Lionel Deluy (photographer),
Willie G. (writer)
The Big Apple boroughs of Queens and the Bronx may forever feud over who first sowed the seeds of hip-hop music, but the paternal roots of the movement’s most infamous subgenre are clear and undisputed: L.A. is the biological father of gangster rap. Conceived in the same streets that gave rise to the notorious Crips and Bloods, its dark, hard-hitting, yet often melodic anthems have fascinated minds from the ’hood to Hollywood and worldwide. With mixed messages of lavish living and cold-blooded crime, west side beats and rhymes are quite often an accurate representation of the dichotomy that makes Los Angeles the beautiful beast it is. Nobody knows this better than big Snoop Dogg.
Born Calvin Broadus and nicknamed Snoopy by his parents for no reason other than appearance, the California native, now 38, has come a long way from his days as a gang member in Long Beach’s east side. His music has too, evolving over the years from gritty street-bangers to dance-friendly club hits. Quite simply a master at maintaining his relevancy, the 18-year music veteran is a fixture and ambassador of the city that made him. The rapper-actor has become an American icon and one of the most recognizable faces (not to mention voices) in popular culture. He recently released his 10th studio album, Malice N Wonderland, which includes cover art by tattooer Mister Cartoon and a mini-movie depicting Snoop as an urban superhero. The D-O-double-G has also been tapped by EMI Music to serve as acting chairman of a newly resurrected Priority Records label. Add that to his ever-growing list of business and personal ventures, most notably the Snoop Youth Football League, and it’s obvious that there is much more to the Dogg than smoke and mizzles.
From music and movies to community service and merchandising, there are few territories Snoop has explored without completely immersing himself—save for getting himself tattooed. And that has nothing to do with a fear of needles.
INKED: This is your 10th album, a milestone especially by today’s standards. How’s hitting that number make you feel?
SNOOP DOGG: I never pay no attention to the number. I’m just into the music and making people feel good. Long as it’s slammin’ and people are having a good time and enjoying themselves, then I got the grind to keep doing it. That’s what fuels me to want to continue to make hits. And when I got that feeling I ain’t got time to worry about numbers. It doesn’t matter if it’s my first or my 40th. I just want you to like it, to dance and live it.
How did you arrive at the album’s name?
It doesn’t exactly come off as the feel-good title of the year. It is feel-good, though. Snoop Dogg’s all about that feel-good music. The name Malice N Wonderland came up ’cause I was working in the studio with this musician and he had a song called “Malice in Wonderland.” He told me I should name the album that. I never really questioned why—I just took it and ran, you know, built the whole concept around that. Although I also wrote, like, half of the album when I was angry and half of it when I was just loving life, so I guess that’s fitting too.
You’re now the creative chairman at Priority Records. What do you think the label executives are expecting of you, and how do you plan to deliver?
I’m here to put the spirit back in Priority, bring back some of those older artists who helped make the West Coast sound what it is today. But then they’re also looking to me to go down some new avenues and bring some fresh talent in that will keep the name what it is. My plan is just to attack it. Talent tends to find its way to me when I’m doin’ what I’m doin’—I don’t really have to go looking for it. Long as I go hard at being Snoop Dogg, it’ll come to me. One single at a time, it’s just going to fall in my lap and become big. We just signed the homies Cypress Hill, so we’re off to a good start if you ask me.
Sounds a bit reminiscent of your come-up with Dr. Dre. Are you two still tight? And do you know anything about his Detox album that we don’t?
We still got a great relationship. I had been helping him out on Detox, but then I had to jump back into my thing, so I don’t know when the date is or anything like that. We best of friends and we cool, but I don’t know his thought process. He knows, though, that whatever he needs from me, he got it. I already recorded a lot of songs with him for it—it’s just up to him if he uses them or not. I’m just waiting like everybody else while keeping my business going.