Occupation: Rap artist Personal Information Born Calvin Broadus (or possibly Cordavar Varnado) c. 1972 in Los Angeles, CA; son of Vernell Varnado (a singer and postal worker) and Beverly Tate.
Career Rap singer. Debuted on Dr. Dre's album The Chronic, Death Row, 1992; released solo debut Doggystyle, Death Row, 1993; appeared in short film Murder Was the Case, 1994; contributed to film soundtracks.
Awards: Platinum record for Doggystyle, 1994; MTV Video Music Award for best rap video, 1994, for "Doggy Dogg World"; voted best rapper in Rolling Stone readers' and critics' polls, 1994.
Addresses Record company--Death Row Records, 10900 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1240, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
Snoop Doggy Dogg's "lazy, vicious drawl has become one of the most familiar voices in rap." To have reached this level of recognition in such a hotly competitive field is remarkable; to have done so before releasing one's debut album is extremely rare. Yet Snoop exploded on the scene as a guest rapper on the smash 1992 release The Chronic by his friend and mentor Dr. Dre. After another successful single for a film soundtrack, Snoop at last released Doggystyle and proceeded to rule the hip-hop world. Derided for his "gangsta" style--particularly images of violence against women in his raps--and implicated in a homicide investigation, he nonetheless revolutionized the scene with wordplay that managed to be relaxed and intense at the same time.
Born Calvin Broadus--or, according to one source, Cordavar Varnado--to unwed parents in Long Beach, California, he was given the nickname Snoopy by his mother, Beverly. As his father, Vernell Varnado, told Spin's Charles Aaron, the boy "had a lot of hair on his head as a baby and looked like a little dog." Vernell saw musical talent in his son from a young age. "I thought he was ?a? genius," he recollected. "Even when he was like six or seven, if music came on, he'd jump up and dance and perform all the hand movements."
The rapper's parents split up when he was a boy. "I can't hold ?my father? for that," Snoop recalled in a Details memoir, "it was something between him and my mama that wasn't clicking. He always stayed in contact; he'd call if he couldn't come by." But it was his mother, Snoop revealed to Aaron, who had the responsibility of raising him and his two half-brothers. The boy became interested in rap early on and pursued this interest with his friend Warren Griffin, who would later achieve fame under the moniker Warren G. "I used to have a drum machine when I was little," Warren told Spin. "One of those with the four drum sounds, and I used to make beats. Snoopy would just freestyle over the beats." An early hero of Snoop's was rapper Slick Rick. "You could feel the characters in the story," Snoop enthused to Aaron; "he played all the roles, you could feel the whole story."
Snoop Doggy Dogg stayed on the straight and narrow for a time, playing piano in church and showing promise in sports. His talent as a basketball player, in fact, was such that he was recruited by several college programs. Eventually, however, he fell in with the Crips gang and began selling drugs. When Snoop's mother found out about his activities, she got "angry, and we grew apart," he admitted to Aaron. Snoop moved out of his mother's house at 16. "My mama was struggling, divorced, looking for a job when she hadn't gone to college," he wrote in his Details memoir. "You see your mama struggling to get better things, and you just can't take that s---. So I did what I thought was right. I went out and made my own money, let my mama enjoy her own money and me keep my own, instead of having to depend on her."
Snoop Doggy Dogg lived with various relatives, including Warren, who was by then an aspiring disc jockey. The two formed a rap group with Nate Dogg called 213; the name came from their telephone area code. However, shortly after graduating from high school with above average grades, Snoop found himself in jail for selling drugs. "I learned a lot," he said of the experience in his interview with Aaron, "but then again, that's not the place to be learnin' it. It wasn't no substitute for college." Vernell felt that jail made his son "grow up and be a stronger person."
In any event, the stories of other inmates provided plenty of material for Snoop's raps. He was also quoted in Death Row Records promotional materials as saying that his fellow prisoners told him, "Snoopy, why don't you get your life together? You need to get out and do somethin' with yourself cuz you talented." The consequences of a criminal life became clear only later. "The hard-ass gangbanger life ain't the bomb at all, period," Snoop professed to Rolling Stone's Gold. "The other day I was looking at an old picture from back when I used to play Pop Warner football, and like of 28 homies on the team, 12 are dead, seven are in the penitentiary, three of them are smoked out, and only me and Warren G are successful. I love my homies, but damn, I don't want to stay down there with y'all."
After three years in and out of prison, Snoop dedicated himself to rapping. He worked at a grocery store, but he and his friend Griffin had dreams of musical success. V.I.P. Records, a little shop in their "hood", became a refuge and the birthplace of this dream. Its owner, Kelvin Anderson, gave Snoop and Griffin--who went by the hip-hop handle Warren G--access to his back room and the use of a drum machine. "At first, I thought it was a good recreational outlet, something positive to keep the kids out of trouble," Anderson told Request. He soon realized, however, that these kids had "remarkable talent. As long as I've been in retail, you can bring me a record and I know right off if I can sell that song to someone else. I knew people would buy this stuff."
Anderson was impressed enough to try to have Snoop signed to a record label. Although he received no offers, Warren G played a tape of "Super Duper Snooper" for his brother, hip-hop producer Dr. Dre. The force behind N.W.A., one of the most successful groups in rap history, Dre was arguably the inventor of "gangsta" rap, and he was stunned by Snoop's tape. He insisted that Warren and Snoop come to his studio immediately; Snoop ended up rapping on the title track to the Deep Cover film soundtrack. His chilling refrain "187 ?murder? on an undercover cop"--as Gold of Rolling Stone observed, "rapped with perhaps a bit more gusto than one might expect"--was soon blasting out of car radios everywhere.
Snoop was featured prominently on Dre's 1992 album, The Chronic, which was ultimately certified triple-platinum and became the highest-selling hardcore rap album in history. It established the laid-back, funky Long Beach sound as the reigning rap style. On smash cuts like the Grammy-nominated "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," Snoop's languorous rhymes held listeners spellbound. That song's refrain--"bow wow wow yippee-yo yippee-yay"--came from funk visionary George Clinton's 1982 hit "Atomic Dog," which was a natural frame of reference for Snoop Doggy Dogg. The song ruled the rap and R&B charts and even crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at Number Two.
Yet in videos, despite his distinctive cornrows and lanky frame, Snoop intentionally held himself aloof, not wanting to reveal too much while he was merely Dre's sidekick. "I wanted to be a mystery," he admitted to Aaron. "Like, 'Why doesn't he look at the camera?' Then when I finally do, it'll be, 'All right, he's rockin' now.' It won't be Dr. Dre, and you don't see my name on the TV. It'll be my name, my TV, then I'll give you all of me." This mystery was balanced by an obvious mainstream appeal. "Snoop is this year's version of the teenage B-boy Everyman," Rolling Stone's Gold asserted, "not a suave fellow insinuating his prowess with the ladies, but a G just like you." "I get respect out there, but my streets are still tore up, my brothers are still killing each other. I'm smilin' about the success I'm havin', but there's still killin' going on out there, and I'm not happy."
Snoop's profile, however, was already very high. Though he hadn't yet put out a solo record, he was arguably the hottest rapper around. He went to work with Dre on Doggystyle, which Aaron called "one of the most anticipated albums in hip-hop history." Gold elaborated on Doggystyle's pre-release buzz: "Compton bootleggers have been stymied in their quest to pry loose more than a few rhymes, but every hip-hop fan you can talk to already knows the names of the album tracks by heart." When the album did arrive--on Dre's Death Row Records--it delivered on its promise. The first single, "Who Am I (What's My Name)," was an immediate hit, as were "Gin and Juice," "Doggy Dogg World," and "G's Up, Hos Down."
Snoop, though, became the object of considerable criticism--if not downright condemnation--for his casual use of "bitches" and "hos" as synonyms for women, and for his seeming lack of concern about the violent attitude expressed toward women in his raps. He no doubt only fanned the fire when he claimed in his Details piece that "if there were more women like my mother, there wouldn't be no need for me to rap about hos." This, combined with the gun-toting gangsta image he worked so successfully, made him an easy target for critics. He was also derided for flaunting marijuana use; some commented that he glorified drug use and thus presented a destructive message to his young listeners.
Snoop defended himself by declaring that he only rapped about "reality," as he claimed in an interview in Request. "People listen to what I say about my life and they hear their lives." In September of 1993, he was charged along with two associates for the murder of Phillip Woldemariam. Pondering the case, Request writer Claudia Perry worried that "these days, being a hard brother (and, increasingly, sister) with an impressive list of skirmishes with the law seems to have replaced mike skills as the key requirement for a successful hardcore rap career." On February 21, 1996, the rapper was aquitted of murder. The judge declared a mistrial after the jury deadlocked on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Yet even as he waited for the case to go to trial, Snoop became an evermore massive figure on the musical landscape. He was declared best rapper in both readers' and critics' polls in Rolling Stone, snagged an MTV award for Best Rap Video for "Doggy Dogg World," and appeared on the hit soundtrack to the 1994 film Above the Rim. But perhaps the greatest irony was the simultaneous creation of the short film Murder Was the Case--an 18-minute film directed by Dre and inspired by the Doggystyle track of the same name, which Snoop performed at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. Dre also produced a soundtrack album for the film, featuring Snoop, Dre, and Ice Cube, and a bevy of other artists, including Snoop's musical entourage, the Dogg Pound. Released as a commercial video with performance tracks and documentary footage, it received mixed reviews. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly disliked the direction and story but noted, "You can't take your eyes off Snoop. With his droopy lids and no-one-home coldness, he exudes a lackadaisical arrogance, yet he can also flash a genuinely warm smile." Even so, Browne argued, Snoop came off in some of the production footage as "a whiny, pampered actor."
Snoop holds a paradoxical position seen more and more in 1990s celebrities: music superstar charged with homicide. Despite his tenuous position with respect to the law, he has attempted to maintain a high tone in interviews. "The best thing about being successful," he claimed in his Details essay, "is that I'm able to make little kids happy. I love kids." He has also balanced the dire situation of his friends with his own good fortune. "I get respect out there," he mused to Spin's Aaron, "but my streets are still tore up, my brothers are still killing each other. I'm smilin' about the success I'm havin', but there's still killin' going on out there, and I'm not happy."
Selected Discography (Contributor) Dr. Dre, The Chronic (includes "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang"), Death Row, 1992. Doggystyle (includes "Who Am I ?What's My Name?," "Doggy Dogg World," and "Gin and Juice"), Death Row, 1993.
Film soundtrack contributor Deep Cover, 1992. Above the Rim, Death Row, 1994. Murder Was the Case, Death Row, 1994.
Snoop Set To Write Autobiography
Snoop Dogg, AKA The Artist Formerly Known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, has signed a six-figure deal to write the story of his life. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg was snapped up by William Morrow, based upon a four-page proposal. Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, is working with Davin Seay, who previously penned a biography on Mick Jagger, and collaborated on the autobiography of ChiPs notable Erik Estrada.
The tome will reportedly take on Snoop's controversial path to stardom, including a personal account of his 1993 murder trial, as well as his take on Death Row Records and the jailing of Death Row CEO Marion "Suge" Knight.
In March, Dogg bolted from Death Row, his home since his 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, and signed with Master P's No Limit Records. Death Row eventually negotiated a settlement with No Limit over Snoop's services, and in August, he released his third album, Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, which currently resides at No. 65 on the SoundScan Top 250.
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