Happy Birthday Snoop Dogg: Doggystyle Is Still A Stone Cold Classic

A lot's changed since LBC in 1993...
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A lot's changed since LBC in 1993...
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I remember when I first heard Snoop Dogg. Sort of.

I was about seven or eight, sitting down to watch the film Liar Liar about rubber-faced over-actor Jim Carrey and his battles with being a lying wanker. With reference to G-Funk classic Gin 'N' Juice, Carrey talks about driving through a bad neighbourhood 'with my mind on my money and my money on my mind' and I swear to God, right then, sitting in my football kit (for no reason other than the fact that I was a seven-year-old boy), it sounded like the coolest fucking thing I'd ever heard. I said it over and over again until my older cousin heard me and played me the actual track. I quickly forgot about my Snoop obsession, of course, but for a few weeks it blew my sheltered mind.

When I came to an age when I could go out and successfully convince my Mum to buy me one of those albums, it was all over. Appearances on a few tracks on Dr. Dre's seminal 2001 aside, Snoop Dogg had been relegated to a side-show attraction, famed more for silly noises onto the end of words and being in bargain bin fodder like Soul Plane more than for making quality music. It seemed that as soon as the man formerly known as Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. dropped the middle 'Doggy' from his name, he lost something more. The less said about 'Snoop Lion' the fucking better.

Back on November 23rd 1993, when Doggystyle came out, Snoop was the man. Owning all of the best tracks on the previous year's The Chronic by Dr. Dre, he had a legion of fans by the time it came to releasing an album of his own. The album went straight in at number one and listening back now, twenty years on to the day, it doesn't miss a step, remaining a touchstone for a genre at its very peak and establishing the rapper as an instantly recognisable cultural icon.

Standout track Gin 'N' Juice is all bassline, squealing synth and sleigh bell percussion (why did producers stop using sleigh bells? Sleigh bells sounded fucking ace) and has aged way better than practically everything else from the era. It's weird now to hear Snoop sound this good on a track. He sounds excited and in control, unlike 99% of everything he's done since the late-90s amounting to not much more than 'Oh yeah, I'm a stoner and also a pimp' posturing where he sounds almost too lazy to open his mouth at times. He's still talking about those things of course - he can talk of little else - but you don't notice because it sounds so good. Who Am I (What's My Name)? is undoubtably one of the best songs of all time with a chorus so catchy that even my Mum once got it stuck in her head.

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One place where the album feels a little dated is on my favourite track when the album was first released: Ain't No Fun (If The Homies Can't Get None). A funky bass driven song with a sweetly sung section from late Crip crooner Nate Dogg and quite literally all of the misogyny in the world. When I first heard the album, the song sounded unbelievable. I wasn't even listening to the words. It was just funky as fuck. I hadn't yet learnt that berating a woman for having sex with you was wrong, that trying to pressure a woman into proving her worth by then having sex with your entire crew was wrong. I was about eleven and the concept of women was, to me, at best, very vague.

Listening now, the language of it is pretty shocking. While lines by Kurrupt (never better than here) like "If Kurrupt gave a fuck about a bitch, I'd always be broke/ I'd never have no motherfucking endo to smoke" have a certain ludicrous cachet, almost the entire opening section is borderline revolting. It's like a G-Funk hate-crime. It sullies the whole album, makes you take a step back and look at the landscape the album influence - both musically and culturally. How were women meant to feel empowered when one of the best songs of the year was so cruel as to lure a woman into bed only to call her a slut after it?

While I put away my soapbox, the rest of the album remains a tight, funky affair. The album tracks knock almost as hard as the big singles and there's barely a duff song in the bunch. Hell, even the skits aren't half bad.

While Snoop would go on to millions more records sold, a role in Starsky & Hutch and even his own porno movie (helpfully titled 'Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle'), he would never better his debut album. Why is that the case for so many rappers? Is it down to money-men leading creative talent away from made them so good in the first place? Maybe it's just the fact that when you're part of a genre which places such onus on 'being real', success takes you away from what you know, especially as so many artists came from such low-income backgrounds.

Then again, it might just be down to the fact that Snoop has smoked so much weed that his brain is basically just jelly at this point.

A possible career resurgence aided by Dam-Funk, a producer as close to G-Funk as we're ever likely to see again, might see him scale back up the ladder but never quite as high because, for 53 minutes in 1993, Snoop Dogg was the absolute boss.