By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
What a difference a decade makes. After Snoop Dogg first fired up his spliffed-out delivery on Dr. Dre's The Chronic in 1992, he quickly became not only rap's first bona fide super-duper star but the very essence of gangsta rap. Sure, N.W.A., the Geto Boys and BDP hit harder and with more verbal audacity, but Snoop put the G-funk in gangsta's street-talking blues, the head-bob bounce in its rat-a-tat-tat taunts. This fucker was bling before BG, was higher rolling before Puffy went Diddy, dirty before Cash got Money and chin-deep in booty before Lil' Troy even wannabe a baller.
But that still doesn't explain Snoop's lasting presence. In the short three years from 1993's Doggstyle debut to 1996 follow-up The Doggfather, a lot of shit went down. There was that murder trial he was tangled up in, and Snoop became a Dogg father in the for-real-though sense of the word. Soon, Biggie and 2Pac would suffer the ultimate fate for their art, putting a heap of pressure on gangsta rap to take care of its own house. And Snoop didn't seem to be doing himself any favors on that count by bailing on Marion "Suge" Knight's Death Row house in favor of Master P's No Limit franchise.
Snoop wandered through the wreckage the way he always has--with his head held high but hanging back to get a good look at what's going on. At least, that's how he's always sounded on his albums. Snoop's smooth, almost sluggish delivery barely seems to be able to keep up with the beat, much less reach for center stage. He often sounds like he's so far back in the mix that you suspect he recorded it from the rear of a limo with a blunt in one fist and a mike in the other.
He's been able to finagle that laid-back approach into his own personal style. He's no longer the young bad boy leering a sneer in the face of authority, but a suave avenging disco godfather for the hip-hop nation. This dawg's even got a full-fledged acting career brewing, making what appears to be a lead turn in Ernest Dickerson's upcoming Bones. It's a roundabout way of saying that Snoop has what very few rappers do: a stage presence that radiates with the charisma of a front man.
Snoop live is a trip up into the all-night party of clubland, a rollicking jaunt down his memory lane of hits--"Who I Am (What's My Name?)," "Gin and Juice"--and new attitudes of "Hennesy n Buddah." Though his jams don't have the lively, off-the-wall beat angles of Outkast's alien life forms or Timbaland's trickery--even though Norfolk, Virginia's future-world producer handled two tracks on Snoop's latest, last year's The Last Meal--in 2001, Snoop still delivers the goods.