Just over 30 years have passed since Snoop Dogg – then known by his full name, Snoop Doggy Dogg – first appeared on a record: a Dr Dre cut called Deep Cover. Written to soundtrack a movie, the song was judged too hot to be included in the final track listing for Dre’s now classic album, The Chronic, because of its premise – killing an undercover police officer.
Tonight, wearing an eye-catching, bandana-patterned jumpsuit with Death Row Records printed on it, Snoop Dogg laconically drawls his debut verses about “doing a 187 on a cop”, vestiges of his original menace still present, despite a profound evolution. At 51, Snoop remains physically unchanged – apart from his hair, and his need for occasional sit-downs behind the DJ’s riser. If anything survives of his 2013 conversion to Rastafarianism, it’s the dreadlocks that fall luxuriantly down his back in a ponytail.
His enthusiasm for cartoon NFTs takes the form tonight of Dr Bombay, a heavy-lidded chimp toking on a red-tipped joint
This tour – to mark Snoop’s 2019 album, I Wanna Thank Me – might be up for two accolades: the most indoor smoking tolerated since the ban, and being the longest-running Covid delay in pop. Announced in 2019, just after Snoop’s 48th birthday (marked by a flower arrangement with 48 blunts in it), the tour has been delayed multiple times over the past three years. At the end of tonight’s show, Snoop thanks fans effusively for keeping the faith.
The set runs riot through a playlist of Snoop’s greatest hits, plus high-profile guest verses – Katy Perry’s California Gurls is just one – and an unnecessary number of covers. Some are eminently logical. Tupac Shakur and Eazy-E, two huge west coast figures, are memorialised early on. Less intrinsic, perhaps, is a cover of House of Pain’s 1992 hit Jump Around, not least because the excitable track is so off-brand for Snoop.
In contrast to a great deal of the rapid-fire hip-hop coming out of the east coast, the young Calvin Broadus brought a leisurely froideur to 90s west-coast gangsta rap. NWA – the LA act Dr Dre had previously powered into notoriety – were far livelier too. Snoop spoke-rapped non-committally, “laid back”, as per his anthemic hit, Gin and Juice. It felt seismic at the time. His calm implied a latent capability for consequences you did not want to trigger. Not only was he a “G” (a gangsta), he was the “D-O-double-G”: really quite gangsta.
Snoop Dogg has turned out to contain multitudes. There aren’t enough hyphens to describe Broadus: special needs kids’ football coach, ganja-preneur, cookbook author, Def Jam exec. His stoner icon status belies his herculean work ethic. Somehow, Broadus has parlayed a set of quite staggeringly antisocial attributes – a 1996 acquittal on a murder charge; claiming to have actually been a pimp circa 2003 – into a new USP: lovable rogue. When the star landed at Glasgow airport, he was met by a bagpiper performing Still DRE at him. “This is the same country I got banned from years ago,” Snoop notes. “The motherfuckin’ Queen let me back in. Hail the Queen!”
Compared with that ill-placed House of Pain cover, Broadus’s latest ventures are much more on-brand. In a poetic 2021 move, he bought the totemic Death Row Records label, where he released his first works, and promptly released an album, Bacc On Death Row (2022), largely in the form of NFTs. According to reports, BODR netted $44m (£36m) in just five days.
Broadus has been voluble in his excitement for the metaverse. “Bored Apes” are a series of cartoon NFTs; Snoop’s enthusiasm for them is embodied tonight in the form of Dr Bombay, a mascot of a heavy-lidded chimp toking on a red-tipped joint. Dr Bombay interacts with fans and, from time to time, mimes sexual acts with the pole-dancers.
You could do without all this unreconstructed objectification, the songs about sharing sexual partners with your friends (Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)). You could also do with not being reminded of how many cheesy records Snoop has been involved with. David Guetta remixed 2010’s Wet, and it’s still dire. UK MC Big Narstie makes a superfluous guest appearance.
But as consequential as Snoop Dogg’s relationship with Dr Dre was, there was also Pharrell Williams, whose works still sound bejewelled. First up is Justin Timberlake’s 2005 smash Signs, in which Snoop sings the hook, then raps decisively: “You ain’t no G!”. Beautiful (2002) remains a high point. But Drop It Like It’s Hot (2004) is still a masterpiece, its sly execution worth the three-year delay alone.
Somewhat inevitably, in the States, the track became an advert for microwavable pizza rolls called Hot Pockets (“Pocket like it’s hot,” it goes). In among all those classic Dre hook-ups this evening, Snoop Dogg finds time to play a video of the Just Eat advert across the screens, while he heads behind the DJ for a smoke break.