Snoop Doggy Dogma

When Dre split from Death Row Records, Snoop's limitations were exposed. He's never released anything that sucked, but, without Dre at the controls, his work has been noteworthy only for its ordinariness. What has kept him in the foreground of public consciousness is not what he's been doing, but what he's done before--and, most of all, what he represents.

An MC comes onstage and demands to know how many of us motherfuckers want to see Snoop Doggy Dogg. It seems that most of us do, because he pimp-rolls into sight soon after.

Live, Snoop isn't what you'd expect. He's known for the mediocrity of his shows--but today his performance is excellent from start to finish. His evil, goateed, blank-eyed face is iconic--but in performance he's comically manic, laughing and baiting the audience.

Snoop's best songs take their hatred from desperation. His is a voice that talks just to avoid being silenced, being edited out of history. His protagonists do drugs not just as a kick, but because it makes the cockroaches look better. Snoop and his contemporaries put on record the lives of millions of people that the ruling class didn't want to know about. . . .

And still doesn't want to know about, despite the numbers and skin color of the audience here. Look around and you can see how Snoop's sold millions of albums that focus on the experience of the underprivileged, young black male. It's certain that many of his "fans" just don't get it. It's obvious that, to these kids, Snoop's a novelty act. Little tank-topped white girls dance as he spits out lines about bitches and hos. His enthusiasm and likability bring to mind a host at a children's party, and, in a real sense, that's what he is right now. He exhorts the audience members to stand up and raise their middle fingers in the air. They stand on their seats and do it.

Unlike many performers, such as the Pain in the Ass Formerly Known As Prince, Snoop doesn't get uptight if an audience isn't overly keen to hear his new material. "You want some of that classic Snoop?" he asks. And when the roar comes, he delivers, including something from The Chronic. The complexity of the music's depths and textures is lost in the outdoor acoustics, but the familiarity, combined with the vibrancy of Snoop's performance, makes it soar.

A sublime moment comes when Snoop decides to indulge his fondness for South America's favorite export. "Who wants to see me smoke summa that Phoenix, Arizona, shit?" he asks. And immediately, somebody in the audience is passing him a spliff.

The MC has reservations, or pretends to. "I don't know, Dogg," he says. "There's some police here. It might not be cool."

"Okay," says Snoop. "If I smoke summa this shit, and a police officer wants to come up here and take me to jail, who's gonna help me?"

A few thousand hands fly up, and it looks like there actually might be a riot if the cops appear onstage. Snoop, the leader of Aryan youth. He takes a drag on the joint, and the kids cheer louder than they did for any song.

Contact Barry Graham at his online address: bgraham@newtimes.com

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