It Takes All Kinds

a Few Stories and Profiles by Erik Hedegaard
mainly from inside the pages of Rolling Stone
(with additional commentary and folderol provided by the author aka Charlie, sometimes)



Snoop Dogg

Posted on | October 22, 2008 | 1 Comment

Snoop’s Higher Vision

For the Doggfather, global domination ain’t nuttin’ but a g-thang

At 32,000 feet, tucked away in the back of a private Gulfstream jet, on his way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to shoot a Cribs segment for MTV, with Little Johnny Taylor singing about “trouble ahead” on the CD player, Snoop Dogg and a couple of his pals are nearly lost to sight in all the pot smoke. There’s nothing too unusual about this, of course, Snoop Dogg being a well-known and highly dedicated pot smoker. And yet, not all that long ago, he’d said he was giving up the stuff. He’d said, “I get high on life now.” He’d said, “I had to do it. . . . I was getting careless and reckless.” He’d said lots of things about his new, clean lifestyle. But he really does love his pot, need his pot, crave his pot, and his pot-free existence lasted for all of about four months.

“I felt beautiful, but at times my mind just needs to tone it down a little,” he says now, a little sheepishly. “Anyway, before, I used to smoke maybe a quarter-pound a day. Now it’s more or less like two ounces a day. It’s drastically dropped off. It’s more controlled. It’s more, you know, casual.”

And so there he is, in the back of the jet — all you can hear mid-cabin are shouts of “motherfucker” this, “nigga” that, with the occasional “goddamn!” — a guy for whom two ounces of dope a day (more or less) is a casual amount. It is true, however, that he probably does need some way to tone his mind down, because he is one hyper-energetic hip-hop entrepreneur. He’s got a new album, R & G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, with its first single, “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” a collaboration with Pharrell, in the Number One position on the pop charts. He’s got deals in the works or completed with shoe companies, cell-phone companies, barbecue-grill companies, clothing companies, satellite-radio companies, action-figure toy companies and movie studios, and has hired the Firm, a Los Angeles powerhouse-type career-management company, to help him sort it all out.

Plus, he’s got his wife, Shante, on his mind. Last May, citing irreconcilable differences, he filed for a divorce. Now, he’s not so sure he did the right thing. In fact, he’s pretty sure he messed up big time and is currently taking steps to correct the situation. Plus, for the past year, he’s been coaching a local Pop Warner football team — the Rowland Heights Raiders, with his son Corde, age ten, playing quarterback — and they’re now in the regional playoffs and on their way to a Super Bowl victory. He’s totally into it. “For Snoop, this is hut-hut-hike season,” says his friend and cohort, Bigg Slice, 32, who spends much of his time customizing cars for Snoop and is responsible for Snoop’s tricked-out version of the Cadillac DeVille, the Snoop DeVille. “If it’s not hut-hut-hike, forget about it.”

All that being the case, after he does his Cribs thing in Vegas and re-boards the Gulfstream for the ride back home, it’s little wonder that the first thing he does is lay himself down. No more dope for him today. Instead, he curls his legs up, shuts his eyes and is soon fast sleep, hands folded in the prayer position under his cheek, looking very much like a perfect little all-tuckered-out hip-hop angel.

At the age of thirty-three, after more than ten years at the top of the rap-pack heap, what the former Calvin Broadus seems to want more than anything right now is to make it in the movies, to become “the black Tom Cruise,” as he likes to put it. So far, he’s been in about fifteen flicks, most recently Starsky and Hutch and Soul Plane, and has just finished shooting an indie called The Tenants, co-starring Dylan McDermott, in which Snoop plays a militant black writer. It’s a dramatic role and, for the first time since his small but effective part as a wheelchair-bound crack dealer in Training Day, calls for him to be someone other than himself — slitty-eyed, laid-back and honey-voiced — or some variation of himself. This, Snoop thinks, is a good thing. “It’s a stretch, and so far-fetched from what I normally play,” he says, “that it’ll probably get me critically acclaimed as an actor.”

Being the foremost proponent of gangsta rap, and of the pimp lifestyle, and of gin and juice, and of dead cops (at least in song), etc., has not, however, always made him an easy sell to Hollywood’s skittish executives, though he thinks they now view him mainly as “a bad guy gone good.”

“They don’t know what to expect,” he says, “until they see that I’m just a regular ol’ guy like they are. I mean, I don’t walk around gangsta all day, slapping people up and being a vicious criminal. No. That’s only when it’s called for. Same with the pimp image. That’s a dream of mine I had as a kid, to be a pimp, living like a pimp. I’ve lived that dream out and had fun doing it. But I don’t think I should play with it no more.”

Apparently, a lot of the old Snoop image is being shoved aside. That whole highly lucrative side business of his in soft-core porn — as the host for Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style and his own Snoop Dogg: Doggystyle series — is no more. “I made that stuff more fun to watch,” he says. “But my wife don’t like it. She knows I’m not participating. But you’re still being close to it. That’s why I’m not going to fuck with it anymore.”

He sighs and then talks a little more about Shante, who has been his wife for nearly seven years: “I know I said I wanted a divorce, but that ain’t what I really wanted. That’s the devil working. My thing was, I was so demanding and not willing to listen. That’s why it was all bad, because of the simple fact that I’m Snoop Dogg and in a powerful position and sometimes that shit gets to my head. I just got to come back to being, you know, Calvin, and realizing what matters most to me, my wife and my kids. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. Put that back together again.”

He shakes his head and a while later says, “Success is crazy, man.”

These days, he holes up mostly in his recording studio, nicknamed the Tabernacle, which is basically a California-ranch-style home, plopped down in a leafy California suburb that’s remarkable only because of the flavor Snoop brings to it. Cars line the sidewalk outside his pad, with hefty-size security guys directing traffic and keeping a close eye on visitors. Inside, various Snoop Dogg personnel and hangers-on shuffle around, while in a backroom Snoop blabs endlessly on his cell phone. He often sleeps here. When he does, he sometimes gets up around 7:30 a.m., washes his face, cleans his ears, brushes his teeth, wolfs down some bacon and eggs, along with some hot cakes and waffles, and rips himself a CD to set the tenor of the day with. It’s mostly old-school stuff from Curtis Mayfield, the Isley Brothers and Al Green, because, he says, “Old-school music just puts me where I need to be.”

Where he is right now is in a tiny room filled with recording gear, blunt in hand, smoke curling away, remembering how it used to be as a gang member, in Long Beach, California, in the years before he teamed up with Dr. Dre on Dre’s album The Chronic; released his first CD, 1993’s Doggystyle; and found all that crazy success. In those early days, among other things, he sold crack on the street, got busted on drug charges and did a stretch in jail; but they were, nonetheless, the good old days, and it was great to be a Crip.

“Especially the camaraderie we had as far as power goes,” he says. “You know, the bitches, the money, the cars, the jewelry, the respect; people knowing my motherfucking name; knowing who I was, what I stood for — without a record, without TV, without none of that shit. That’s a hell of a thing the gang gives you. My thing was, I was cool. I was more about getting my money. I was a finesser, so motherfuckers loved being around me and loved me being around them. I was just a young nigga who was on the edge, who was down to do it. And I was down to do it. The big homeys tell me what to do, I go and do it.”

But after the multiplatinum-selling Doggystyle was released, he suddenly became the big homey himself — in fact, the biggest in the world of gangsta rap — with each of his six subsequent albums also going platinum. Throughout, he’s had his troubles, first with the law, when he and a bodyguard went to trial on murder charges in 1996 (both were acquitted), and then with his recording companies, when he defected from Suge Knight’s Death Row to Master P’s No Limit label in 1998. Even so, he’s always managed to land on his feet and in fact thrive, to the point where now he’s something of a cultural icon and trendsetter: When he started adding “izzle” to the end of words, the nation suddenly did the same; when he convinced Chrysler to give him a 300C, suddenly Chrysler couldn’t keep up with demand for the 300C. And yet he often thinks he’s still getting the short end of the stick. Take his Doggy Fizzle Televizzle show, which ran on MTV in 2003 but is no more.

“It was doing beautiful, man, getting great reviews and great ratings,” he says. “But I felt like my fee should go up, because I was playing all the characters and coming up with most of the creative ideas. I mean, no way that my hairdresser supposed to be getting more money than me. All I asked for was, like, a million, but they wouldn’t even give me a million. So I walked away.”

He shrugs and looks at the blunt. He doesn’t take a hit; rather, he lets the smoke billow up in front of his nose.

“People don’t like to pay Snoop Dogg what he’s worth,” he goes on, sullenly. “They’re so used to giving him anything, because Snoop Dogg used to accept anything, because he was so happy just to be in the game. The reviews say, ‘Snoop Dogg! Snoop Dogg!’ But they want to pay me like puppy dog, puppy dog.” Indeed, for playing Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch, he received only around $500,000. “But now, it’s going to be more about, ‘You have to pay me what I’m worth.’ If I’m in a movie, and 70 million people leave the movie saying, ‘Wow, Snoop Dogg was great,’ don’t you think I should get at least a million dollars?”

Finally, he takes a hit and eases off into the stratosphere.

It often seems that the only time Snoop isn’t high, or getting high, is when he’s coaching football. “Around those kids,” he says, “I’m as straight as motherfucking six o’clock.”

One evening, he ambles onto the field at practice, coach’s whistle dangling from his neck. The Rowland Raiders are entering the playoffs with a record of eight wins, no losses. But Snoop doesn’t want the kids to rest on their laurels, so he keeps up a constant stream of instruction and praise. After Number 33 runs for nine yards, he hollers to him, “Run like that every time!” A few plays later, three kids are down on the field, on their backs, looking like maybe they’re in pain. “That’s what I call a hand-grenade play!” Snoop shouts happily. “There’s bodies everywhere!”

Later on, back at the Tabernacle, Bigg Slice is messing around with some videos he’s taken of the competing teams, which is part of Coach Snoop’s game-winning strategy, scouting the opposition just like the big boys do. “See, he’s coaching for the future, not just today,” Slice says. “We going after the team a weekend ahead.”

Snoop comes into the room and says, “We got Woodcrest coming up. We seen them last night, and I’m glad, because they got a few things.”

“But not enough,” says Slice.

“Not enough,” says Snoop. “They got about three shots.”

“Better aim for a pressure point,” says Slice.

Snoop thinks about this. “Better aim for the head,” he says, chuckling. “Fuck the chest, legs, arms. Go straight for the head. And if you miss, you still got two shots. And if you miss the next shot, you walk all the way up on the nigga and shoot him. No shooting from far away. And the way my niggas was out practicing today” — he shakes his head, smiling, remembering the play that brought the three kids down — “they was trying to kill each other. Y’all seen it. Bodies everywhere. Yeah, Woodcrest in trouble. They in trouble!”

In a way, snoop is all about strategizing, aiming for the head, looking toward the future and working out ways to leverage the Snoop Dogg franchise. After seeing how much money former boxer George Foreman made from the George Foreman grill, Snoop decided maybe he should do the same thing and is now in discussions for a product to be called the Snoop DeGrill. “Why not?” he asks, reasonably enough. “Everybody wants to be down with Snoop Dogg.

I like to barbecue, and I know a lot of other people like to barbecue, so why not give them a grill that’s customized in the Snoop Dogg fashion, where they can say, ‘Hey, I know Snoop Dogg’s probably barbecuing right now, watching football just like me!’ ”

As it happens, his finesser’s mind is pretty much never at rest, never at peace. “I chose this lifestyle when I was young, and I’m always trying to perfect it and master being Snoop Dogg,” he says. “It’s just something that’s got to be done. I mean, it’s fun, but it’s also no easy task. There’s just a lot expected out of Snoop Dogg. Like, a Number One single is expected. It’s not like, ‘Wow, Snoop, you got the Number One single!’ It’s like, ‘OK, you got another one.’ He can’t settle for less. He can’t be the underdog, he’s got to be the overseer. He can’t do anything second best.”

As he says these things, he lights another blunt, takes a big puff, exhales though his mouth, inhales through his nose, recirculating the smoke. He appears to be a little moody today, happy and not happy at the same time. He’s never been one of those rappers totally into bluster and braggadocio; he’s always tempered the big talk with a good bit of vulnerability. But still, today, he seems more contemplative than usual. Try to get him off that track with some superfluities, and he comes right back to it.

He will say, for instance, that chicken wings are his favorite food. “And Popeyes is the shit. I don’t know what they do, but they got that hella seasoning, and that shit be extra crunchy.” He says that he sleeps on brown pillows because “that’s just the color my bed set is.” He says that more than anything, he likes to be center of attention — “the life of the party and all eyes on me. When I’m not, it puts me on edge, like my fingertips get sweaty.” He says that he’s a good person “97.5 percent of the time.” He says that he lost his virginity in 1982, when he was eleven.

Then he says that his best-ever orgasm was probably his first one, only to retract that statement a second later.

“Probably my best one was the first time I made love to my wife,” he says. “It was in this little cheap-ass hotel in North Long Beach. She made me wait a whole year. That’s why I love her so much.”

And then he says that the worst thing he’s ever done to another person is what he did to his wife.

“I cheated on her,” he says softly. “That’s the worst thing you could possibly do. Lose somebody’s trust who really loves you.”

After that, he’s silent for a moment, pot smoke drifting through the air.

“I’m thirty-three years old now,” he says, finally. “I see a lot of things differently now than I used to. I try to do more right than wrong and to keep God in everything I do and to keep the devils away from me. But I know by trying to stay so right, the devil is going to keep on working on me. That’s going to be a curse around me all the time. But I don’t think it’s going to get to me.

I really don’t think that it is.”

ERIK HEDEGAARD

Posted Dec 15, 2004 12:00 AM

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