LOS ANGELES, CA– Snoop Dogg one of gangsta rap music’s most iconic figures is also one of its most contradictory. More than 25 years ago, with Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur, he took West Coast rap—in all its flawed beauty; guns, drugs, and misogyny rubbed up against sexy g-funk flows, dance-inducing beats, and sophisticated rhymes, like sunscreen on the bikini-clad—a florid glorification of the gangster life they were experiencing in their corner of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and brought it to the global mainstream. But for a long time now, above the traditional gang rivalries between Crips and Bloods, west coast versus east coast, rap versus pop, black versus white, Snoop Dogg has preached love above all else. The projects, artists and celebrities he has been involved stand testament to this.

When you’ve been around this long, things change. Snoop Dogg has been nimble and evolved with the times, diversifying his creative skills and business portfolio. All this he’s managed to accomplish by remaining true to himself. An avid pot smoker and impassioned believer of its efficacy, sometimes, the culture and its laws have had to catch up to him. His is a legacy that has transcended rap and music and will endure beyond those confines. For the 47-year-old father of three, and grandfather to two, it’s been less about repeating a certain kind of nineties success or chasing accolades and awards. He’s always marched to the beat of his own drums. For him, from the very beginning, it’s been about how to elevate those around him—especially those who may need it most—and generally move the culture along.

Back in the day, after his success with Dr. Dre on The Chronic, Warren G and he returned to Long Beach to try and give opportunities to others in their neighborhood. “There’s no ‘I’ in team,” he said at a recent gathering in his Inglewood compound. “You’ve got to be able to look out for everybody. You’ve got to give opportunity. You’ve got to give a shot to people.” The intimate gathering of journalists, DJs, friends and industry insiders (Warren G and Kurupt were also spotted at the event) included a listening session at his “Compound”, as well as a Q&A panel, which included LA radio personality Big Boy. It was chaired by KDAY’s CeCe Valencia while her morning show co-host Romeo helped facilitate questions from the floor.

Snoop Dogg with Big Boi at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Snoop Dogg with Big Boi at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

Warren G had been the one to encourage the young Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr to develop his skill as a rapper and perform in front of others—which eventually led to him being discovered by Dr. Dre. “When I finally got in front of Dr. Dre and was able to rap, I was like, “Alright, now we made our opportunity happen’ but how do we keep this thing moving?” he explained, “So Warren G went back and helped out The Twinz and Dove Shack. And Da Five Footaz. I went back and helped out the Eastsiders. Now, it just was a natural thing for us, to go back and help give love. And then we reached outside of Long Beach and said ‘we start working with people outside of the neighborhood,’ started helping out other people as far as letting people write for us and then letting people produce for us. Just trying to mix up the samples and show love. Because you got to put love in there if you want to get love back.”

Today, he continues to do this in a myriad of ways with his music. On I Wanna Thank Me —“Ventilation” features some black girl magic with up-and-coming, Compton rapper Azjah, together with Long Beach’s Cambodian emcee  $tupid Young, plus Mustard and YG-collaborator RJmrLA, it is one of the album’s many standouts. If his affiliation as a Long Beach Crip still holds sway, he employs it to work with those that might be Blood members. Snoop Dogg spoke highly of Mac 10, of the support he received from him back when he wasn’t as big a star yet. “This is a Blood, looking out for a Crip,” he explained, “Trying to put me back in the game, trying to put some food on my table, trying to make sure my family eats.“ He also works with respected if less well-known associates such as Atlanta producer Jazze Pha. And introduces Hispanic artists such as Puerto Rican, Ozuna and Brazilian singer, Anitta to his fanbase.

But for a while now, Snoop has reached beyond music, going the whole nine yards, giving back to the community with his Snoop Youth Football League. After all the incredible success he experienced, he was interested in giving back and being a mentor for others. In 2005, he founded the league to help inner-city kids, between the ages of six and 14, stay off the streets and away from gang violence—with his after-school program. For more than 15 years now, he has also been the head coach of the Pomona Steelers. It is a role he takes seriously, distancing it from his Snoop Dogg persona. In his capacity as a coach, we never see him mention weed or alcohol. He is the consummate professional; a tough but doting coach. The Netflix series Coach Snoop gives a glimpse into the trials of running this league, which has now put several of these at-risk kids into college football teams and even sent one alumnus to the penultimate—to compete in the Superbowl.

As an artist, he’s managed to remain relevant by wading into unchartered waters, like partnering up with Martha Stewart for a cooking show and pairing with Katy Perry, on her #1 hit single “California Gurls” single back in 2010. It was number 1 for five weeks. He’s also been doing more appearances on the Silver Screen with his most recent turn on Harmony Korine’s neon-saturated film “The Beach Bum,” alongside Matthew McConaughey and Isla Fisher. On the internet, he is an instantly recognizable meme to this generation’s social media natives. He has no bounds. He goes by many names—DJ Snoopadelic, Snoop Lion (when he converted to Rastafarianism several albums ago), Nemo Hoes, Snoopzilla and Niggarachi. He is the rap industry’s Madonna. Though he might have surpassed the Material Girl in his ability to remain relevant and always in the public consciousness.

Snoop Dogg is today a hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur with his fingers in so many pies, it’s dizzying. He claims to “walk rather than run” these days, choosing to take his time and enjoy his success but the things he’s been involved with seem to occur at pace. From hosting his GGN interview series on YouTube to starting up a cannabis-focused digital media platform named Merry Jane, he seems to do it all.

His business interests are as diverse as his musical influences. He said: “As a musician when you get in the game for as long as I’ve been in the game it’s different shit that has to inspire you. Like rappers don’t inspire me. They just don’t… I love what they do… I could be listening to this artist and be like this nigga hard…That nigga shit dope. I’m going to buy that nigga’s shit. I can’t wait to meet that nigga. But I’m not in your lane no more. You hear what I’m saying? I’m more about when I hear some shit from a different genre that can spark my flame.”

And it has served him well. Last November, Snoop Dogg received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame more than 25 years after the release of his genre-defining opus Doggystyle–an album that helped cement his status as one of the Kings of West Coast’s gangsta rap. “I didn’t have a speech written,” he said of the ceremony. ”I just get up and rap, that’s what I do so I just thought, “Get me on the podium and I’ll be fine.” He went on to give a speech where he thanked his wife, family and Dr. Dre, then essentially freestyling he said: “And I want to thank me.” Initially, he was greeted with laughter but the rapper carried on in earnest, thanking himself for all the times he never took a day off, tried to always give more than he received and do everything he does for love rather than hate. The speech went viral. What appeared as an off the cuff joke became a creed for how he has led his life in work and play and is the fitting title of his new album.

Snoop Dogg & Fan at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Snoop Dogg & Fan at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

I Wanna Thank Me is a follow-up to last year’s Bible of Love, his Number one gospel album and features a long list of collaborators. Helmed largely by DJ Battlecat it features Wiz Khalifa, Chris Brown, YG, Mustard, Jermaine Dupre, Tdot Illdude and more. The late Nate Dogg has a posthumous feature on “Winter Time In June.” It is another standout. Snoop Dogg revealed it took more than a year to finish it as he was still reeling from the loss of his longtime friend. In the end, he brought in Cocaine 80s and Grammy-winning producer James Fauntleroy to help him write it.

One of the first things he addresses on this album is Trump, on the aptly named second track “So Misinformed (feat. Slick Rick).” It is quickly followed by “Let Bygones Be Bygones” which deals with Suge Knight and the Death Row legacy. Speaking candidly about a figure that he has had beef with in the past, he explained: “It was a beautiful ride. It just went bad when drugs, egos, and money got involved but other than that as far as our friendship and our brotherhood and our love we always kept it. And I wanted to have a song to make you feel good about the Death Row legacy as opposed to like man, everybody throwing rocks and shit when he on the ground.”

Many of the songs as pointed by an audience member that night have an arena-ready feel. The rapper explained: “Usually when I make records I don’t ever think about the stage. But this particular record had a stage feel from when it first comes on, ‘Hey nigga, what you talkin about ?… What’s up is everybody’s favorite crip cousin, Snoop Dogg.’ The whole crowd can say that…when I make records for the stage that’s the feeling!” It’s the call and response, the feeling of elation. He added: “And some of these songs just give me that (feel)—even The Countdown record with Swizz Beatz that’s like a stage record because Swizz is so animated.”

Snoop Dogg & Fan at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.
Snoop Dogg & Fan at The Compound: I Wanna Thank Me Listening Party. Photo by Celine Teo-Blockey (@CelineTeoBlockey) for www.BlurredCulture.com.

The record is also going old school. “Nigga, in the beginning, it was just the DJ and the MC,” Snoop Dogg explained to the room, about an editor he had working with him on the record, that had advised him to take out the scratch sounds on the track. “I said ‘hold on homie,’ and I had to give him a little lesson on what hip hop was,” Snoop added. “The DJ made the beat with the scratch, the motherfucking beat with his hand. So I’m taking it back to the element of hip hop. We not gonna change that. We gonna leave it alone. We gonna educate and teach them—There’s that bullshit! You so used to hearing the same fucking beat, the same drum pattern, same autotune, as you think this is bullshit but that’s bullshit! So I had to educate.” He was also keen to keep auto-tune to a minimum. “It’s like no disrespect but damn I’m getting tired of hearing that mother fuckin robot on every song,” he said about the current over-use of autotune in rap music.

When asked how different making a record today is from Doggystyle he answered: “It is spontaneous.” There is no structure and plan until things start to happen. The process is organic, allowing him to invite others to join in, or if they are interested in coming on the project and it works with the final vibe of an album. He added: “This particular record it’s called I Wanna Thank Me—but it needed different people on it to make it sound complete so it’s really not about me. But at the same time, the relationships I have with different people sometimes help create songs… It’s just a spur of the moment thing. It’s not really a process like it used to be back with Doggystyle—Dr. Dre was the one producer. It was a protocol. It was a system. Now it’s like I do what I want to do whenever I want to do it.”

There is an overarching theme of unity on this album. One that is perhaps most palpable on “One Blood, One Cuzz,” which is dedicated to the slain rapper, mentee, and friend Nipsey Hussle. The question of this unity was fielded by a Long Beach member of the audience, who got very emotional as she explained how growing up there, she knows first hand the reality of gang life and the feuds between Bloods and Crips. But with the death of Nipsey Hussle, everyone had set aside differences. It was a coming together that had not been seen since the 1992 Rodney King riots when a truce was agreed between all warring factions.

A solemn Snoop said: “I think that the gangbangers feel the same way you feel like see how emotional you are? They feel the same way…. they always been so tough and so masculine whereas it’s like, I ain’t afraid to show my emotions, I ain’t afraid to cry over Nip…I don’t care where he was from because he was a good dude. He was just a great guy. Like that’s the worst person for that to happen to.

“And I think it touched everybody to where they had to look in the mirror and say I wouldn’t want that to happen to me or nobody else, so let me stop this foolishness. So I can discontinue this madness that is going on because that hurt me and that touched me. And that’s what happens every time a Blood and a Crip gets into—or a Crip and a Crip. Or Blood and Blood—it ends up in violence, that’s the result. That’s the way the family feels. That’s the way the kids feel. That’s the way the mama feels but it just happen to be that (with Nipsey Hussle) we all felt that way. And it was one of those things that was destined to happen because a lot of those gangs that have been beefing with each other were friends from the sandbox.”

He continued: “Like even in my neighborhood, Long Beach, you got the two major gangs that have riff raffs and what not—they all family. Or they all grew up together. They all cousins…and once they settle down and just sit down and talk. Or something tragic happens they be like ‘man I really wasn’t even tripping off you. It was just a matter of somebody being man enough to say that ‘enough is enough.’ Now is the time, I’m stepping forward and putting peace in the air. And hopefully you guys will follow and those who don’t, will just lead by example.”

The vulnerability that a towering figure like Snoop Dogg—at once a swaggering gangsta rapper and devoted family man with a desire to affect tangible change for his community from the ground up—to be able to placate while still holding his ground, is not only inspiring but forces us to look beyond race, stereotypes and our own fears. Now more than ever, it prompts us to educate ourselves beyond race-baiting headlines, to understand the nuances of a culture, the systemic racism and its historical context; that seeming polarities like black and white, good and bad are often different sides to the same coin. We can contain multitudes. Snoop Dogg attributes his mother and his upbringing as his bedrock, “I come from a space of giving. I come from family. Ever since I was a kid because I didn’t really have much as a kid… I got a lot of hand-me-downs.” He was always appreciative of what he got.  He added: “It wasn’t like ‘oh nigga you wearing your cousin’s shoes,’ … I was happy to have those penny loafers, that someone had worn them before me…” He understood then the intrinsic value of giving and receiving. As an adult, he’s kept paying it forward. I Wanna Thank Me is a big embrace of the culture that created him and the global one that he has gone on to change. Beyond the shape-shifting, irresistible hooks and enticing beats, if we can walk in someone else’s shoes in the three minutes it takes us to listen to a song, we too can begin to affect meaningful change.

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Snoop Dogg "I Wanna Thank Me" Album Cover Art.
Snoop Dogg “I Wanna Thank Me” Album Cover Art.