I had a personal audience with Snoop Doggy Dogg scheduled once, but he canceled it at the last second because he and his entourage had just taken backstage delivery of several hundred dollars' worth of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Snoop, who was due on stage in about 40 minutes, doesn't like to talk while he's eating.
So the closest I came to meeting "the s-n-double-o-p" was the tangy, curiously pleasing olfactory blend of chronic smoke mingled with the spicy reek of Colonel Sanders' original recipe that wafted from Snoop's dressing room, 30 yards and one sharp corner from where I stood, politely and quite vainly arguing with the promoter of that night's concert--one of very few shows in support of the Death Row superstar's multiplatinum debut Doggystyle.
This was December 1994, five days after Christmas, and, incredibly, Snoop Doggy Dogg had come to town in Anchorage, Alaska (like Santa Claus, he said "ho" a lot).
At first, kids were suspicious of the late-November ad blitz and handbills promoting Snoop's Anchorage performance. That spring, a 20-nothing scam artist had put up posters for a late-July outdoor festival featuring the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole and Pearl Jam, and taken the more gullible among the music-starved youth of Alaska for a brief ride, selling a few hundred $40 tickets before he got busted.
But after several news reports pronounced the scheduled concert legit, the $50 to $80 tickets for Snoop's show at the 8,000-seat Sullivan Arena (with Tha Dogg Pound, including Lady of Rage and Dat Nigga Daz opening) began to find their way into Christmas stockings, despite a December 21 editorial in the Anchorage Daily News that called for a boycott of the concert.
Appearing under the headline "Bad Doggy Dogg," the editorial read, in part: "Parents of children begging to go to the concert ought to first educate themselves about the music and life of Mr. Dogg: convicted felon, probation violator, accomplice-to-murder suspect awaiting trial, drug glorifier and gang member. Only then can they make an informed decision."
My then-57-year-old dad read the editorial and asked me what all the fuss over "Snoopy Dogg Dogg" was. So I played him "Gin and Juice." He nodded his head to the beat, but said he couldn't make out a damn thing Snoop was rapping about and didn't see the problem. "It's just a G thang," I said.
In his article on the troubled status of Death Row Records that appears in this issue ("Reeling and Dealing," page 95), Los Angeles rap critic Dave Wielenga reports that "Mr. Dogg" never toured behind his four-million-selling collaboration with producer Dr. Dre, primarily because he was preparing to go on trial for murder (Snoop was acquitted earlier this year). That's true. But Snoop did perform several one-shot, high-ticket-price, skeleton-crew shows in unlikely locales like Calcasieu, Louisiana, and Anchorage, Alaska.
For his show in the AK, Snoop brought with him no stage set, no backdrop, no lights, no sound crew and no sound equipment, not even a set of supplemental speakers. This for a $50 minimum ticket price at a venue with a notoriously sucky in-house sound system.
The emperor came on stage in a Detroit Lions jersey, but really he was stark, raving naked. Performing in front of a plain, black backdrop, Snoop muddled his way through a 50-minute set that, predictably, was crippled by sound problems.
The concert went like this--Song one: Snoop's nasal vocals drown out the pre-recorded beat. Song two: same. Song three: Snoop demands the sound man turn up the music. "Yo, we like loud music, turn that shit up. Way up." Sound man complies. Bass massively overpowers Snoop's vocals. Every kid in the place knows every word and is rapping along in perfect time, which creates the surreal effect of Snoop essentially lip-synching their rapping of his lyrics. Song four: same. Song five: sound man turns the beats back down so Snoop is audible again. Snoop stops the music midrap and begins to threaten sound man. "Yo, this shit's fucked up. If you don't fix it, we're gonna fuck you up." He makes a gun with his fingers and points it at sound man. Sound man visibly shrugs and turns beats back up. Snoop lip-synchs a few more tracks, then apologizes, "Our shit wasn't the way we like it, but we hope y'all enjoyed this," and walks off stage. No encore. On his way out, he walks over to the sound man, who was positioned at the side of the stage, and they exchange a few words.
A few days later, I asked the sound man what was said. "He told me he hoped I understood it was all part of the show, and I said, 'Yeah, okay.' Then he wished me a Happy New Year, and I said, 'Yeah, okay.'"
So that's my Snoop story. His album was still No. 1 when he played Anchorage. He was the biggest star to ever come to town, and he gave the worst performance by a big-name act I have ever seen. And he made bank, playing a bunch of kids for suckers.
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That experience ruined Snoop in my eyes. Until that night, I'd been a fan, and I still give props to Doggystyle as an undeniable classic. But as Snoop's long-awaited, just-out follow-up Tha Doggfather shows, he's not much without Dre. Not much at all.
Death Row will probably sink if Suge Knight gets sent up the river, and if Snoop jumps ship to Dre's new label, he and Dre might reinvent the formula that made him a super MC. If not, he's peaked. The new recording will chart high this week, but street-level word of mouth, the real marketing power in hip-hop, should bring it down fast. Every Dogg may have his day, but unless he gets home where he belongs, the sun may finally be setting on Snoop.