Snoop Dogg plays the Big Day Out this Sunday, February 2, at Arena Joondalup. ALI HAWKEN reports.
What’s his name again? While Snoop Dogg’s debut single was released some 20 years ago, Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) now rings out like some kind of clue as to what lay ahead for his career.
With all his various monikers and name changing, Snoop Dogg is damn well giving Prince a run for his money these days.
It’s hard to keep up – Snoop announced last year he was now to be known as Snoop Lion after converting to Rastafarianism, which in recent months has be forsaken in favour of Snoopzilla. ‘Zilla – being a homage of sorts to legendary Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, who often referred to himself as Bootzilla – released 7 Days Of Funk last week, the result of his latest collaboration with Dam Funk. And let’s not forget DJ Snoopadelic, and that’s just touching on his musical personas – don’t let’s get started on his forays into film and television. So who is the real Snoop?
Growing up in Long Beach, California, Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jnr was nicknamed ‘Snoopy’ by his parents because of his appearance. He began singing and playing piano at the local Baptist church from a young age.
“I grew up listening to a lot of old school and soul music, and I play a lot of that to this day,” tells Snoop. While he listened to rap from Grandmaster Flash, Whodini and The Sugarhill Gang, he also looked up to soul artists like Curtis Mayfield “because he was a bad motherfucker.” As he explained it to Playboy Magazine back in ‘95, “That’s why motherfuckers say that I sing instead of rap. That’s why I got more of an R&B sound. They say my shit is gangsta shit because of the words I use. But if you listen to it, it’s R&B shit.”
In school, he spent his days hanging out with the likes of Nate Dogg and Warren G, the three on them going on to form the band 213 in 1990, named after the Long Beach area code. His music career didn’t really take off, however, until a couple of years later when he was discovered by Dr Dre, who brought him onboard to collaborate on his record, The Chronic. In 1993, Snoop unleashed Doggystyle onto the world, his first solo record debuting at number one on the US Billboard charts and selling almost a million copies in its first week, signifying Snoop was set to join the greats of the rap game.
From the outset, it was clear that he was never going to be anything but legendary. I managed to catch Snoop Dogg on one of his visits to Australia several years ago when he played a music festival on an island just off the Gold Coast. A typically hot summer’s day, all the punters had to walk the long road that joined the island to the mainland to get to the festival grounds, a road lined with nothing but eucalypts and pine trees. Sometime around mid-afternoon, one festival-goer making their way there made the grave mistake of throwing a cigarette butt into the surrounding bush, and so an almighty bushfire ensued. With close to 20,000 people all stranded on this island with no other means to get back to the mainland, to say it was a scene of chaos is an understatement.
All the bands had ceased playing, as none of us could see the stage due to all the smoke. The First Aid tents were inundated, as people were having asthma attacks left, right and centre. Police were all standing around nervously assessing the situation as they needed an evacuation plan. My friends and I were making plans to swim ashore and had all but given up on seeing the headliners we were promised later that night, as surely this was reason enough for Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg to forego their commitments. Then, to the astonishment of all onlooking, as if something out of a clichéd gangster film, a limo burst through the wall of flames and pulls up at the festival gates. Yes, that’s right – it’s Snoop-motherfucking-Dogg. His pimpin’ fur jacket on (nevermind the 40 degree day) and smoke in hand, he took to the stage.
Dozens of police were standing by to see what Snoop Dogg had in store for everyone. And you better believe it when I tell you, the motherfucker did it – he opened with Dr Dre’s Fuck Tha Police. If anyone were to have the balls to do such a thing, it’s Snoop-motherfucking-Dogg.
“I’ve pretty much seen it all and done it all in my career,” he tells me with a laugh when I asked him about playing that festival. “That Australia show with the bushfire was a good one, though.”
This time around, he’s back Down Under as Snoop Dogg to play the Big Day Out, with a touch of Snoop Lion thrown in for good measure. “You can expect all the classics with some new stuff sprinkled in,” he reveals. “And a live ass show!”
As he tells it, Snoop Lion was a Rastafarian reincarnation of the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, while Snoopzilla is more of a branch of his truer self rather than another character altogether. “Snoopzilla is another extension of my personality, not so much of a Superman/Clark Kent thing. We do what we feel,” he explains. “Snoopzilla is into THE FUNK!” My prodding as to whether there might be another incarnation of Snoop in the foreseeable future is met with a “you’ll just have to wait and see!” As he told Rolling Stone this month, “One day I will go back to being Snoop Dogg, because I love him and he loves me. Right now, what’s necessary is Snoopzilla – because this is the funk, and may the funk be with you.”
Under this latest moniker, he’s just released the 7 Days Of Funk record with Dam Funk. But just as quickly as ‘Zilla came, he left again, with a return to his Snoop Dogg roots set for later this year, announcing the Doggfather will be teaming up with Wiz Khalifa for a new album.
And then what about the ‘family man Snoop’ behind closed doors? “Life as a family man is a whole ‘nother side of me,” Snoop reveals. “Family is very important to me. I started my SYFL youth football program from being involved in my own kids’ lives and what they were doing. Shout out to my wife the Bosslady and my kids.”
Then there’s the side of Snoop that’s into fashion, having teamed up with Adidas to design his very own kicks. “I gotta stay suited and booted,” he explains about this other creative avenue. Snoop tells me he likes to keep things interesting by trying new things, both for himself and for his fans. “I’m always working and thinking of new ways to reach my fans.”
And how could we properly discuss the shifting personas of Snoop without reference to his widespread film career – both Hollywood and Bollywood. He’s had cameos as himself in over a dozen films and television shows, and then there’s the various characters he’s taken on: there was Huggy Bear Brown in Starsky & Hutch, Ja’Marcus in Scary Movie 5, Mac Johnson in Mac & Devin Go To High School, there’s Dra-Man, C-Dwag, Blue, Rodney, Jimmy Bones…ahh, you get the picture. Snoop even had a cameo in the 2008 Bollywood film, Singh Is Kinng, his first ever rap in an Indian movie. Is there anything this guy won’t do?
So who exactly is the real Snoop? Tell you what, I’ve still got no fucking idea.