Snoop Dogg: Boss at the Boards

A decade ago, then-Snoop Doggy Dogg with the help of L.T. Hutton, freaked a Zapp sample for what would become “Beware of My Crew” for The Line Thin Between Love & Hate Soundtrack. The period found the rapper on a frugal label, taking responsibilities into his own hands to make hit after hit. Following his […]

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decade ago, then-Snoop Doggy Dogg with the help of L.T. Hutton, freaked

a Zapp sample for what would become “Beware of My Crew” for The Line Thin Between Love & Hate Soundtrack.

The period found the rapper on a frugal label, taking responsibilities

into his own hands to make hit after hit. Following his move to No

Limit a year later, Snoop Dogg had the budget and the skillful

entourage to never need to worry about beats again. Names such as Dr.

Dre, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, Warren G, Daz Dillinger, Hi-Tek and

Battlecat are easily associated with the Long Beach icon. Now

in his mid thirties, the restless rap superstar seems to value

self-experimentation once more. Through his Doggystyle imprint, Snoop

compiled three stars from distinct movements of Hip-Hop: MC Eiht (‘80s

gangsta rap), Kam (‘90s Pro-Black rap), and Goldie Loc (‘00s gangsta

rap) as The Warzone. What’s more, Snoop, under his N***araci name,

produces much of the group’s work.

An always relaxed Snoop Dogg jokes around with Amidst a

discussion about producers and samplers, Snoop plays pranks, thanks the

Middle Passage for bringing him to America, and spits in “Chicken

Noodle Soup.” Real spit. You’ve been around Dr. Dre and a whole bunch of other

top producers for years. How did you begin your path to beat-making?

Snoop Dogg: Well, I always had a knack for it, being a rapper that used

to make his own beats back in the ‘80s. I used to always beat on the

table and rap at the same time, so I always had that rhythmic

collaboration with myself. I just wanted to use the drum machines and

program. Once I mastered that, I wanted to take certain sounds and flip

‘em and bring out other elements than what I’m hearing as far as these

producers go. N***aracci is here to stay. N***araci, that’s hot.

Snoop Dogg: Oh yeah, that’s your boy. What was the first beat machine that you worked on, ever?

Snoop Dogg: An SP-1200. I started with that at Can-Am [Studios] with

the LBC Crew [on the song] “Beware of My Crew.” I took [Zapp’s]

“Heartbreaker” and flipped that on the 1200, me and L.T. [Hutton]. You’ve sat and watched Dr. Dre work more than probably

any other rapper. One of the things he’s known for is having a very

basic beat, but still allowing it to have tons of body. Were you able

to absorb those elements – not just from Dre, but from others?

Snoop Dogg: I just took a little bit of every producer I’ve worked with

and enhanced it into my s**t. What I took from Dr. Dre was the clarity

side; he’s such a precision freak when it comes to the sound – whether

it’s the music, the vocals, the instruments, or the arrangement. What I

took from Pharrell was, “F**k it, whatever feels good.” He’s not a

precisionist, he’s more of a “if it feels good, go with it” guy.

If I’m working with an artist that needs more patience and preciseness,

I go the Dr. Dre [method]. If I’m working with a gritty, street rapper,

I’m on a Pharrell tip. Where do you want to take this? Who would you like to make a beat for that you haven’t yet?

Snoop Dogg: I got beats for mothaf**kin’ everybody, man. I got beats for Celine Dion, [and] mothaf**kin’ Sade. If you do a track with Sade, can I be there when you record?

Snoop Dogg: Nah, ‘cause I might wanna touch on her when I finish the

beat. Nah, but my music is like… I’ve got music for everybody, not just

rap. [Rap] s**t is easy – whoever I call, I can get, just because I’m

Snoop Dogg, they’d give me the love and say, “Okay, I’m gonna listen to

a Snoop Dogg track.” That’s too easy [in rap]. I want to reach out with

some creative artists that’s gonna be here 20 years from now. Who are “The Top Five Producers Snoop Dogg Really Respects”?

Snoop Dogg: Lalo Schifrin [of Bruce Lee fame] – he’s my n***a; I know

him personally. Quincy Jones. Dr. Dre. Curtis Mayfield. Louis Armstrong

was a bad mothaf**ka too. He’s cold blooded, cuzz. I never would have expected Louis Armstrong to be in the lineup. What is it about Lalo that you like?

Snoop Dogg: I like that he takes chords and makes motherf**kas

memorable. He makes scores last. Real spit, that says a lot if you can

make a f**kin’ score – not a song – but something that makes it to a

movie. That’s big. What about Quincy Jones?

Snoop Dogg: Just timeless. Bee-bop, Hip-Hop, Michael Jackson, James Ingram, Sanford & Son.

Quincy Jones was the mothaf**ka, man! “Strawberry Letter 23”, [hums the

melody]. That’s the kind of music I want to make, man – beautiful

music. What are some of your favorite soundtracks?

Snoop Dogg: The Mack, Claudine, Paid the Cost to Be the Boss, Hell Up in Harlem, Let’s Do it Again, and Which Way is Up? Few rappers market themselves as well as you do. How do

you choose what Snoop Dogg puts his name or image on? Snoop Dogg: I got

to like the s**t for one. For two, they gotta get they paper together,

ya dig? That’s important. Once you get all that together, it’s gotta be

something effective and efficient enough to go along with Snoop Dogg;

it’s got to be the same cup of tea. It can’t be no s**t that’s out

there…you ain’t gonna see no Snoop Dogg Speedos. F**k that. Tell me about The Warzone. How did that group together?

Snoop Dogg: I always had a relationship with MC Eiht. We started off

battling each other in 1986, 1987, in high school, you know what I’m

sayin’? We always had a cool relationship. Kam is somebody that I

admired from the days of Ice Cube [once Kam’s mentor]. Goldie Loc is my

homeboy from Tha Eastsidaz. Basically, I knew all of them was dope as

f**k, and I wanted to get down with ‘em. I had no tools for them

individually – no label would give me a deal for them [as soloists].

F**k it, let me take all three ingredients, package them together and

force it on people. This is the s**t you’ve gotta love! It’s three

mothaf**kin’ stars pushin’ for one cause. They pushed their egos to the

left – ‘cause they all could be solo artists. It’s about showing these

West Coast artists the only way we’re gonna make it is if we work

together. They can always go back and do solo projects, but right now,

to get the dough down, there’s gotta be unity. When people aren’t receptive to these artists you’re

working with – for instance a Soopafly or a Kam on their own, is that

about the industry or skill level?

Snoop Dogg: I don’t think it’s industry. As far as skill level, those

n***as is servin’ any n***a now that’s in the game. At the same time,

they’ve got followings that you wouldn’t believe. It’s just a matter of

people have to kick in certain doors. Bulls**t sells. [DJ Webstar &

Young B’s] “Chicken Noodle Soup,” no disrespect, but what the f**k is

chicken noodle soup with a soda on the side? You’re pushin’ all that

bulls**t, but won’t push no real s**t. They’re stealin’ our look, our

t-shirts, our braids, our attitudes, come out here and shoot videos,

use our parks, our lowriders, our b***hes, our palm trees, and then go

back home. When we try to get in the game, it looks like we’re copying

them. You mention unity. You recently went to Nigeria. Tell me

about your trip to Africa, ‘cause I have not yet been. Many people say

that such experiences give them clarity on what it means to be Black in

America. Did you have any such experiences? Did you learn anything?

Snoop Dogg: I got more in tune with my spirit musically out there,

which I knew that I would. That American/African s**t, I’m not into all

that s**t – I’m happy where the f**k I’m at; good look for bringin’ us

n***as [as slaves] over here, we appreciate that. Good lookin’! What do you do when Minister Louis Farrakhan calls you a prophet?

Snoop Dogg: That was like a passing of the torch, not symbolically, but

spiritually. It’s about peace and whatever it takes to raise the youth.

We’re pushing that same line. I’ve got a direct connect with the hood

and the ghetto, so basically, by him passin’ that onto me, it lets me

know I’ve got a mission now. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ran again, I really

thought you were gonna drop an anti-campaign song to persuade people

not to vote for him after the Tookie execution. He just did a TV show

with Xzibit for Pimp My Ride. After what happened, could you see yourself working with the governor?

Snoop Dogg: I don’t know, man. I was bitter about the decision he made,

man, but he’s not God, so I can’t fault him that he took Tookie away.

My affiliation with Tookie is different than Xzibit’s. I couldn’t see

myself doing certain s**t, but maybe in the future, politically, I

don’t know. I’m still kinda bitter though, ‘cause even though God made

the ultimate decision, I feel that he could have had some remorse in

the scenario. Who else is in the room that I can build with?

Snoop Dogg: Oh, T.D. in here. Dope, put him on.

Snoop Dogg: You know who T.D. is? Tray Dee.

Snoop Dogg: Nah. T.D. [pause] This d**k.

[Both laugh]

Snoop Dogg: Had to get you, my n***a.

Snoop Dogg [in baritone voice]: Hello, yes, this is T.D. [pauses] S.T.D.

Adisa Banjoko is an author, lecturer and co-founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation: