Born Calvin Broadus (or Cordovar Varnado) on October 20, 1972, in Long Beach, CA; son of Beverly and Vernell Varnado; married Shante, c. 1996; children: Corde, Cordell, Cori. Addresses: Record company--Priority Records, 6430 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028-7913, website: http://www.priorityrecords.com. Management--Firstars Management, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Penthouse, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. Website--Snoop Dogg Official Website: http://www.snoop-dogg.com.

His 1993 album Doggystyle was one of the defining musical moments of the 1990s, a runaway bestseller that exemplified the violent themes of West Coast rap music. But rapper Snoop Dogg, then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, did much more than ride the wave of a musical trend. With an instantly recognizable personal style often described as relaxed or languid, Snoop told of murder and mayhem in rhymes that projected a cool charisma only intensified by the rapper's elegant six-foot-four-inch frame. "He must have had to work hard to sound this laid-back," noted the British Guardian newspaper.

By the turn of the millennium new musical trends had dented Snoop's popularity, but his talent and energy helped him avoid the flameout suffered by many of his contemporaries. With continuing musical activity, a burgeoning movie career, and a new role as a mentor to younger artists, Snoop had become, in the Guardian's words, "a pillar of the hip-hop aristocracy." His early career had been fueled in part by notoriety stemming from serious brushes with the law, and he remained a controversial figure. Few musicians of the age, however, could be reckoned equally influential.

Named After Comic-Strip Dog

Snoop Dogg was born Calvin Broadus on October 20, 1972, in Long Beach, California; his postal-worker father was named Vernell Varnado, and he seems also to have been known as Cordovar Varnado. His mother, noting his thick head of hair as a baby, thought he resembled a puppy and nicknamed him Snoop after the "Peanuts" comic-strip dog Snoopy. Snoop's parents separated while he was still a child, but his father kept in contact with the family and encouraged his son's obvious musical talent. As a teenager Snoop played the piano in church, and it seemed for a time that sports might help to keep him off the streets--he was a gifted basketball player who attracted the attention of college scouts.

In cooperation with friend Warren Griffin, later known as Warren G., and the stepbrother of N.W.A. frontman and "gangsta" rap pioneer Dr. Dre, Snoop also explored hip-hop music during his high school years. The two owned a simple drum machine, and Snoop, especially influenced by rapper Slick Rick, would try his hand at original rhymes. Snoop, his cousin, Nate Dogg, and Griffin formed a trio called 213, named for their Southern California area code. But, partly due to family financial pressures brought on by his parents' divorce, Snoop was drawn into the notorious Los Angeles street gang the Crips. After leaving high school in Long Beach he was arrested on drug-dealing charges and spent parts of the next three years in prison.

Even the career criminals whom Snoop encountered in prison (and who provided inspiration for some of his later recordings) noticed his musical talents and advised him to stay clear of the streets and develop them. Taking the advice to heart, Snoop began spending time at a neighborhood store, V.I.P. Records, whose owner allowed Snoop and Griffin to use the shop's array of audio equipment. Soon they had recorded a demonstration single, "Super Duper Snooper," and were shopping it to music labels. Their break came when Griffin played the recording for his brother, Dr. Dre, who suddenly realized how talented his brother's friend had become. Dr. Dre, about to make his solo debut with a recording called "Deep Cover" (featured in a 1992 film of the same name), invited Snoop to contribute a rap to the piece.

Featured on The Chronic

"Deep Cover" was a hit in itself, and it landed Snoop a featured slot on Dr. Dre's 1992 recording The Chronic. That album marked the beginning of gangsta rap's long success in crossing over to the mainstream pop charts; its two singles, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" and "Dre Day," both featuring Snoop, made the pop top 10 in 1993. The Chronic also established the stylistic basis for Snoop's music--Dr. Dre provided Snoop with bass lines influenced by the classic funk styles of George Clinton's Funkadelic and Parliament ensembles.

Everything came together with the release of Snoop Doggy Dogg's own solo debut, Doggystyle, in 1993. Snoop proved to have the perfect rhymes to complement the "P-Funk"-inspired beats laid down by Dr. Dre, now acting as producer. In contrast to the powerful dance rhythms of hip-hop music up to that point, Snoop and Dre offered a deliberately paced, sonically varied, and vaguely druggy sound that allowed Snoop to rap convincingly of sensual pleasures and to recount his tales of violence with a particularly detached, chilling effect. In addition to these purely musical attractions, Snoop proved that there is no such thing as bad publicity when he was charged with involvement in a drive-by shooting in August of 1993; he drove a car from which his bodyguard shot and killed a man whom Snoop claimed was stalking him.

Snoop landed on the covers of three magazines; Doggystyle sold 800,000 copies in its first week of release on its way to multiplatinum status; and Snoop Doggy Dogg became a bona fide star. In addition to its numerous drug references, the album stirred controversy with its unrelenting vilification of women. Snoop defended himself with the now-standard gangsta-rap rejoinder that he was only representing reality as he knew it. Sometimes condemned as a terrible example for youth in the United States, Snoop ran into even stronger criticism during a 1994 tour of Great Britain during which newspapers called for his expulsion from the country. But all these events boosted sales of Doggystyle and its everywhere-heard singles "What's My Name?" and "Gin & Juice," and Snoop got even more mileage from his predicament by releasing a short film about it, "Murder was the Case," whose soundtrack sold two million copies on its own. The rapper employed famed defense attorney Johnnie Cochran and was cleared of all charges in 1996.

By the following year, much in the musical world had changed. The appeal of gangsta rap had been diluted by the slayings of several of the genre's major stars, including Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., and the Death Row label was suffering from the indictment of its founder, Suge Knight, for violating on assault charges that would send him to prison for a five-year term. Dr. Dre produced Snoop's second solo album, Tha Doggfather, but Dre, too, was beginning to turn his attention to new projects such as the music of the phenomenally successful white rapper Eminem. Sales of Tha Doggfather stalled at approximately two million copies, half of what Doggystyle had recorded. Snoop left Death Row, incurring the enmity of Knight, and signed on with the successful rap label No Limit.

Recorded for No Limit

Truncating his name to Snoop Dogg, Snoop recorded a series of albums for No Limit and its impresario Master P. Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, 1998, Top Dogg, 1999, and Tha Last Meal in 2000. The albums sold well, but to some observers seemed less distinctive in style than Snoop's earlier efforts. Snoop, opined Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the All Music Guide, was "now merely a general in the No Limit army." Unlike some other hip-hop artists, Snoop remained a formidable draw in concert. A brief reprise of his earlier troubles with the law arose in 2002 when he was arrested for marijuana possession in Ohio during his "Puff, Puff, Pass" tour.

For the most part, however, the early 2000s witnessed the emergence of a kinder, gentler Snoop Dogg. At the height of his fame in the mid-1990s he had written in Details magazine that "The best thing about being successful is that I'm able to make little kids happy. I love kids." He backed up his words with his support of the youthful rapper Lil' Bow Wow (whom he had also given that name), and made appearances on Bow Wow's squeaky-clean recordings. On tour after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Snoop called from the stage for peace--surely an unfamiliar role for him.

His career branched out into film as he appeared in Caught Up in 1998, and in 1999's Hot Boyz, The Wrecking Crew, and Urban Menace; the latter two featured fellow rapper Ice-T.

In 2000 and 2001 Snoop was even busier. He co-starred with Dr. Dre in The Wash, a well-regarded throwback to the 1970s hit Car Wash, appeared in director John Singleton's Baby Boy, and played a small role in the award-winning Denzel Washington vehicle Training Day. He also published his autobiography,Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg. Snoop Dogg received positive reviews for his first starring role in the 2001 horror film Bones. "You kind of feel for the villain," Snoop commented to New York's Newsday, "because I'm a villain and a hero." Additionally, Snoop designed a special-edition luxury car (the Snoop de Ville), started his own clothing line, Snoop Dogg Clothing Co., and his own record label, Doggy Style Records, distributed by MCA.

In 2002 Snoop released Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$, which debuted at number three on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and featured the songs "Beautiful," a love song for his wife and manager, Shante, and "I Miss That Bi***," whose subject was the substance Snoop kicked a longtime addiction to during the recording of the album--marijuana. "I had to do it.... I was getting careless and reckless...," he told Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly about getting clean. "In 1993 I was restless. I had no cares, no kids, and I was enjoying the limelight. 2003 is about my kids, my wife, my bettering myself, and trying to be more of a role model," Snoop told Baz Dreisinger of Salon. Though Snoop had seemingly left his gangsta rapper lifestyle behind, he was still involved in its violence in April of 2003 when a convoy of vehicles Snoop was traveling in was fired upon in Los Angeles. A bodyguard was hurt, but Snoop was uninjured. The intended target of the shooting and its perpetrators were unknown.

In addition to extending his creativity to music and film, Snoop debuted the comedy sketch show Doggy Fizzle Televizzle on MTV in 2003. A Doggyland theme park in Mississippi was also planned.

by James M. Manheim

Snoop Dogg's Career

Contributed raps to Deep Cover soundtrack recording by Dr. Dre, 1991; featured performer on Dr. Dre, The Chronic, 1992; signed to Death Row label; released debut album Doggystyle, 1993; released Tha Doggfather, 1996; signed to No Limit label; recorded for No Limit, 1996-00; launched career of teen rapper Lil' Bow Wow; launched own clothing line, Snoop Dogg Clothing Co, and own record label, Doggy Style Records; designed special-edition Cadillac, the Snoop de Ville; published autobiography, Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg, 2000; numerous film appearances, 2000-; released Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$, 2002; debuted series on MTV called Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, 2003.

Snoop Dogg's Awards

Voted Best Rapper in Rolling Stone readers' and critics' polls, 1994; Soul Train Music Award, Best Rap Album, 1995.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

May 21, 2004: Snoop Dogg filed for divorce from Shante Broadus, his wife of seven years. The couple has three children. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Music/05/24/snoop.divorce.ap/index.html, May 27, 2004.

October 4, 2005: Snoop Dogg's album, Me and My Homies, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, October 7, 2005.

December 2005: Snoop was named executive producer of XM Satellite Radio's hip-hop station, The Rhyme. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, December 10, 2005.

Further Reading

Sources

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 9 years ago

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