Nicknamed Snoop by his mother because of his appearance, Calvin Broadus (born October 20, 1972) was raised in Long Beach, CA, where he frequently ran into trouble with the law. Not long after his high-school graduation, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, beginning a period of three years when he was often imprisoned. He found escape from a life of crime through music. Snoop began recording homemade tapes with his friend Warren G, who happened to be the stepbrother of N.W.A.'s Dr. Dre. Warren G gave a tape to Dre, who was considerably impressed with Snoop's style and began collaborating with the rapper.
When Dre decided to make his tentative first stab at a solo career in 1992 with the theme song for the film Deep Cover, he had Snoop rap with him. 'Deep Cover' started a buzz about Snoop that escalated into full-fledged mania when Dre released his own debut album, The Chronic, on Death Row Records late in 1992. Snoop rapped on The Chronic as much as Dre, and his drawled vocals were as important to the record's success as its P-Funk bass grooves. Dre's singles 'Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang' and 'Dre Day', which prominently featured Snoop, became Top Ten pop crossover hits in the spring of 1993, setting the stage for Snoop's much-anticipated debut album, Doggystyle. While he was recording the album with Dre in August, Snoop was arrested in connection with the drive-by shooting death of Phillip Woldermarian. According to the charges, the rapper's bodyguard, McKinley Lee, shot Woldermarian as Snoop drove the vehicle; the rapper claimed it was self-defense, alleging that the victim was stalking Snoop. Following a performance at the MTV Music Awards in September 1993, he turned himself over to authorities.
After many delays, Doggystyle was finally released on Death Row in November of 1993, and it became the first debut album to enter the charts at number one. Despite reviews that claimed the album was a carbon copy of The Chronic, the Top Ten singles 'What's My Name?' and 'Gin & Juice' kept Doggystyle at the top of the charts during early 1994, as did the considerable controversy over Snoop's arrest and his lyrics, which were accused of being exceedingly violent and sexist. During an English tour in the spring of 1994, tabloids and a Tory minister pleaded for the government to kick the rapper out of the country, largely based on his arrest. Snoop exploited his impending trial by shooting a short film based on the Doggystyle song 'Murder Was the Case' and releasing an accompanying soundtrack, which debuted at number one in 1994. By that time, Doggystyle had gone quadruple platinum.
Snoop spent much of 1995 preparing for the case, which finally went to trial in late 1995. In February of 1996, he was cleared of all charges and began working on his second album, this time without Dre as producer. Nevertheless, when The Doggfather was finally released in November 1996, it bore all the evidence of a Dre-produced G-funk record. The album was greeted with mixed reviews, and it initially sold well, but it failed to produce a hit along the lines of 'What's My Name?' and 'Gin & Juice'. Part of the reason for the moderate success of The Doggfather was the decline of gangsta rap. 2Pac, who had become a friend of Snoop during 1996, died weeks before the release of The Doggfather, and Dre had left Death Row to his partner Suge Knight, who was indicted on racketeering charges by the end of 1996. Consequently, Snoop's second album got lost in the shuffle, stalling at sales of two million, which was disappointing for a superstar.
Perhaps sensing something was wrong, Snoop began to revamp his public image, moving away from his gangsta roots toward a calmer lyrical aesthetic. He also began making gestures toward the rock community, signing up to tour with Lollapalooza 1997 and talking about two separate collaborations with Beck and Marilyn Manson. The solo Da Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told, Snoop's first effort for No Limit, followed in 1998; No Limit Top Dogg appeared a year later and Dead Man Walkin' the year after that. Tha Last Meal followed in December of that same year. The heavy release schedule resulted in varying musical quality from album to album, but by the turn of the century, Snoop had become such a cultural phenomenon that his albums almost became secondary to the personality behind them.
An autobiography appeared in 2001, followed by a stream of movie roles in several high-profile pictures. Late in 2002, Snoop released his first album for Capitol, Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$. He then switched to Geffen for 2004's R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece. The hit album was followed a year later by Welcome to tha Chuuch: Da Album, a collection of tracks from the Welcome to the Chuuch mixtape series. That same year he hosted a West Coast peace summit in hopes of squashing all beefs.
In 2006, he appeared on Tha Dogg Pound's Cali Iz Active and Ice Cube's Laugh Now, Cry Later. Toward the end of the year the intentionally leaked 'My Peoples' freestyle appeared. The track paid tribute to many involved in Cali's Latin rap community, so it was no big surprise when 'Vato' with Cypress Hill's B Real became his next album's lead off single. The hard and very G-funk Tha Blue Carpet Treatment triumphantly capped off a year of heavy West Coast activity. In late 2007, he recruited two Hip Hop veterans -- new jack swing legend Teddy Riley and West Coast hero DJ Quik -- and formed the production team QDT Muzic. The team oversaw Snoop's 2008 album, Ego Trippin', which included the single 'Sensual Seduction'. In 2009, he issued Malice N Wonderland, the maiden release of a new alliance with the reactivated Priority label, which also signed him on as its creative chairman. He promoted the album a couple months prior to its street date when he hosted the live wrestling television broadcast WWE Raw. A year later the CD/DVD set More Malice rounded up some odds and ends from the album and packaged them with a DVD featuring the Malice N Wonderland short film.
In 2011, he released Doggumentary, an album he considered the sequel to his classic debut. The album featured production from the likes of Swizz Beats, DJ Khalil, and Scott Storch, while guest artists included Kanye West, John Legend, Wiz Khalifa, and Willie Nelson. Also arriving that same year was a feature film with Khalifa, Mac and Devin Go to High School, along with its accompanying soundtrack.
Although Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. was doing more than fine under his Hip Hop moniker Snoop Dogg, a 2012 trip to Jamaica convinced the rapper that reggae was his true calling and that he should assume the Rasta name Snoop Lion. Granted to Snoop by a Jamaican high priest, the name was first floated during a summer 2012 press conference introducing the debut Snoop Lion single, 'La La La', which was released on the Berhane Sound System label and produced by Major Lazer. The track would land on Snoop Lion's debut reggae album, the appropriately titled Reincarnated, which landed in 2013.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
If Snoop Dogg's debut, Doggystyle, doesn't seem like a debut, it's because in many ways it's not. Snoop had already debuted as a featured rapper on Dr. Dre's 1992 album, The Chronic, rapping on half of the 16 tracks, including all the hit singles, so it wasn't like he was an unknown force when Doggystyle was released in late 1993. If anything, he was the biggest star in Hip Hop, with legions of fans anxiously awaiting new material, and they were the ones who snapped up the album, making it the first debut album to enter the Billboard charts at number one. It wasn't like they were buying an unknown quantity. They knew that the album would essentially be the de facto sequel to The Chronic, providing another round of P-Funk-inspired grooves and languid gangsta and ganja tales, just like Dre's album. Which is exactly what Doggystyle is -- a continuation of The Chronic, with the same production, same aesthetic and themes, and same reliance on guest rappers. The miracle is, it's as good as that record. There are two keys to its success, one belonging to Dre, the other to Snoop. Dre realized that it wasn't time to push the limits of G-funk, and instead decided to deepen it musically, creating easy-rolling productions that have more layers than they appear. They're laid-back funky, continuing to resonate after many listens, but their greatest strength is that they never overshadow the laconic drawl of Snoop, who confirms that he's one of Hip Hop's greatest vocal stylists with this record. Other gangsta rappers were all about aggression and anger -- even Dre, as a rapper, is as blunt as a thug -- but Snoop takes his time, playing with the flow of his words, giving his rhymes a nearly melodic eloquence. Compare his delivery to many guest rappers here: Nate Dogg, Kurupt, and Dat Nigga Daz are all good rappers, but they're good in a conventional sense, where Snoop is something special, with unpredictable turns of phrase, evocative imagery, and a distinctive, addictive flow.
If Doggystyle doesn't surprise or offer anything that wasn't already on The Chronic, it nevertheless is the best showcase for Snoop's prodigious talents, not just because he's given the room to run wild, but because he knows what to do with that freedom and Dre presents it all with imagination and a narrative thrust. If it doesn't have the shock of the new, the way that The Chronic did, so be it: Over the years, the pervasive influence of that record and its countless ripoffs has dulled its innovations, so it doesn't have the shock of the new either. Now, Doggystyle and The Chronic stand proudly together as the twin pinnacles of West Coast G-funk Hip Hop of the early '90s.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
A lot happened to Snoop Doggy Dogg between his debut, Doggystyle, and his second album, Tha Doggfather. During those three years, he became the most notorious figure in Hip Hop through a much-publicized murder trial, where he was found not guilty, and he also became a father. Musically, the most important thing to happen to Snoop was the parting of ways between his mentor Dr. Dre and his record label, Death Row. Dre's departure from Death Row meant that Snoop had to handle the production duties on Tha Doggfather himself, and the differences between the two records are immediately apparent. Though it works the same G-funk territory, the bass is less elastic and there is considerably less sonic detail. In essence, all of the music on Tha Doggfather reworks the funk and soul of the late '70s and early '80s, without updating it too much -- there's not that much difference between "Snoop's Upside Ya Head" and "Oops Up Side Your Head," for instance. Though the music isn't original, and the lyrics break no new territory, the execution is strong -- Snoop's rapping and rhyming continue to improve, while the bass-heavy funk is often intoxicating. At over 70 minutes, Tha Doggfather runs too long to not have several filler tracks, but if you ignore those cuts, the album is a fine follow-up to one of the most successful Hip Hop albums in history.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Internet leakers caused the release of R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece to be pushed up a week, but that just means the world got to bask in the excitement of Snoop's great return for seven extra days. Upon its release, the ultrahot production team the Neptunes' contribution to the killer lead single "Drop It Like It's Hot" had been duly noted, but lost in all the chatter was how inspired and on-fire Snoop sounds. Any fan keeping up with his street-level mixtape series Welcome to the Chuuch could tell you something new and fresh was brewing, and 2002's Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ was excellent, but Snoop's let his fans down before and two years off could mean trouble. Not to be, since Rhythm & Gangsta is right up there with his best while being riskier than anything before it. New sounds like tongue clicks, smooth jazz guitars, and a bit of Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" give Snoop a brand-new sonic palette to work with, and he's more than ready for it. The up-tempo "Signs" with Justin Timberlake is glittery disco fun, but it ain't gonna keep Snoop from being himself. He's hardcore throughout the album, an album that's got plenty of street and commercial appeal and all the difficulties that comes with it. The numerous youngsters who can't stop singing "Drop It Like It's Hot" are going to freak their parents out with this one. "Can You Control Yo Hoe" is a tough stunner with an inescapable, loopy hook, but Snoop's challenge to the homies is rather disturbing. "If she won't do what you say, why aren't you slapping her?" is the song's direct message that can't be easily brushed off as metaphor, and it's the one that's gonna send mom and dad back to the record store, fuming! Recommending such an album that gets viciously misogynistic -- elsewhere too -- is difficult, but Snoop is fierce throughout Rhythm & Gangsta and putting "Masterpiece" in the title isn't hyperbole.
Words - David Jeffries
You can look at the hard-hitting Tha Blue Carpet Treatment as a reaction to the crossover-minded R& G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, an album that featured Justin Timberlake and the mega-single "Drop It Like It's Hot." Since that polished -- some would say "watered-down" -- effort put him over the top (again), Snoop was seen shilling for Chrysler and Orbit gum when he used to rep Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style videos and that green sticky-icky you can only get on the West Coast. The time to buy street cred would be now, right? Well, Snoop's been doing some amazing things under most folks' radar, and this album is the natural outcome. While the title is a little poke at the Crip/Blood, blue/red dichotomy, Tha Blue Carpet Treatment feels like the G-funk soundtrack to Snoop's 2005 West Coast peace summit and all the positive hood moves he's made since then, like squashing all West Coast beefs and throwing some love to Cali's often-ignored Latin Hip Hop community with his intentionally leaked "My Peoples" freestyle. It's the latter relationship that's responsible for the excellent "Vato," and while special guest B Real might be way bigger than 2Mex or most of the other names mentioned in "My Peoples," the Cypress Hill sideman needs Snoop in 2006 much more than vice versa. Polished efforts like the pimping "That's That S***" with R. Kelly and the strip club anthem "I Wanna F*** You" with Akon fall between Doggystyle-d gangsta throwbacks like the slinky "Crazy" with Nate Dogg and "Candy (Drippin' Like Water)," which features E-40 and Tha Dogg Pound next to lesser-known vets Goldie Loc and MC Eiht. Juggling "Candy"'s guests would be hard enough for lesser Gs, but it's a testament to Snoop that he can, and more so that he manages a full album that touches upon just about every ghetto flavor. Banger after banger, produced by everyone from Timbaland to the Neptunes, leads to a couple numbers that almost throw the album off-track: "Psst!," where Jamie Foxx woefully pretends he's Prince, and the pee-wee football anthem "Beat Up on Yo Pads," which is just out of place. Then there's the dream number "Imagine," a duet between Dr. Dre and Snoop that ponders a hood life not blessed with Hip Hop, a life where the two would have never gotten "out from under." As the album exits on the positive "Conversations" with Stevie Wonder, memories of Rhythm & Gangsta's grandest moments return, and it becomes obvious Tha Blue Carpet Treatment isn't so much a reaction to that album as it is a house party celebrating Snoop's whole career. With heaping helpings of G-funk and Left Coast attitude, there's no reason any West Coast-loving Hip Hopper should miss this party.
Words - David Jeffries
Though Snoop Dogg never slipped from the charts, Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ smacks of a comeback, and it's a great one. After finally being released from No Limit (he's still distributed by Priority), Snoop Dogg drafted a set of great producers for his sixth album, as well as a varied cast of featured guests capable of drawing in just about every segment of the Hip Hop audience. Still one of the smoothest rappers around and the bemused observer of all around him, he slips on the tried and true pimp and godfather personas, but also has the nerve to feature an X-rated sex romp ("Lollipop," with Jay-Z and Nate Dogg) directly after a tender anthem to love and marriage ("I Believe in You") -- and sound extremely convincing with both. The pair of tracks produced by the Neptunes ("From tha Chuuuch to da Palace" and "Beautiful") are the highlights, two of the best they've done since their commercial breakout. Hardcore fans of rap, though, will want to skip ahead to "The One and Only" for a perfect meld of West Coast and East Coast -- the first meeting of Snoop and DJ Premier on wax. (Premier also turns in a hilariously cartoonish production for "Batman & Robin.") Yes, there are a few missteps: The G-funk roll on a few tracks sounds a little dated, and Bootsy Collins impersonator Mr. Kane makes a few embarrassing appearances ("Stoplight" is a bland, unnecessary update of Parliament's "Flashlight"). And two other remakes sound OK, but won't have a long shelf life. The first is virtually a cover of Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" called "Paper'd Up," and it's immediately followed by a redo of Robert Palmer's Jam Lewis anthem "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" ("Wasn't Your Fault"). You've got to be a strong figure to keep together an album this long and this rangy, but Snoop Dogg is up to the task.
Words - John Bush
The original idea behind what Snoop Dogg considers his ninth album -- ignoring all those pesky and shoddy fringe releases -- was that the title represented a truly solo effort with no guest shots. As the street date grew closer, the rapper flipped the script and decided that Ego Trippin' referred to how he "let" people write songs for the album, songs Snoop could rap and sometimes, shockingly, sing. The leadoff good-time single "Sensual Seduction" -- or "Sexual Eruption" on the explicit album -- proved the latter wasn't a bad idea at all, with Snoop crafting a hooky bedroom track using both a smirk and a throwback Zapp feel. It was a perfect flagship release for an album that tries numerous things but never tries too hard, plus one where the nostalgia is plentiful and perfectly chosen. At the heart of it all are the "overseers" of the album, QDT Muzic, a production crew formed by Snoop along with new jack swing legend Teddy Riley and West Coast hero DJ Quik. This fascinating mix of veterans somehow handles everything from the crooked, crip-walking "Gangsta Like Me" to an unbelievably faithful and fun cover of the Time's "Cool" with Snoop singing and strutting just like Morris Day. Throwaway moments like the country song -- for real -- "My Medicine" are balanced by rich and honest moments like "Been Around tha World," where the rapper reminds listeners he's actually married and delivers a heartfelt "I'l be home soon" number. It's the one time his words are the focus, and while it's never clear how much Snoop actually wrote, the ghostwriters he's admitted to hiring have the thug script down and rarely disappoint.
Words - David Jeffries
Snoop Dogg leaves much of his gang-banging past behind him in favor of preened pimp posturing on his final album for No Limit Records, The Last Meal. Snoop's increasingly old-school pose suits his gracefully aging self well. Despite his former affiliation with Death Row Records and his much-publicized murder trial, Snoop never seemed like much of a thug, which is partly why hostile albums like Tha Doggfather (1996) and Da Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told (1998) seemed a bit forced. Contrarily, it seems more natural for him to rap about the pampered pimp life, as he does here on The Last Meal -- tall glasses of Hennesey, glistening pairs of Stacey Adams, overcast clouds of chronic smoke, hungry hordes of so-called bitches -- over truck-rattling G-funk basslines that lope along at a languid tempo. These impressive beats come courtesy of a similarly impressive roster of producers: second-wave G-funksters Meech Wells, Battlecat, Jelly Roll, and Soopafly, and brand-name hitmakers Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, and Timbaland. Among this roster, Timbaland certainly stands out, as do his contributions, "Snoop Dogg (What's My Name, Pt. 2)" and "Set It Off," which place Snoop in an uncharacteristically energetic context. He handles himself well on these bouncy songs regardless, yet seems more at home on Dre's smoother contributions, "Hennesey n Buddah" and "Lay Low." Beyond these four tracks, the remaining 15 are a mixed bag, most of them Crip-walking along at a stoned tempo, featuring soulful P-Funk hooks by Kokane and offering laid-back respite while this lengthy album moves leisurely toward its throwback album-capper, "Y'all Gone Miss Me." Following this misty-eyed finale, you're left with the thankful sense that Snoop has finally taken control of his career after succumbing to the oppressive fancy of Suge Knight and Master P ever since parting ways with Dr. Dre following Doggystyle (1993).
Words - Jason Birchmeier
As the Death Row ship was sinking, Snoop Dogg bailed, heading over to the new bastion of street cred, No Limit Records. Master P had worked his way to the top of the charts by giving the people what they wanted -- straight-up gangsta, with no frills, creativity, or substance. It was all a little rawer (actually, just cheaper) than Death Row's productions, but there was no denying that they knew what sold, and it seemed as if Snoop was making No Limit legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream world. Master P is a master marketer, and he knows how to reshape everyone on his roster into good No Limit soldiers. And that's precisely what Snoop Dogg is on Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, his third album proper and first for No Limit. There are a few concessions to G-funk scattered throughout the record, but by and large, Beats by the Pound and P give Snoop a set of standard No Limit backing tracks and have him do the No Limit dance -- record a long-winded, monotonous album, filled with "interpolations" of '80s soul and rap songs, and loaded with No Limit cameos. But there's one crucial difference: unlike most of Master P's grunts, Snoop has style, miles and miles of style. His loose, languid delivery is positively enthralling, which makes it all the more frustrating when No Limit hacks interrupt the flow.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
As time keeps on slipping into the future, it becomes apparent that Master P's greatest gift is marketing, particularly when his advertising masquerades as liner notes. Witness P's work for Snoop Dogg, once considered the brightest rapper of the '90s but now merely a general in the No Limit army. The Master began plugging Top Dogg, Snoop's second No Limit release, in the liners for his label debut, even mentioning a release date only months away. Clearly, Snoop had indeed been placed on the No Limit production line, and there was every indication that from now on, Snoop would churn out moderately enjoyable, Dirty South-lite records crammed with cameos and appropriated hooks. Turns out he had a trick up his sleeve, because Top Dogg is about as individualized an album as possible under the No Limit precepts. Since the outset of his career, Snoop has shown a fondness for early-'80s synth funk, and for the first time, he lets that form the basis of an album. And while there may be a bit too much recycling for some tastes, the end result isn't just the freshest-sounding Snoop album since his debut, it's easily the freshest-sounding No Limit album.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The tracks on this compilation cover 1998 through 2002, a period filled with plenty of artistic, commercial, and personal ups and downs for Snoop Dogg. It's simply a selection of highlights from Da Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told, No Limit Top Dogg, Tha Last Meal, and Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$. Priority thankfully resisted the temptation to throw in a couple exclusives, so it cuts right to the chase, offering a pretty even spread between the four albums, rendering them all but obsolete for casual fans. The only missing chart entries from this phase: two tracks from tha Eastsidaz's self-titled album, along with a track each from the Dr. Dolittle 2 and Baby Boy soundtracks. Though Snoop was responsible for plenty of filler on each of the albums, few MCs have pulled off such a range of work with such a high level of finesse, from the Premier-produced "The One and Only" (raw, in your face) to the Neptunes-produced "Beautiful" (smooth, laid-back).
Words - Andy Kellman