A Look Back At Snoop Dogg’s ‘Doggystyle’ 20 Years Later

Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle - Front

Ed. Note: Snoop Dogg’s classic Doggystyle album turns 20 years old tomorrow, November 23. Michael Gonzales takes a look back at what led to the album, its reception, and how it changed hip-hop in the two decades since.

Twenty years ago when Snoop Doggy Dogg’s raw debut Doggystyle (Death Row) was released, people were fiending for the latest dose of “G-funk” music as though it were a new street drug. In the same way folks today stand on line waiting for the latest PlayStation or smart phone to go on sale, hip-hop heads rushed record shops across the country on November 23, 1993 to buy Doggystyle. Never mind what the Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest or any other “East Coast” artists were doing back then; that Autumn day it was all about the West.

Snoop, recruited by former Ruthless Records producer Dr. Dre—the two were introduced by Snoop’s step-brother Warren G—was a 21-year-old kid when he appeared on the “Deep Cover” soundtrack single the year before. The “Deep Cover” single was also the introduction of the G-funk era. As the title track to a crime flick starring Laurence Fishburne and directed by Bill Duke, the song became more popular than the movie itself. Funky as a baby’s diaper, Dre sampled Sly Stone (“Sing a Simple Song”) and the Undisputed Truth (“[I Know] I’m Losing You”) to create one of the coolest movie jams since the days of ShaftSuper Fly and, Snoop’s cinematic hero, The Mack. “Deep Cover” also courted controversy when many listeners wanted to believe that Snoop’s sinister sounding lyrics about a “187 on an undercover cop,” which translated to “a dead cop on the scene,” was something the blue-wearing Crip-affiliated rapper might do for real.

Certainly, though Snoop was a church goin’ boy when he was a youngster, he had been titillated by the hustler aesthetic for years. In 1999, while Snoop and I chilled in his studio, he confessed, “There was a bar where all the Long Beach hustlers hung out. All you could see was Cadillacs and brothers flashing jewelry and wearing fly shades. I thought those were the baddest motherfuckers on the planet, and I wanted to be just like them.”

While “Deep Cover” served as the perfect introduction to the Southern drawl of Dogg, whose family moved to the Promised Land of California from Mississippi, the song was only a prelude to the simultaneously gritty and funny journeys detailed on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic a few months later. Friends and labelmates Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nanci Fletcher, RBX, Jewell, Lady of Rage, Warren G and the late ghetto harmonizer Nate Dogg were also a part of the G-funk experience.

Snoop played a prominent role on The Chronic, and less than a year later he was in the motherfuckin’ house with his own album. “Those guys single-handedly redirected hip-hop over to the West Coast,” says Kevin Powell, president and co-founder of BK Nation. “The mega-success of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, of which Snoop was clearly the star rapper, made Doggystyle a must-have product.”

Two months before the release of Snoop’s album, Powell, then a full-time hip-hop journalist who would do a series of distinguished features on Death Row, interviewed the towering 6’ 4” rapper for Vibe magazine’s premiere issue, which featured the Dogg on the cover. “It started with Dre’s group N.W.A., and also solo acts like Ice-T and Ice Cube, but with The Chronic and then Snoop’s Doggystyle, the West Coast solidified its place as a powerful part of the national hip-hop conversation,” he says.

Influenced by the flow and storytelling abilities of Slick Rick, who he covered on the song “Lodi Dodi,” the young rapper couldn’t wait to start painting verbal pictures of his community: the various hood rats, “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo,” drug dealing, gat shooting homies (“Murder Was the Case”), gold diggin’ girlies and broke boys guzzling 40 oz brews (“Ain’t No Fun If the Homies Can’t Have None”).

  • mistah dubs

    why wasn’t there any article for the chronic like this last year? Hip Hop DX got ya on that one lol but great read nonetheless

  • BrianRaider

    Great Job Mike! I Was 10 Years Old 20 Years Ago When I copped This Tape…. I Was In The 6th Grade!!! #SALUTE To The OG’s Of This Shit!!!