The smell of burning ganja hovers around Snoop’s shiny motor- home, parked on a busy street corner in Hollywood. It’s not a billowing fog like in Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, more a haze sweet enough to make some passers- by lift their noses and sniff. A black gentleman built like a Hummer is guarding the door to the motor home; his name is Keys, he’s 6’9” inches tall, and he looks like he eats several KFC Variety Buckets per day. Keys opens the door with a polite smile. “You can go in now.”
Inside, a suspension of smouldering herb vapour – aka stoner smog – hangs low in the air, swirling and translucent like dry ice in a hair-metal video. Gliding toward me is all six feet and four skinny inches of Snoop Dogg, West Coast G-funk superstar rapper and original gangster. He’s got a blunt in his right hand, prayer beads round his neck, and a knit cap on his head in the Rastafari colours of black, red, gold, and green – black is for Africa, red is for the blood of martyrs, gold is for treasure, and green is for...
“Do you smoke?” asks Snoop in his laidback drawl, his “s”s cut smoother than glass. “I’m gonna roll us up a new one so we can have one fresh.” He stubs out the blunt between his fingers, and busts out some fresh blunt-wraps. “I would never disrespect you like that – such a lady.” Hearing him speak, I’m immediately transported to the first time I heard his voice, when his debut album Doggystyle (still his highest- selling long-player) dropped in 1993. Along with Dr Dre’s earlier The Chronic (which featured many contributions by a then-unknown Snoop), the record helped redefine West Coast hip hop, presenting a sweeter, smoother kind of gangsta rap that prompted me and all my suburban teenage girlfriends to start dropping phrases like “tha shiznit” into casual conversation. We were obsessed with this slick but dangerous new G-funk vernacular, informed by an exotic world of lowriders, gin, juice, Crips, Bloods, bitches, pimps, hos and chronic. Back then, Snoop was the only thing as cool as Nirvana.
Nearly 20 years later, in contrast to so many 90s artists who have had to deal with their own irrelevance and creative stagnation, or who are just not around anymore – Salt-N-Pepa, Axl Rose, Biggie etc – Snoop maintains his profile as the Doggfather, ever- ballin’, still super high. It’s because he pays attention to his fans, says Snoop. Rather than ignoring the haters, he listens to the feedback he gets, positive or negative. His fans act as divining rods that usually send him in the right direction. “I let the people tell me what and how to do,” he says. “Like, I may throw a whole lotta records out because I want to feel what the people feel. Maybe they say. ‘That’s wack, dawg. That shit ain’t on. I want to hear that old Snoop Dogg shit man, that shit dope right dere.’ So I’m playin’ it by ear to hear what they like, and when I find out what they like I’m on it. I’m on it like I’m on it. And then sometimes I just take a chance and just jump in the swimming pool and do some shit they wouldn’t expect, and they’re forced to like it because I love it.”
When I look back in time, what do I see? I see a young, wild, misguided wannabe because I wanted to be. In the future I see a leader, a motivator. I see a politician. A legend
This year he headlined the Coachella festival with Dr Dre and a now- famous hologram of Tupac Shakur, in what will be remembered as much more than the ultimate West Coast rap reunion. Tupac may be gone, but through him, Snoop and Dre were showing us the future. “You liked that?” he asks, passing me the blunt. “It was amazing,” I say, squinting as I inhale. “I didn’t see it... I’m just fucking with you, I say that to everyone,” says Snoop. “That was for the memory of Tupac more than anything... for the people who loved him to be able to see him one more time. That was special.” There’s music playing on a laptop and Snoop is nodding his head in time. The song is by a young R’n’B singer he is producing. “This is like love... You know what I’m saying? That’s what music is made for – to give an expression to love. Music is a loving, peaceful instrument to be played around the whole world, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s a love thang.”
In person, Snoop is warmer and fuzzier than I’d expected, quite different to the gangster-pimp persona he developed after shedding his straight- up gangsta shit. Actually, it wasn’t just a persona, Snoop really was a pimp in 2003 and 2004, hooking up rich athletes and entertainers with girls and runnin’ with real pimps (he quit to spend more time with his family). Has the evolution of Snoop Dogg taken him from hood to hustler to hippie? “Mellow has always been my state of mind,” he says, “but now I’m at a point in my life where I’ve found Rastafari and it’s helped me develop a peace and a tranquility, so I can put myself in a zone of relaxation at all times. It’s just about being more positive and peaceful: about trying to help, not trying to hurt.”
It seems like we’ve caught Snoop in the throes of a mystical metamorphosis, a Rasta rebirth sparked by recent visits to Jamaica this year during which he spent time bonding with the Marley family, shaking a maraca at Niyabinghi sessions with Rasta elders (rumours are that Snoop was anointed as a Rastafarian in a ceremony on the island) and recording a reggae album in Port Antonio with Diplo and Switch (called Reincarnated – Peace, Love & Soul, it’s due in late 2012). Oh, and he’s growing locks. Tasha Hayward, his soft-spoken personal hairdresser for 20 years and friend since the Long Beach days, has been through a lot of hairstyles with Snoop – braids, cornrows, ’fros – but this is the first time she’s used beeswax on his hair, helping him grow in his dreads. Tings a gwaan for Snoop. “When I look back in time, what do I see? I see a young, wild, misguided wannabe,” says Snoop, “because I wanted to be. In the future I see a leader, a motivator. I see a politician. A legend.” A nappy-dreaded legend, by the sounds of things.
Mellow has always been my state of mind but now I’m at a point in my life where I’ve found Rastafari and it’s helped me develop a peace and a tranquility, so I can put myself in a zone of relaxation at all times. It’s just about being more positive and peaceful: about trying to help, not trying to hurt
When I ask him how his connection with Rastafari came to be, his head drops and his eyes close. “It chose me,” he says. His publicist taps me gently on the shoulder, shaking her head. Snoop’s Rastafication isn’t something she wants us to get into right now. Nonetheless, I try and imagine what it would have been like if Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley had sat down, wrote some lickle songs together, praised Jah and blazed some major reefer. We’ll never know – Bob Marley died in May 1981, when Snoop, now 40, was just nine years old. But one has to wonder, has anyone ever outsmoked Snoop? Who would win gold in Snoop’s Weed Olympics? “Willie Nelson would win a gold medal, I would win silver and Wiz Khalifa would win the bronze,” says Snoop. So what exactly happened when he and the 79-year-old country legend, poet outlaw and straight OG crossed spliffs? “I lost,” says Snoop. “Couldn’t hang. Had to pull out the white flag. It wasn’t even mountains of weed, but there were so many different procedures. It was a joint, a blunt, a vapouriser, a bong, a humidifier, just so much shit going around. It was just me and him and we was playing dominoes, and I’m trying to concentrate while he is whooping my ass at dominoes, trying to smoke at the same time. I had to say, ‘White flag.’” This April, Willie Nelson released the Snoop-featuring “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”, a rootin’, tootin’ 420 Day anthem that celebrates the booming weed culture in the US. Today, medical cannabis use is legal in 15 states, and despite federal unease at how crosseyed everyone is getting, the consensus is that a national lifting of marijuana laws can’t be too far away. In California you can already get yourself a medical marijuana card under virtually any pretext – maybe you’ve had period cramps, nightmares, or a persistent hiccup? These all qualify as conditions that can be legally treated with cannabis. Snoop is prescribed herbs to help with his migraines and back pains.
The longest Snoop has ever gone without smoking weed (aside from his childhood, presumably) is 185 days, he says. This occurred in 2003, around the time he started coaching American football to kids. It felt awkward being baked around small children, so he refrained from smoking at practice. Then he stopped smoking in the studio. Five whole days went by without Snoop taking a single hit, toke or bong rip. “I showed up one morning for The Steve Harvey Morning Show (popular US radio show) and he looked at me like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Your eyes is white.’ I say, ‘I stopped smoking,’ and he’s like, ‘What?!’” The first two weeks, Snoop went through some gnarly weed withdrawals. “I was like, ’Mother-fucker, I think I am gonna die.’ But my homeboy gave me green tea and all kinds of shit to get my body working. My shit was like, heroin-addicted, because I was so used to it.” How long before he started feeling good about being weed-free? “Three weeks. I was awesome. Rocking on stage, skin started to fill in on my face, hair started to grow, clothes started to fit. I needed that.” Ironically, Snoop’s assistant rolls him another blunt while he reminisces about his ganja-free period. Those days are long over, especially since he’s found the perfect stoner buddy in the form of 24-year-old rapper Wiz Khalifa.
The reason I say it’s [pussy] is a renewable source is because once you get it, you are re-energised to wanna get it again. Whether it’s mentally or physically or spiritually, you are driven to want it again. And that’s a renewable energy, because you have to get some new energy in order to do it again
While Snoop – who embodies the first wave of chronic- obsessed hip hop in the early 90s – may be passing the ceremonial spliff to Wiz (part of a new wave of super baked, weed-obsessed rappers, along with Curren$y), you know that spliff is coming back Snoop’s way. And we’ll all be getting a contact high once their stoner flick Mac & Devin Go to School comes out this summer. In it, Wiz plays a recalcitrant and uptight Chong- type character to Snoop’s wiseguy Cheech. The plot comprises 90 minutes of instruction on weed lifestyle: how to roll giant spliffs, how to combine “medical with medicinal”, how to dump your “controlling bitch” girlfriend, why you should lose your virginity to a hooker, and why edibles make you trip balls (“I don’t do edibles,” points out Snoop, “because I don’t have no control – it’s like I don’t have an on or off switch. But my homeboy Warren G used to make the chronic cake... That shit was good as a motherfucker”). There’s even a whole part where Snoop’s character, Mac, a charming pot- dealer who has somehow resisted graduating high school for 15 years, postulates pussy as the ultimate renewable resource.
Snoop, who is now finishing the blunt alone after I bow out, is more than happy to explain the physics. “The reason I say it’s a renewable source is because once you get it, you are re-energised to wanna get it again,” he says. ”Whether it’s mentally or physically or spiritually, you are driven to want it again. And that’s a renewable energy, because you have to get some new energy in order to do it again.”
“Yes. Whoa. Yes! That’s so fucking true,” I say. After the interview, I sit in my car for two hours, trying to remember how to drive, and trying to recall how Snoop had somehow figured out a way for pussy to solve the world’s energy needs. It made perfect sense at the time.
Text Caroline Ryder
Photography Theo Wenner
Styling Karen Langley
Photographic Assistant Drew Schwartz
Styling Assistants Emma Wyman, Lauren Machen, Tamara Malas
Production Hilary Foxweldon
Location Production Brenda Ferrell at Brenda Ferrell Agency
Location Boxing on the Boulevard
This interview featured in the August issue of Dazed & Confused