By Jackson Howard, Daily Hip-Hop Columnist
Published October 24, 2013
Snoop Dogg may be known for his acting roles, various product endorsements, hilarious lingo and jaw-dropping marijuana intake, but once upon a time — 20 years ago as of next month — the rapper then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg changed hip hop with his debut album Doggystyle. The significance of Doggystyle on Snoop Dogg’s career, West Coast gangsta rap, Dr. Dre and hip hop as a musical genre, among other things, is momentous.
More like this
Before he was Snoop, Calvin Broadus was a 22-year-old, drug-dealing Crip from Long Beach, Calif. However, upon being discovered by Dr. Dre and placed on the now-legendary track “Deep Cover,” Snoop’s nasally voice, complex flow and undeniable swagger had the hip-hop world buzzing. His hype only increased with his show-stopping performances on Dre’s classic album The Chronic, where he appeared on many of the album’s songs and ghostwrote most of Dre’s raps. Coming into 1993, the anticipation for Doggystyle was unbelievably high.
The album carried over Dre’s signature G-funk sound from The Chronic, drawing influences from funk bands such as Funkadelic, Parliament and Zapp & Roger, as well as finding inspiration in West Coast Los Angeles culture, full of women, weed and weather. By working only with Dr. Dre on the project, Snoop established a cohesive sound that is still uncommon in hip hop. This cohesive sound, though, didn’t only depend on Dre. Working on his first record, Snoop had the ability to really collaborate with anyone he wanted and used that freedom to bring in the only people he knew. Daz, Kurupt, Nanci Fletcher, RBX, Jewell, Lady of Rage, Warren G and Nate Dogg — all long-time friends of Snoop — joined forces in a completely natural way to form Doggystyle. This myriad of guests not only gave the album its unique sound, but also challenged Snoop lyrically. Artists like Kurupt and Lady of Rage especially were renowned lyrical assassins, and some of the best verses of Snoop’s career come on songs where he trades bars with them.
OK, you get it; this was an important album, Dr. Dre did some cool stuff on it and Snoop became famous, whatever. But why is Doggystyle still considered by many as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time and one of the best albums released in the 1990s? Why, though his career took off, hadn’t Snoop ever made an album this good? Why can’t I just write entire columns full of rhetorical questions (I so would if I could)?
Let’s start with a couple songs. “Gin and Juice” might have one of the most memorable choruses in rap history: “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice / laid back / with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” “Gin and Juice” is a view into Snoop’s ideal house party, filled with Seagram’s gin, ladies from Long Beach and Compton and “some bubonic chronic that made me choke.” Doggystyle is full of gems like this — the smash single “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” is classic G-funk, while “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” features maybe the best Nate Dogg verse of all time. Dre’s UFO synths, funky bass and thumping drums created the perfect soundscape for Snoop’s syncopated, rhythmic flow.
For all its party music, however, Doggystyle is still known for its incredible lyricism. Kurupt absolutely slayed every song he jumped on. Take “Serial Killa”: “It’s time to escape, but I don’t know where the fuck I’m headed / Up or down, right of left, life or death / I see myself in a mist of smoke / Death becomes any nigga that takes me for a joke,” he spits on the song’s first verse.
The lyrics are explicit, violent and sexist, and Snoop received his fair share of criticism for the album’s content. Even today, the lyrics of some songs are tough to read out loud, as they celebrate a society in which women are simply objects utilized for whatever a man wants in the moment.