Where To Start With... Snoop Dogg
Ah, Snoop. Where to start indeed? Since his debut album Doggystyle dropped in 1993, the weed-loving rapper from Long Beach, California has spent the last two decades carving out a pretty unique career for himself – and not just as a recording artist. On top of releasing 12 studio albums, several compilations and numerous mixtapes, he's also produced his own sketch show for MTV, starred in his own reality TV show and even produced his own porno film for Hustler. As if that wasn't enough, he's also been a pimp, and we're not talking about his role as Huggy Bear in the remake of Starsky & Hutch here; unlike many of the hip-hop artists that emerged from the west coast's 'gangsta rap' scene on a prerequisite of exaggeration and braggadocio, Snoop was an actual, honest-to-God, selling-girls-on-the-streets pimp, for real. We'll give you a minute to let that sink in...
As you might imagine, Snoop's antics over the years have made him something of a dangerous figure in the eyes of the establishment, and if proof were needed you only need look as far as this year's SXSW festival, where a Texas police officer was reprimanded and forced to attend counselling sessions just for having his picture taken with the rapper.
However, despite his reputation and his penchant for lyrics that have seen him accused of everything from misogyny to inciting violence, Snoop is a very savvy individual and nobody has ridden the wave of hip-hop's transition from countercultural phenomenon to platinum-selling mainstream genre with quite as much skill and ease as Snoop. As the genre has changed and evolved, so has Snoop's music, taking in everything from funk, soul, R&B, pop and even reggae, as evident from Snoop's last full-length outing, Reincarnated, when Snoop became a member of the Rastafari movement ans changed his name to Snoop Lion.
Now though he's back under the Snoop Dogg moniker and for his new album, Bush, he's teamed up with Pharrell Williams and brought in a range of big names from the R&B scene that includes the Gap Band's lead vocalist Charlie Wilson and Motown legend Stevie Wonder, which gives you an idea of the direction Snoop is now heading in. The tracks released so far include his collaboration with Wilson, the smooth funk of 'Peaches N Cream', as well as 'California Roll', featuring Stevie Wonder's distinctive voice and harmonica. Along with the tracks like the disco-tinged 'So Many Pros', these songs offer a glimpse of what is a pretty eclectic album, with further guest slots for Gwen Stefani, Pharrell's former Neptunes partner Chad Hugo and funk legend George Clinton.
You'll be able to get your hands on Snoop's 13th album when it drops onto the shelves next week (May 11th) and you can watch the video for 'Peaches N Cream' below, but in the meantime we've picked out five highlights from Snoops 22-year career in the rap game for anyone who needs a beginner's guide to the rapper's extensive back catalogue. Strap yourselves in and light 'em up if you got 'em...
'Gin & Juice'
Snoop's career began as the result of him being discovered by N.W.A.'s head honcho Dr. Dre and the partnership between the pair has been an enduring one, but it all began with 1993's Doggystyle and of all the tracks on Snoop's brilliant debut it's 'Gin & Juice' that really stands out. Still a regular feature of his live sets and always a crowd pleaser, this track is pure G-funk and it still stands up among the rapper's best output.
'Drop It Like It's Hot'
One of Snoop's biggest hits came as the result of an earlier collaboration with Pharrell, which will be encouraging to anyone looking forward to the new record. With it's minimal beats and a hook that's more catching than the flu, 'Drop It Like It's Hot' is one of the best things the rapper has been involved with.
If you needed another reason to be excited about the arrival of Bush, there's another cut from 2004's R&G that should whet your appetite, this time featuring both Pharrell and Charlie Wilson, a partnership that is revisited on the new LP. The Neptunes were at the peak of their powers when 'Signs' dropped and the track just oozes with that slick, funky vibe that made Pharrell & Chad the hottest production team around. Throw in Snoop's trademark laid-back flow and some infectious falsetto vocals from Pharrell and we're in solid gold hits territory.
Taken from 2008's Ego Trippin', 'My Medicine' is the product of an unlikely partnership with House of Pain's Everlast and country legend Willie Nelson. The result is something very different from what you might expect from the Snoop Dogg, but if nothing else it's a great example of the diversity in Snoop's music.
Lifted from Snoop's 2006 album Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, this collaboration with Dr. Dre and D'Angelo is one of the album's more mellow tracks, propelled by piano & string samples and a sparse beat, but it's also one of the record's standout moments. Though it wasn't one the singles released from the album, 'Imagine has graduated from album track to a full-on fan favourite.