You know the saying: Pick your poison. It’s the fuel of the party, really. You’re not trying to actually poison yourself; you just want to have a good time – get “turnt up” if you will. Hip-hop’s roots are embedded deep within the party scene – it’s the reason why the MC stands for Master Of Ceremonies and the DJ stands for Disc Jockey. The two came together and made musical magic in the midst of celebration. There were of course some party favors thrown into the mix. A drink and a smoke perhaps?
Twenty years ago, Snoop Dogg took high fructose corn syrup and cheap liquor and made the track “Gin and Juice” off his debut album Doggystyle. The song was a recipe for success, with the track opening to the sound of liquor being poured into glasses dictating the start of some hot shit. The howling synths embodied the signature style of the wild wild West Coast rap, with Snoop’s classic opening line: “With so much drama in the LBC, it’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double-G” spilled out in his slick cadence. Life was rough in South Central L.A.: gang wars, police brutality, the continuing AIDS epidemic, all while slipping below the poverty line as Beverly Hills 90210 was merely a car ride away. Something had to numb the pain.
Snoop gave his woes a more comical spin in the music video, as his parents scold him in his crip blue flannel pajamas and picked out afro (“Snoop Doggy Dogg, you need to get a jobby job,” they say) minutes before they leave for the evening. The door shuts and Snoop clutches his cheeks and yells “AHHHHH” a la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Only this time it’s Homeboy Alone.
It’s time to gather the homies. If you chip into the pot, you get to smoke it. Don’t flash your cup if you don’t flash some quib for the sauce. Snoop name checks Seagram’s Gin like it’s a top-shelf delicacy (doesn’t it cost like £5?) while a female voice of affirmation penetrates the cut like the prehistoric Maybach Music Group woman. And then of course the hook:
Rollin’ down the street smokin’ Indo, sippin’ on gin and juice
With my mind on my money and my money on my mind
While Snoop’s woozy evenings were flooded with sex and weed and booze, the sentiment remained in tact that he was about his business. He was just taking a few minutes to throw a party like God intended. Sure, the sins piled up by the end of the song, but there was still an air of innocence and naiveté to the message.
The 80s in the inner cities of the United States were spent fighting crack wars, highlighting the drug as the real-time problem that singled out the lower class. Then there were the base heads, or coke addicts whose brains were fried, flanked by the sherm heads who smoked too much weed laced with tobacco and dipped in PCP. These weren’t terms of endearment either. The drug war was riddled in toxicity, both of the addicted population and the environment.
“the death rattle of real gangster rap brought us to Snoop’s doorstep, but consuming any drug that didn’t grow from the Earth wasn’t on his menu"
By 1994, that wasn’t where rap music resided, at least on the consumption side. Drug dealing was still definitely a thing, but like Biggie would say years later, “Never get high on your own supply.” And sure, the death rattle of real gangster rap brought us to Snoop’s doorstep, but consuming any drug that didn’t grow from the Earth wasn’t on his menu. He rode on the front of a bicycle, rocked an assortment of hockey jerseys and preached safe [albeit promiscuous] sex (“I’ve got a pocket full of rubbers and my homeboys do too”), even in his drunk and high state.
In today’s counterculture of rap, mandy and molly are the ladies of the party. That MDMA cocktail trumps even the “gang of Tanqueray” Dr. Dre brings along to Snoop’s little party in “Gin & Juice.” The setup has changed and the newbies have crashed the party. But what are they rebelling against? What are they celebrating? What are they taking a much-needed break from? Absolutely nothing.
It’s not that everyone needs a reason to unwind, but it’s the means that justify the end. The earnings of hip-hop are astronomical compared to 1992, with an influx of artists with solid pop backgrounds, trust funds, and rich parents. Success is eminent. Yet they party with designer drugs that contain the same DNA as the very synthetics that destroyed the lives of people three decades prior. All Snoop wanted was a little Indo and a low-budget buzz. That could weaken any reason for fun, especially when the fun could kill you. Times have certainly changed since Snoop was shouting “Biyatch!” in his parents’ home.
So two decades later, as we revisit Snoop Dogg’s capricious youth on “Gin and Juice,” we realize his wilin’ out came with a meaning that life was tough in the pursuit of fame and a moment to lay back was essential. Years later he’d realize his dream of big money, so it was pretty wise that he kept it on his mind at all times. He’s probably not buying any of that cheap gin anymore either.
Follow Kathy Iandoli on Twitter here @kath3000