. It showcases one of rap’s most charismatic artists in his finest hour; it still bangs like a kettledrum, nearly 20 years after its release; and it may continue to do so, until the end of time.

To listen to DoggyStyle, click here.

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