Gangsta Raunch: The Making of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle

Gangsta Raunch: The Making of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle

An excerpt from Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap

In his upcoming book, Original Gangstas, award-winning journalist Ben Westhoff explores how this group of artists shifted the balance of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how N.W.A’s shocking success led to rivalries between members, record labels, and eventually a war between East Coast and West Coast factions. In the process, hip-hop burst into mainstream America at a time of immense social change, and became the most dominant musical movement of the last thirty years.

Featuring extensive investigative reporting, interviews with the principal players, and dozens of never-before-told stories, Original Gangstas is a groundbreaking addition to the history of popular music. Below, enjoy the second in a series of exclusive excerpts from the book. Be sure to check out the previous excerpt, The Controversy and Brilliance of Ice Cube’s Death Certificate.

*   *   *

Dr. Dre’s 1992 album The Chronic put Death Row Records on the map. With The Chronic’s success, even a loose affiliation with Death Row gained you access to the hottest clubs and parties. In his memoir, Dre’s assistant Bruce Williams describes private soirees thrown by an associate named Party Man (seriously), which featured gambling and a VIP room with women “in G-strings servin’ drinks” and others “who’d [perform fellatio].”

It’s amazing any work got done at all, and it almost didn’t. Whereas The Chronic was recorded fairly expeditiously, Snoop Dogg’s 1993 debut Doggystyle dragged, partly because the group kept getting booted from production spaces. “’Cause we were having a bunch of fun,” Dr. Dre said on Behind the Music. “A lot of the people that worked at these studios didn’t understand our type of fun.”

They may have been partying, and they may have been cocky, but most everyone in this cohort was performing at the height of their talents. Ruthless Records breakout rapper D.O.C. – who lost his voice in a 1989 car accident — mentored Snoop closely and helped him write. “We would stay up to two or three in the morning at his house, playing video games and drinking beer,” Snoop told the documentary Welcome to Death Row.

“Then we’d go off and write rhymes and record them on cassette and deliver them to Dre the next day.” Dre recruited a crack crew of new session musicians to tighten the sound, and success seemed inevitable.

Some critics pegged Doggystyle as a sequel to The Chronic, and indeed it features the same rappers and singers, as well as Moog synthesizer and Parliament-Funkadelic samples galore. George Clinton himself was on hand to keep the proceedings funky. On “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” the chorus from Clinton’s 1982 track “Atomic Dog”— A-tom-ic doooooggg—was retrofitted to introduce our hero— Snoop Doggy Dooooooggg.

“Atomic Dog” is, in fact, one of the most borrowed-from songs in history. It’s been sampled (or mimicked) in over two hundred different songs, with its “bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay” refrain particularly ubiquitous, heard on tracks including “Fuck Wit Dre Day.” Yet “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” brings a driving energy all its own, along with crunching bass, robotic talk box, and Snoop’s inimitable singsong.

Long Beach VIP Records, where Snoop got his start

The album’s enduring second single “Gin and Juice” remains the quintessential G-funk party anthem. Whether or not you believe Tanqueray and chronic are appropriate elixirs for driving, the track’s breezy tempo and high-pitched whistle are practically Pavlovian in the way they inspire head bobs.

“Ain’t No Fun,” the album’s wildly misogynistic tribute to group sex, is an unlikely dance floor staple. It ain’t no fun, if the homies can’t have none, Nate Dogg sings on the chorus, making the whole thing sound perfectly normal. It also has Kurupt’s most famous line: If Kurupt gave a fuck about a bitch, I’d always be broke / I’d never have no motherfucking indo to smoke. Never mind the false dilemma of pitting one’s women against one’s weed; Kurupt insists he was showing off his softer side. “Snoop was like, ‘You can’t kill everybody, you have to make records people can relate to,’ ” he told me. “Sometimes you have to talk about reality.”

Was “Ain’t No Fun” reality? Absolutely, Warren G told me, who is also featured on the song. “We had a lot of women and they was with it, too. Shit. We was having fun—it was protected. They’d have a bunch of their friends and we’d have a bunch of our guys and we’d just . . .  fuck!”

As a performer, Snoop met and then promptly exceeded everyone’s expectations. The world is full of rappity-rap-rappers, but he offered up his sui generis melodic stamp throughout, riding (rather than wrangling) the beat and letting it take him where it would. “Tha Shiznit” was entirely freestyled, while “Lodi Dodi” remade “La Di Da Di,” the 1985 Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick classic, Snoopifying it through details like the part where he throws on his brand-new doggy underwear.

Doggystyle features Chronic-style gangsta themes as well, on tracks like “For All My Niggaz and Bitches” and “Serial Killa.” I got the machine that cracks your fuckin’ chest plates raps RBX on the latter. On “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” Snoop threatens: “I kill dem blood clots,” which angered some L.A. Bloods.

Nothing could stop it. Dre’s track record and Snoop’s buzz made Doggystyle one of the most anticipated, hyped albums in history. Owing to production problems, its release was delayed. At one point, eager to get the album to the pressing plant, Death Row head Suge Knight and Jimmy Iovine (an executive at parent company Interscope) began breathing down Chris “The Glove” Taylor’s neck while he edited a final track. “They told me that it would cost them $42,000 for every hour that it went over. They had trucks lined up, and they were waiting to ship it,” The Glove told AllHipHop.com.

Doggystyle’s extravagant record release party was held on November 22, 1993, on a yacht embarking from beachside suburb Marina del Rey. Coolio, Queen Latifah, and other celebrities boarded the 165-foot vessel, called Lord Hornblower, but it quickly reached capacity and did not complete its pleasure cruise as planned. Brawls broke out both on land—when dozens of people were refused entry—and on board.

“A fight broke out on the main deck, in a dance floor area,” said The Glove. “It became a riot.” Snoop broke up a squabble, but the ship’s captain called the sheriff’s department, and seventy deputies quickly arrived. Soon police and TV helicopters were circling overhead.

The LAPD sought to question partygoers as they left the boat, but the Nation of Islam, who was providing security, intervened. The Glove said about fifty bow tie–wearing male members (known as Fruit of Islam) lined up shoulder to shoulder in the parking lot, to prevent cops from arresting the disembarking passengers. Before long the boys in blue were clashing with the Muslims. “It was one of the weirdest things that ever happened to me in my life,” said The Glove. Somehow, amid all of this, there were no reported injuries.

Doggystyle sold more than 800,000 copies in its first week, at the time the most ever for a debut. The work eventually went four times platinum, besting any N.W.A album and even The Chronic. While the latter work was a high-water mark for many critics, others counter that Doggystyle is actually superior. My former L.A. Weekly colleague Jeff Weiss feels that way, as does gangsta rap aficionado Chris Rock.

The Chronic is sonically incredible, but it’s hard to drive around singing songs about, ‘Eazy-E can eat a big fat dick,’ ” Rock wrote on his website. “But I got a feeling I’ll be singing ‘Gin and Juice’ when I’m ninety.”

Snoop was quickly becoming a household name. In March 1994, he was scheduled as the musical guest on Saturday Night  Live—hosted by Helen  Hunt—but he missed his first plane because his colleague Daz’s weed man arrived late with the hookup. In the end Snoop caught another flight and made the taping.

*   *   *

Ben Westhoff is an award-winning journalist whose upcoming book, Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap, will be published September 13, 2016 by Hachette Books. He writes regularly about hip-hop for The Guardian, and has also written for Rolling Stone, Vice, Pitchfork, and The Wall Street Journal. He’s the former music editor at L.A. Weekly and his 2011 book on southern hip-hop, Dirty South, was a Library Journal best seller. You can pre-order Original Gangstas here.

[fbcomments num="5" width="100%" count="off" countmsg="kommentarer" url="http://read.tidal.com/article/gangsta-raunch-the-making-of-snoop-doggs-doggystyle"]