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23rd Nov 2018

Doggystyle: Snoop Dogg’s classic debut album turns 25 and still sounds better than everything else

Will Lavin

From the very moment you first heard the bath water washing over Snoop’s back you knew something special was about to happen

Then throw in some Superfly references, a Curtis Mayfield sample and a Last Poets quote and the album’s intro felt more like a movie than the one it borrowed its style from.

Doggystyle was about to be a mother fucking problem.

Coming off of the back of Dr. Dre’s iconic album The Chronic, Snoop’s name was ringing bells left, right and centre. For most of us that was the game-changing moment in Hip Hop, the moment when underground rap finally broke into the mainstream market.

But in a little less than 12 months the goalposts moved again.

On November 23rd 1993 Doggystyle was released. Generating a buzz like nothing before it, the modern day equivalent would probably be something like 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, or even more recently, perhaps you could say Drake’s Views. 

All I know is it sent a shockwave through the music world and as a 10-year-old who hadn’t quite yet fully immersed himself in Hip Hop, even I knew about it.

While every song on Doggystyle is a masterpiece the music isn’t what hits you when you listen to it for the first time. Instead it’s Snoop’s laid-back demeanour. Very evident in his rhyme style, like a 70s pimp he coasts calmly through a sea of heavy snares and back-breaking beats.

Produced by Dr. Dre, the album took musicality in Hip Hop to a whole other level. Incorporating funk and soul into the mix in a colossal way, if it wasn’t legendary funkster George Clinton popping up on “G Funk Intro”, or the use of music by Parliament, Funkadelic and The Counts in the making of “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”, then the fact Dre used flutes to recreate the melody from Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” for “Tha Shiznit” speaks volumes about where this album wanted to go instrumentally.

And speaking of those backdrops, G-Funk might have been something we were introduced to by Dre a year earlier but once Doggystyle came around we really understood what it was and what it was capable of. This album birthed the G-Funk era.

The west coast was dominating rap at the time and the music coming out of L.A. and nearby cities was dangerous, it was real, it was raw. So when Snoop injected this new sub-genre straight into the heart of what was already going on, an exciting new hybrid was born and captured the ears and imaginations of everyone, regardless of race, religion or financial status.

It was fresh and fun and provided the soundtrack for so many summers after its release. It was Saturday night party music one minute and inspired a lazy Sunday afternoon the next. And aside from how it actually sounded it was more a feeling than anything else.

Snoop has never been referred to as one of the best lyricists in the game but I tell you this: he’s one of the best rappers in the game. Sure, you can be wowed by “lyrical, miracle, spiritual” wordsmiths all day long – I like a lot of spitters that do this too – but just like wine, there’s one for every occasion.

Snoop is someone who provides catchy hooks and comical narratives, best displayed on tracks like “Lodi Dodi” (a nod to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s classic “La Di Da Di”) and “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”. 

Doggystyle was the springboard for the witty and macho smooth shit Snoop would later go on to be known for. His stories were so extravagant, so out there and so unbelievable that it felt like you were reading a hood science fiction novel at times. But because it was Snoop and because of the way he delivered them you always felt like there could be more truth to them than not.

His music was prophetic too, in an almost 2Pac kind of way. While “Murder Was the Case” was a fictional tale about a gangsta who was saved by God and given a second chance at life but messed it up, it ended up being a bit too real for Snoop when he was charged with murder himself during the recording of Doggystylehe was acquitted a couple of years later.

At the heart of it Doggystyle is a family affair. Reintroducing the world to the same artists that featured on The Chronic, whether it’s The Lady of Rage getting the first bars on the album (“G Funk Intro”), Daz and Kurupt (as Tha Dogg Pound) taking control of the wheel on “For All My N***az & Bitches”, or Nate Dogg stealing the show on “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”, there’s no ego in sight. 

This could so easily have been an album by Snoop, featuring Snoop and it would have probably been just as successful. But that’s not a part of Snoop’s DNA. He likes to spread the wealth. In fact, it’s probably not even that. He just likes having his friends around during the creative process and because of that he created a genre-defining album that will forever go down as one of the greatest bodies of work in not only Hip Hop but music as a whole.

Stand out moments on Doggystyle of course include “Gin and Juice”, which features probably one of the most recited hooks in music history. Even today when you hear those opening chords you’re transported back to the very first time you heard it. Etched in Hip Hop history there’s no escaping this song’s importance.

Then aside from “Pump Pump” (which always reminds me of the movie Above the Rim) there’s “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”. Featuring Warren G, Nate Dogg and Kurupt, it’s one of the album’s most memorable moments simply because of one line: “And you even licked my balls.”

Yes, I know it’s vulgar. And yes, I know it’s degrading to women. But have you ever been in a basement party in New York City when this song comes on and all the women present sing the lyrics in unison at the top of their lungs? I have. Music doesn’t always have to be so serious. Like stand up comedy it can funny and that’s precisely what this song is.

You don’t have to agree with it to enjoy it, just like you don’t have to be a psychopath serial killer to enjoy watching Taxi Driver. “Ain’t No Fun” is like a Richard Pryor or Chris Rock stand up routine over some gleeful G-Funk designed to get you two stepping on the dance floor.

Combine these with the W-Balls radio skits featuring comedian Ricky Harris (as fictional on-air personality DJ EZ Dicc) and you’ve got one hell of an album that never wavers in making the corners of your mouth turn upward.

And how can we talk about Doggystyle without mentioning its artwork? We can’t. Simplistic and controversial, there’s so much to be taken away from the iconic album cover designed by Snoop’s cousin Darryl “Joe Cool” Daniel.

It was comical, gangsta, and most of all it was smut-ridden, which is why it was bashed repeatedly by the likes of NPCBW’s national chair, C. Delores Tucker, former D.C. Council member Nadine Winter, activist Dick Gregory and syndicated radio host Joe Madison back when they were protesting gangsta rap’s place in the commercial market.

Branded pornographic, violent and degrading to women, the comic strip-inspired artwork is now one of the most recognisable album covers in music, whether you’re a fan of the album or not. Regardless of if it’s right or wrong, sex sells, violence sells, controversy sells, and it was a genius move adding this to the album’s rollout at the time. More eyes on it meant more ears on it.

Doggystyle laid the groundwork for Snoop to go on and become a global phenomenon. While 2Pac might have the most recognisable name in Hip Hop, Snoop has a bigger brand outside of the culture. Your grandmother probably knows who Snoop is, and if she doesn’t then at the very least she’s heard his name.

A far cry from what he does now, Doggystyle is the anchor of Snoop’s career. 

Sure, he’s funny, he does cooking shows, teaches football to kids, acts a little bit, DJs, is an advocate for marijuana use, has tried his hand at directing porn, and appears on sports shows with gigantic sunglasses that have a pilot captain’s hat attached to them (and makes it look cool), but Doggystyle is what many people return to, it’s the moment he’ll be remembered for forever.