Solo Albums: Doggystyle (1993), Tha Doggfather (1996), Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998), No Limit Top Dogg (1999)
Group Albums: N/A
Biggest Hits: "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" with Dr. Dre (1992), "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" with Dr. Dre (1993), "What's My Name?" (1993), "Gin and Juice" (1993), "Still A G Thang" (1998)
When he started to appear on MTV, it was a revelation, something like seeing a ghost—or something even more than, something that would made you blink and rub your eyes and think to yourself, "Did I really just see that?" Because this kid with the funny name that rolled off the tongue—Snoop Doggy Dogg, as he was known then—with the slender face that could flip go from the most gangsta mean-mug to the most charming, harmlessly mischievous slick-kid smirk, and back, so seemingly effortlessly?
He was notoriously camera-shy. Which gave him the rare quality so many of the stars of today lack: Mystique, a real sense of it. But then, you heard him rap, and everything changed. Maybe it was that lackadaisical, Slick Rick-esque croon, a silky smooth timbre to his voice, a natural melodicism that blurred the line between talking and singing like nothing anything you'd heard before, a voice that ran counter to everything you knew about the typically husky tenor of West Coast gangsta rap or the I'mma-get-mine brusqueness of East Coast boom-bap. Maybe it was the laid back, fuck-outta-here attitude towards the world that felt far more detached, far less invested in that daily gang-life thug shit. Snoop was just far coolerthan anyone who'd come before him, and yet, he could flash menacing when the situation demanded.
Snoop was just far cooler than anyone who'd come before him, and yet, he could flash menacing when the situation demanded.
Whatever the case, when you heard the opening notes of Dr. Dre's gangsta rap masterpiece, The Chronic, you knew, definitively, that Snoop was something different. The way he absolutely decimated Eazy-E and MC Ren, dominating the track in full monologue, switching voices, going from cruel to hysterical and threatening and back again: It was, for that time, otherworldly.
It was the new sound of gangsta rap, where to be young and clever wasn't great enough when there was Snoop, who was young, clever, and in possession of what was clearly an intellect as razor-sharp and creative as his wit. Throughout The Chronic, Snoop acts less as a Robin to Dre's Batman, and more a Kobe to his Shaq, the Tom Hagen to Dre's Michael Corleone. Where Dre's musical might blocked out the lane, it was Snoop who could drive the rhymes home (which is to say nothing of the obvious, that he was the driving lyrical force behind The Chronic as well). From "Fuck wit Dre Day" to "Let Me Ride" to "Nothin But a G Thang" to "Deeez Nuuuts" to "Bitches Ain't Shit," Snoop was instrumental in the album's greatness and so much of the reason it remains so crucial today.
And thus the stage was set for his solo debut, 1993's Doggystyle. Forget the distinctive, cartoon-drawn cover, or the awesome videos (wherein, forced to take the spotlight, Snoop finally started to own his charisma in front of the camera.) "Gin and Juice," an instantly ubiquitous party starer. "Lodi Dodi," one of the greatest callbacks to another great rap song that has ever been rapped. (And a refreshingly explicit acknowledgment of the debt he so obviously owed to Slick Rick as a lyricist). If the world didn't know who he was before, everyone, even your parents, knew about the rapper with the alliterative name after "What's My Name."
And then there was "Murder Was The Case," a stunning, ambitious story-rap about a deal with the devil, and consequent death. The song would grow in legend when—in what is indisputably one of the most memorable moments in MTV's history—Snoop performed it at the 1994 VMAs, while there was a warrant out for his arrest, proclaiming at the end of the song "I'm innocent. I'm in-no-cent," and, indeed, be arrested as he left the show. Rarely had pop culture seen a star of Snoop's magnitude, at the time of their rise, on trial for murder. But that was Snoop, nothing short of the real deal, a shot across the social consciousness about the legitimacy of the words in gangsta rap (and an even louder one when he was acquitted of the crime).
In what is indisputably one of the most memorable moments in MTV's history—Snoop performed "Murder Was The Case" at the 1994 VMAs, while there was a warrant out for his arrest, proclaiming at the end of the song "I'm innocent. I'm in-no-cent," and, indeed, be arrested as he left the show. Rarely had pop culture seen a star of Snoop's magnitude, at the time of their rise, on trial for murder.
The second half of the '90s wasn't so great for Snoop. As the atmosphere around Death Row Records got darker and uglier, Snoop—who'd already had his fair share of trouble—could only get so involved in what was happening. (And better for him.) In 1998, he finally officially split from the label, and, with the help of Master P, made his way to the New Orleans-based No Limit Records. And about that transition: Not many decidedly West Coast Rappers will ever make as oddly seamless a transition to a Southern Rap aesthetic as Snoop did. (His two '90s No Limit-era albums peaked at #1 and #2 on the charts, respectively).
The end of the '90s had Snoop and Dre reuniting at last. With the question standing: a referendum on their legacies: Were they just a product of the early '90s, of the precipitous rise of crossover gangsta rap? And now that crossover rap had dominated the sound of the day, could these two still take charge of the charts and prove that their talent transcended whatever was going on in music at any given moment?
While they'd worked together a bit on Snoop's No Limit Top Dogg (with Dre guesting on a few tracks and taking production duties on album standout "Bitch Please"), it took exactly one song from their fully reunited efforts, the first song we'd hear from Dre's return to form, 2001, to know the answer.
In "Still D.R.E." the truth of the matter was made clear, the same that it ever was: Snoop would far outlast his multiple brushes with figurative and literal death. Best told via a platform provided by Dr. Dre, yes, he really was that rapper, his talent and contributions to the form, and to the decade's cultural legacy as a whole, remained indisputably, unquestionably intact. It's the cadence, it's the melodic delivery, it's the quick wit and the humor and the hilarity and the sense of menacing. It's the buttery staccato, the juke-and-run flow. It's the braids. It's the face. It's the ideas and the story telling. It's everything. It really was just a Doggy Dogg world, and we're just living in it. —Foster Kamer