June 20, 2024

IntecStudio

Buzz The Music

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop

Thirty years ago, a rap music legend began his journey to immortality — and to Martha Stewart.

Most in-the-know music fans were aware of Snoop Doggy Dogg (as he was then known) because of his collaborations with Dr. Dre. First there was “Deep Cover” from the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Then there were his memorable contributions to Dre’s The Chronic, which came out in late 1992. 

So the world was primed for Snoop’s solo debut Doggystyle when it was released into the world on November 23, 1993. The album sold around 800,000 copies in its first week, and set the stage for Snoop to become a superstar, one who would eventually reach a stage of pop-culture ubiquity that mid-90s rap fans — and those people who saw his scowl on the cover of Newsweek as the literal face of the question of whether rap was too violent — could have never imagined.

To celebrate the anniversary of Doggystyle‘s release, GRAMMY.com is revisiting the D-O-double-G’s biggest and best musical moments. A quick note: this list does not include songs that appear on another artist’s album (hey, we had to draw the line somewhere!), so there’s no “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” or “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” And we tried to pull from all eras of his career, so it’s not all Doggystyle (though you should, of course, listen to that classic in its entirety). 

So with all that said, here we are: 15 of Snoop Dogg’s most popular and most dynamic songs. 

“Deep Cover” with Dr. Dre, Deep Cover soundtrack (1992)

Snoop’s very first recorded song — his introduction to the world at large — occurred over a Dre beat so powerful, with a bassline so iconic, that it became the foil for not one, not two, but three classic songs (plus a nasty Biggie freestyle). The duo’s lyrical chemistry was undeniable as they traded verses throughout. And, of course, there’s the song’s chorus, in which Snoop introduced California penal code 187 into the national lexicon.

The track and its video loosely parallel the plot of the movie on whose soundtrack it appears, the absolutely nuts (and surprisingly entertaining) Deep Cover, directed by Bill Duke and starring Laurence Fishburne. 

“Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” Doggystyle (1993)

This track wasn’t just the world’s introduction to Doggystyle — it lets fans know that the Dre-and-Snoop chemistry they’d heard on The Chronic was not a fluke. The track’s George Clinton and P-Funk interpolations also showed that Dre was still in his bag, and Snoop’s vocal performance was one for the ages. Still in his very early 20s, the rapper was adept at mythmaking, showing the audience how he would “step through the fog” and “creep through the smog” to deliver his charismatic raps.

As if that wasn’t enough, the song’s Fab 5 Freddy-directed video showed Snoop’s sense of humor, as it featured the rapper and his compatriots morphing into literal dogs. 

“Gin and Juice,” Doggystyle (1993)

Any rap fan of a certain age can not only spit this song word for word, but also quote pretty much every line in the video (“Snoop Doggy Dogg! You need to get a jobby-job”). Just say the words “Laid back…” to pretty much anyone who is at the age where they can say complete sentences, and you’ll get “With my mind on my money and my money on my mind” in response.

The song and video created an image for Snoop that was fun-loving and comic — one that he rode (sometimes in a Chrysler) all the way to a decades-long career as a pitchman, TV host and overall personality that would at first glance seem incongruous for an avowed Crip from Long Beach. Beyond all the myth-making, though, it’s just a fantastic song, one that Rolling Stone included in its 100 best rap songs of all time list.

“Gz and Hustlas,” Doggystyle (1993)

This Doggystyle highlight begins with a hilarious skit that ends with a funny and profane punchline from a very young Bow Wow. It just gets better from there.

Snoop has said that this is one of his two personal favorites from his debut album. Not unrelatedly, he’s also admitted that the whole thing was improvised while he was just checking a mic. And as we’ll see on the “Afro Puffs” remix, freestyling Snoop is the best Snoop. That’s certainly the case here. The sample of Bernard Wright’s “Haboglabotribin” provides the perfect soundtrack for the ride. 

“Murder Was the Case,” Doggystyle (1993)

This song is the Faustian tale of a young man who survives a shooting by selling his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal life and a life of riches and success. But, as always with these stories, the protagonist’s greed gets the better of him, and the devil gets his due. The narrator ends the story locked up, with only a prison riot to look forward to.

It’s a gripping tale that would have eerie real-life resonance when Snoop was actually charged with murder, a charge on which he was famously acquitted. He wrote the song before the incident, a coincidence that affected him so deeply that he decided that “maybe I shouldn’t be writing about devilish s— like this.”

“Afro Puffs (Extended Remix)” with The Lady of Rage, Above the Rim soundtrack (1994)

Snoop is at his best when he’s in the moment — when he’s relaxed, freestyling and rapping in his inimitable style about whatever is on his mind. His opening verse on this song is perhaps the quintessential example of that.

He sounds completely at ease, swinging, developing ideas in an unforced way. It’s like you’re in the studio with Snoop for two solid minutes, watching him warm up and get comfortable. It’s a performance style he wouldn’t duplicate on any other studio track, even the ones he would also make up on the spot. 

“Woof! (feat. Fiend and Mystikal),” Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998)

One of Snoop’s first major business and stylistic switches happened in March 1998, when he signed to No Limit Records. What was a Long Beach gangsta rapper doing on a New Orleans label? Well, it turned out to be a pretty great fit, at least on “Woof!”

The track was the second single on Snoop’s No Limit debut, and it featured two of the label’s stars, Fiend and Mystikal. The Dogg fits perfectly on a track in the label’s aggressive, chant-based Southern style (even the track’s percussive dog barks manage to add intensity). Snoop adopts a more free rhythmic approach here, perhaps influenced by his all-over-the-beat labelmates. It’s fascinating to hear, and it works amazingly well.

“B— Please (feat. Xzibit),” No Limit Top Dogg (1999)

One of the things Snoop is greatest at is, to put it in crass, unavoidable terms, pimp talk. “B— Please” might be his ultimate entry into the genre. This song features a memorable performance by Xzibit and some classic singing from Nate Dogg. And the Dr. Dre beat is instantly memorable. But what really puts the song over the top is the confidence and style with which Snoop orders an unnamed lady to “hem my coat and roll me some dope.”

Bonus points go to this track for its sequel, which appeared on Eminem‘s The Marshall Mathers LP, and which features Em doing a hilarious Snoop impression.

“Lay Low (feat. Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy, and Tha Eastsidaz),” The Last Meal (2000)

Yes, Xzibit wrote Snoop’s verse on this classic posse cut featuring rapping contributions from the Eastsidaz and Snoop’s then-label boss Master P. But that doesn’t make the Doggfather’s contribution any less smooth. It doesn’t prevent Nate Dogg’s hook from being an unstoppable ear worm. It doesn’t make Dr. Dre’s beat any less of a minimalist masterpiece. It doesn’t make the Eastsidaz’s appearances less effective. And it certainly doesn’t diminish in any way the single best part of the song: Master P rapping, “They call me Jed Clampett for all the bread I got/ But they call me Bill Clinton for all the head I got.”

“Beautiful (feat. Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson),” Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$ (2002)

Snoop teaming up with Pharrell gave the Dogg a much-needed early aughts career boost. It turned out that Snoop and P made an unbeatable combination, and one that we will see again later in this very list.

“Beautiful” features an instantly memorable beat whose repetitive syncopated rhythms immediately drive into the listener’s skull and don’t let up until the song is over. Add in Pharrell’s so-off-key-they’re-somehow-on vocals, and you have a track that stands out even in the era of Neptunes ubiquity. Snoop adds his own style and grace, and, somehow, a (presumably intentionally) charmingly awkward reference to Clueless.

“Drop It Like It’s Hot (feat. Pharrell Williams),” R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (2004)

Snoop and Pharrell made a number of great songs, but this is arguably their masterpiece. This No. 1 hit was so popular that even its ringtone version went double platinum. It was also nominated for a GRAMMY. But accolades and numbers are secondary.

What makes this track is the perfect melding of one the Neptunes’ greatest non-Clipse minimalist beats with Snoop’s laid-back rapping (and a verse from Pharrell in which he bends his approach towards Snoop’s to superb effect). Snoop sounds so relaxed that you might miss all the tough talk, which is delivered in his patented stylish way (“Pistol-whip you, dip you, then flip you/ Then dance to this mothaf—in’ music we Crip to”). 

“Think About It,” Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)

This is the song Snoop chose to demonstrate to his own son that after nearly 15 years in the rap world, he could still hold his own. He couldn’t have made a better choice.

“Think About It” is dense, wordy, even “intellectual” — a word Snoop comes back to a few times in the track. It’s also a seemingly incongruous mixture of aggressive rapping, where Snoop sounds like he’s really pushing himself; with laid-back music reminiscent of 1970s soul. And yet that combination, which could be off-putting, somehow works to the advantage of both elements of the song, supplying the rapping with needed comfort and style; and the music with energy and drive.

“Sensual Seduction,” Ego Trippin’ (2007)

Sometimes known by its uncensored title “Sexual Eruption,” this Shawty Redd-produced track was one of Snoop’s biggest chart hits, making it all the way to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s also a big left turn for him, featuring Auto-Tuned singing throughout, minus a rap verse in the middle.

The incredibly catchy number started its life as a Shawty Redd solo song called “Drifter,” which got leaked and hit the radio. “Snoop wanted to buy that song,” Shawty told me a few years back. “At the time, Sylvia Rhone was signing me to Universal/Motown as an artist, and I couldn’t sell Snoop that song. So I ended up making [‘Sensual Seduction’].”

“Young, Wild & Free” (Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa feat. Bruno Mars) Mac & Devin Go To High School (2011)

This track brings together Snoop and a younger weed-obsessed rapper, Wiz Khalifa. But what really makes it a winner is the addition of Bruno Mars, who at that time was in the middle of an absolutely unstoppable run with his crew the Smeezingtons as a hitmaker for both himself and others. This was “F— You”/ “Billionaire”/ “Nothin’ on You”-era Bruno, and his composition and hook here is right up there with those pop masterpieces. Snoop and Wiz trade rhymes back and forth with a chemistry that, while perhaps plant-induced, can’t be faked.

“I’m From 21st Street (feat. DJ Drama and Stressmatic),” Gangsta Grillz: I Still Got It (2022)

Snoop spent much of the past decade doing unusual one-offs (see 2013’s reggae album Reincarnated and 7 Days of Funk, a funk project with DāM-FunK, or 2018’s gospel compilation Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love, among others). So when he wanted to get back to his rap roots in 2022, he teamed with Gangsta Grillz mastermind DJ Drama to release a mixtape called I Still Got It. The project, and especially this song, more than proves the title correct.

Snoop tears up the Rick Rock-produced beat, sounding more energized and hungry than he has in a while. The subject matter may be somewhat well-trod ground (it’s not far removed from his 1994 track “21 Jumpstreet,” which could easily have made this list as well), but how he talks about his past, and the intensity he brings to it, shows that Snoop can still produce great music 30 years into his career. 

A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond