Snoop Dogg (originally, Broadus, Calvin; aka Snoop Doggy Dogg)

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Snoop Dogg (originally, Broadus, Calvin; aka Snoop Doggy Dogg)

Snoop Dogg (originally, Broadus, Calvin; aka Snoop Doggy Dogg), a major voice in gangsta rap, and the first artist to enter the pop charts at #1 with a debut album (b. Long Beach, Calif., Oct. 20, 1972).

Snoop’s father was a postal worker who sang and left his family when his son Calvin was still a boy. His parents called Calvin “Snoop” after the dog in the comic Peanuts, claiming he looked like a puppy in his younger days.

A good student, Pop Warner Football player, and a sought-after high-school basketball star, Snoop was also a street kid and fell in with one of Los Angeles’s notorious gangs, the Crips. He started selling drugs, and shortly after graduating high school, he got arrested and jailed. He spent the next three years in and out of prison. When he was on the streets, he would invent raps with his friend Warren Griffin. They began recording them. Griffin played one of the tapes for his half-brother Andrew Young, better known in the Hood as Dr. Dre of the Los Angeles rap group NWA.

Dre had just left NWA. He concurrently had begun work on solo projects and was putting together a new label with publishing impresario Suge Knight called Death Row records. Dre liked what he heard and asked Snoop to start working with him, first on his debut single “Deep Cover.” On Dre’s debut album “The Chronic,” Snoop’s vocals were nearly as prominent as Dre’s, especially on the hit “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.”

Dre produced Snoop’s debut album. By this time, he was nearly as well known as his mentor. Thanks to his role in Dre’s hits, Snoop’s debut album, Doggystyle, entered the charts at #1, the first debut album ever to top the charts in its first week. Snoop’s debut single, “What’s My Name,” rose to #8 and sold gold, as did the follow- up single, “Gin and Juice.” Like many gangsta rappers, Snoop’s work faced criticisms from members of the establishment. While on tour in Europe, a member of the British Parliament urged the body to “kick this evil bastard out” of the continent.

Just as Doggystyle came out, Snoop and his bodyguard were charged in the drive-by shooting of a rival gang member. Both were exonerated of the charge, but the trial kept Snoop occupied for well over a year. With the trial over, he went into the studio and produced Da Doggfather. This album also entered the charts at #1. However, Death Row records was in chaos: Dr. Dre had left the label, renouncing gangsta rap; the label’s biggest star in Dogg’s absence, Tupac Shakur was shot to death while cruising with Knight in Las Vegas; and Knight himself was under investigation. Snoop’s album sold double platinum, but Death Row was unable to break any singles to give it momentum.

When Knight was imprisoned, Dogg negotiated a deal with Master P’s No Limit records. He changed his nom de rap to Snoop Dogg and even toured as part of the alternative-rock Lollapalooza festival. His debut for No Limit, The Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told, once again entered the charts at #1. However, it also failed to produce any significant hits, although Snoop was the featured rapper on Keith Sweat’s #12 “Come and Get with Me.”

Snoop’s decline in popularity continued into the late 1990s. His 1999 release No Limit Top Dogg debuted at a peak of #2, but the single “Woof” did not even crack the Top 50. To make up for his fading popularity, Dogg was investigating other areas. He claimed to be writing an autobiography and was looking into opening a Snoop Dogg theme park called Doggyland in Magnolia, Miss.


Doggystyle (1993); Tha Doggfather (1996); Da Game Is to Be Sold Not to Be Told (1998); No Limit Top Dogg (1999).

—Hank Bordowitz