Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Snoop Dogg Reimagined Discography For White Folks Who Falsely Believe Rap Peaked In The Early 90s, 1: Leaving Death Row
While I'm not one of the White Folks Who Think Rap Peaked In The 90s from the title of this post, I'm not an expert on rap. Apart from The Chronic and Doggystyle, which I must have listened to hundreds of times in their entirety, most of my knowledge of rap came from what was played on MTV or the radio.
I was having a conversation with someone in the early 2000s about NWA, and said person remarked that I "seem(ed) pretty knowledgable about 80s and 90s rap but probably wasn't, actually." And they were completely correct. So I bought more albums and actually sat down and listened to them. It didn't make me a scholar on the subject, or even a knowledgable source. It made me a bigger fan.
So I don't present this as some sort of Here Is A Historically Accurate Document About A Genre Of Music I Am An Officianado Of. This is a Hey, I Like This Artist And If You Want To Experience What I Enjoy From This Artist, Here's A List Of Songs I Like That I Think You Might Enjoy Too. And I've included some historical context but mainly context for why/how I, personally, approached it. If you like these songs, you should go buy the albums they're from, and check out the artists who've influenced the songs (I've included a majority of the artists sampled here).
1. If you came to rap in the early 90s, it was probably through Dr. Dre's The Chronic. The singles from that album were everywhere. MTV was like "Hey, we have moved on from the beatboxing pop and realize now that LL Cool J isn't exactly underground. Check out these songs." Dr. Dre was one of the best producers in any genre of music during the early 90s, and his samples and arrangements are inescapably catchy. And as such, his album ruled Billboard for eight months.
While not one of the singles from the album, Lil' Ghetto Boy, establishes early Snoop's style perfectly, and even drops the "Murder was the case that they gave me" line that became one of his most popular singles later on. And, yea, the second verse is Dre. But these two were inseperable in '91 to '93. This was the track that made me track down Donny Hathaway. If you're not familiar with his music, you should go check that out. There's also some gorgeous trilling flute over a Rodney Franklin riff. That's such a deeper sample cut than the James Brown's "Funky Drummer" sample that was so prevelant in the late 80s.
2. If you only know Snoop from his singles, here's the first song you might know the words to, and feel safe singing mostly along to. It's Gin & Juice from Snoop's solo debut, Doggystyle. There were certainly a ton of white boys where I was from singing "Rolling down the street, smoking indo, sipping on gin and juice" who not only didn't know what "indo" was, but also would gag on any cocktail of Tanqueray and juice. They also definitely had never busted a nut within a hundred yards of anything but their hand and box of tissues. Whether or not I fit into all of these categories, I can not remember.
The samples on this track led me to George McCrae, who reminded me of Bill Withers who I only knew from "Ain't No Sunshine" until getting McCrae's album inspired me to get Withers's Greatest Hits. I did not catch on to Slave until I heard their song "Walking down the street watching ladies watching you." in a store, and was like "Dafuck? Who is this? I need this album."
3. Gz and Hustlas is the first full on braggadocio on this mix. I blow up your mouth like I was Dizzy Gillespie is far and away the best line. But this track is all about Snoop's rhythmic delivery over that Bernard Wright track. Also, the debut of Bow Wow on the intro. This could have easily been the fourth single from Doggystyle.
4. I don't know anyone who was listening to music in 1993 who didn't at least know the chorus to Who Am I? (What's My Name?) even if they didn't know the title of the song. It was omnipresent in pop culture. Your whitest of white and out of touchiest teacher knew Snoop's stage name at this point. This is also the first track where Snoop completely outclasses the song he's homaging. George is, by far, my favorite Clinton. I've seen him live twice. "Atomic Dog" is nowhere near my favorite track he's worked on, even though it is incredibly catchy. Snoop elevated The Hell out of it here. ("Give Up The Funk", the other Clinton song sampled is A Classic, and if you haven't heard it before, I question if you've ever been outisde your house or consumed any sort of media.)
It's tough to recognize The Counts sample by casually listening to this song, but I highly recommend them if you need some instrumental funk tracks to listen to in the background while you're trying to be creative.
5. I'm not going to make a "going to the dogs reference", but Snoop's post-Doggystyle career wasn't so glamorous for the rest of the 90s. Disputes with Death Row Records led to some unauthorized album releases by Suge Knight and they included some tracks that Snoop probably wasn't so proud of. So for his second release on No Limit records, he went back to work with Dr. Dre. It's still not at the level of The Chronic or Doggystyle, but No Limit Topp Dogg has a few head boppable tracks. Snoopafella is practically a cover of Dana Dane's "Cinderfella". Aparr from some updated references, the song's journey, chorus, and beat are nearly identical. But in 1999, I'd never heard of Dana Dane, so this song about being a male Cinderella sounded new and interesting to me.
6. If you have a friend who still uses the suffixes "-izzle" "-iznit", please slap them once across the face and tell them to stop. Even Snoop, who is responsible for bringing that vernacular into pop culture stopped doing it two decades ago. The Shiznit is mostly recycling lines and concepts from The Chronic and the hits from Doggystyle (the album "The Shiznit" is from). But it works for me. Probably because it's more George Clinton samply. Here, it's "Flashlight", another song that I feel has permeated pop culture enough that most everyone has heard it, even if they don't know what it's called or who it's by. But as a child of the late 80s, the sampe of Billy Joel's "The Stranger" is probably what grabbed me, even though I definitely wouldn't have been able to identify it the first few dozen times I heard it. There's also a sample from Sons Of Champlin's "You Can Fly", a band I still need to better familairize myself with.
7. Lodi Dodi led me to check out Slick Rick, who is not my favorite rapper, despite his incredible influence over the genre. I much prefer Snoop's version of the song, though it would be great if there was some Doug E Fresh on it.
There is no way to honestly listen to Snoop's output without getting a ton of misogyny. I've tried to steer around it as much as possible. But you can't experience 90s Snoop without "bitches and hoes" and women as objects. He was 19 when his rap career took off, and 19 year olds in the early 90s weren't bastions of progressiveness. You'll find a lot less of this as the discography evolves into the 21st century. I note it here (this is hardly the first song on this fictional album that has a problematic view of women) because I briefly mentioned that Slick Rick not being my favorite rapper. For Snoop, his misogyny was part of his image. As were his 90s gangsta persona, his relationship to violence and murder, and his celebration of the tamest illegal drug in America. My only experiences with Slick Rick songs center around how women need to satisfy him. It was his entire image. I don't care if he's considered The First Real Storyteller In Rap. It gets real old, real fast. It got old when I was 18 and experiencing his music for the first time, and it certainly didn't age well since then. Snoop's lyrics haven't really aged well, either, but there was enough different subject matter to them that they didn't seem abhorrent to me in 1992/93 etc. I was also not a bastion of progressiveness.
8. This might be the only song on this album that wasn't one that I started listening to when it was fresh. I bought Doggfather but I didn't really love any of the tracks besides "Snoop's Upside Your Head". The background vocals and production on the title track speak to me much more than Snoop's vocals here.
9. I always forget that Murder Was The Case is from Doggystyle. I remember the video being released a good deal later than the singles from the album (this is a false memory), and it had its own soundtrack album. This was 100% the song where I stopped thinking of Snoop as The Featured Performer From The Chronic. He performed this live at the 1993 MTV video awards, and it, along with Neil Young & Pearl Jam's "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World" was the highlight. Given that the rest of the performers were U2, Janet Jackson, REM, Soul Asylum, Lenny Kravitz, and The Spin Doctors, all artists who I had been listening to obsessively, he had to Fucken Bring It to even get my attention, and he ended up surpassing just about all of my favorites.
The massive sample in this song is from Santana's "Fried Neckbones And Home Fries", and once again, Snoop has elevated this kind of quiry 70s AM album track and elevated it into something beyond its seeming potential.
10. I already mentioned that Snoop's Upside Your Head was my favorite track off Doggfather when it came out. It is the first song that you can identify as narratively taking place after Doggystyle, as he references Suge Knight as a criminal (the bad kind, not the fun gangsta kind).
This is another update of a song that's nearly a cover, as it's entirely dependent on The Gap Band's "Oops Upside Your Head" the way The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" is entirely dependent on Andrew Loog Oldham's cover of The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time".
11. We close out this first album from Snoop with Slow Down. This is another song where the background vocals and production really make it for me. Snoop's vocals are great, but it's got an 80s R&B ballad single feel that I imagine being used for a montage in a gritty drama from 87 or 88, which makes sense as Loose Ends released the original version of "Slow Down" in 1986