Weight of the World
The past two months have been problematic for Snoop Dogg. Last week, he pleaded guilty on two felony counts of gun possession, stemming from an incident at Bob Hope Airport in October 2006. Last month he was scheduled to perform with Diddy on the British leg of their One Love Peace Tour but was denied a visa to the UK due to his arrest in April 2006 for allegedly starting a brawl at Heathrow Airport in the UK.
With all of the bad press stemming from Snoop’s police contact, many have overlooked the rapper’s positive contributions. In 2004, the Doggfather formed the Snoop Youth Football League. In 2005 he organized the Western Conference, an event with a goal to bring together West Coast artists in order to promote unity and end petty beefs.
Now, Snoop is looking to expand his mission of West Coast solidarity with his new compilation on KOCH Records, The Big Squeeze. The album features the Top Dog on 12 tracks alongside Tha Dogg Pound, Warzone, Western Union and JT Tha Bigga Figga. Snoop also made 16 of the beats on the album, introducing his production moniker, Niggaracchi. Just home from his One Love Peace Tour, Snoop talks with XXLMag.com about The Big Squeeze, his work as a producer and the controversy surrounding his ban from the UK.
Is the goal of The Big Squeeze to promote West Coast unity?
Yeah, that’s the main focus. Actually, this is the first project I’m releasing since I put together the Western Conference, the day I brought all the West Coast artists together to squash all the beef and find a way for everyone to settle their differences. We need to find a way to work together and make music. This is the first project were I actually took some of those people that were there and put them in groups. I produced this whole record and brought them to the light so they could be heard over my music.
A lot of people in hip-hop talk about unity, but you’re one of the few who actually take action.
For me, it’s a way of life. It’s not an act. It’s not like somebody is making me do it. This is what I was bred to do. I was raised with the peace movement every time I got into violence. It was never me; it was always situations around me. So I was always able to watch situations, learn how to bring shit to an end and put water instead of gas on the situation.
Is it tough having all of that responsibility on your shoulders?
I don’t have the responsibility; I choose to make that my responsibility. My responsibility is to make good music and be all that I can be when I’m in the studio doing what I do. But anything extra, as far as extending my hand and putting peace out there, is something I do on my own. It’s something I choose to do [so we can] make it last for a long time. I realize how strong this music thing is and how good it can be for the future and the kids behind us. We were kids too that dreamed about it and now we got control over it. So we need to respect and appreciate it so we can pass it on to those coming behind us.
Was it tough bringing together a lot of different egos and personalities for this album?
It wasn’t hard because they all love to work with me. They believe in my vision and they know that when I stand behind something, it usually gets a lot of attention. That’s all these artists are looking for. Any artists’ first focus is to get attention. So what better way than to let me put you on some music that’s going to make people focus on you as an artist? Then you can set up your career, with your group scenario and solo [work], after this.
You’re producing on this album. When did you start making beats?
I’ve been getting down since like ’94, ’95. I’ve just been off and on. I just decided [now] to get back involved heavily because I have a lot of artists that I always wanted to put out and do things with. Sometimes it’s so hard to find producers who are willing to take that risk and put their all into a project if they’re not really getting any money up front. But I’m musically inclined. I understand music, drum machines, patterns and sounds. So I decided to give it my best shot, go ahead, put together some music, and see what it do. Shit, it’s sounding good and it’s feeling good. I believe in it, they believe in it and hopefully you’ll believe in it.
How do you find time to make beats with your busy schedule?
I take the shit with me. I got a laptop, keyboard and all my drum programs with me. My studio moves with me everywhere I go, ya dig? I’m a walking studio. I try to do like five beats during the day. And I just don’t make rap music. I try to make music for everybody. I got music for the European people, Australian folks, the Asian crowd, the pop crowd and the country crowd. I’m more into creating stuff that feels good. Sometimes we get restricted by walking to the liquor store, going to the hood and doing regular old hip-hop. I wanted to extend my styles and do different things, so when I do get back into rap mode and make my next record, it will be a little more diverse.
Has anyone helped you learn the ins and outs of producing?
Soopafly helped me, as far as learning how to work the machines, making the beat, bringing the sound out, laying the track down and all that shit. Battlecat was on the road with me, helping me do this shit. Then there’s Terrace Martin…you know, I got my in-house producers, they all lend a hand and an ear. They let me know what’s right and wrong. Like, “Nah, that’s weak.” Or, “That’s a hit.” Because that’s what we do. We compliment each other. It’s not so far fetched from who I am, that I’m not supposed to be doing this. All of the great musicians who I look up to—Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke—they were all were great producers, songwriters and singers. So I’m just following in the same path. This is something that had to gradually grow with me, as far as mastering the craft. As far as rapping, I got that shit down pat. That’s me. That’s easy; I don’t really have to try hard at that. So this music thing is something I really had to stretch for. But it’s not so far fetched where it doesn’t sound good. It’s me and it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
How do you feel about the UK banning you? Do people fail to see the bigger picture of what you bring to the table, as far as your community work?
I mean, it’s a part of life. I don’t think it’s that, I think it’s reality. It is what it is. I’m not the first one for that to happen to. So it’s going to continue to happen. I’m just an example. I’m a pawn right now that they are using. But once they realize and see how good I am for the community and the youth, they’ll reverse that decision. In the meantime and between time, I’m going to continue to do things like my youth football league that helps kids around the inner city and Southern California. I ain’t really trippin’ off that bullshit. I’m gonna do what I gotta do.