Snoop Dogg offers a blast from the past
The rapper will perform his 1993 debut album, ‘Doggystyle,’ from start to finish.
In this recent wave of ’90s hip-hop nostalgia — major new films on N.W.A, Tupac Shakur and Bad Boy Records were all released in the last year or two — one core MC never quite got in on the rush.
That’s because Snoop Dogg had never gone away.
Snoop, the de facto voice of SoCal party music for 25 years, remains a fixture on rap and pop radio, and he coheadlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with Dr. Dre (and the Tupac illusion) in 2012. His very suave 2017 album, “Neva Left,” sums it up nicely: Snoop never needed to come back, as he was here all along.
But at this weekend’s Hard Summer festival, the rapper will, for the first time, take a deep dive into his past. He’ll will perform his 1993 debut work, “Doggystyle,” from top to bottom.
The album is burned into the memories of many an Angeleno and Long Beach resident who grew up around it — the bawdy skits, the slowrolling funk bass and Snoop’s sneering, laconic delivery. It’s surprising it took him until 2017 to try it out at a festival.
The album was a ribald masterpiece that announced a major new voice in West Coast rap. As Southern California hip-hop culture was coming out of the N.W.A era, Long Beach native Snoop teamed up with Dr. Dre on the 1992 single “Deep Cover” and that year bolstered Dre’s work “The Chronic” with his laid-back menace.
On “Doggystyle,” he found the perfect notch among the synthesized funk of his youth, the brash lyricism of his peers and the commercial potential of a country whose fear and fascination with gangsta rap would only escalate.
Hard Summer has always known how to pair hip-hop with EDM and bass music. Rae Sremmurd, Migos, Skepta, Ty Dolla Sign and Mike Will Made It are among the other hip-hop-leaning acts at the festival (and one, Egyptian Lover, has a career that even pre-dates Snoop’s).
Last year, Snoop’s ’90s L.A. peer Ice Cube headlined Hard Summer with a ferocious, explicitly political set that put his classic rap tracks in a new, urgent context.
For Snoop, the occasion finally made sense to try on his debut again.
“I’ve heard a lot about the energy that this festival brings,” he said by email. “Looking forward to giving L.A. another classic show for the books.”
Hard founder Gary Richards lights up when talking about the set, as “Doggystyle” easily slots into his all-time favorite albums list (the two collaborated on a song, “Hard for the Night,” under Richards’ DJ alias Destructo).
“Snoop is a god to me,” Richards said.
At other dance music festivals, Richards said, there were too many “lucky EDM dudes that got a break. Don’t get it twisted, it’s Snoop Dogg. I can’t believe we got him, but I also want it to be special. What can we do? I want the bathtub and the doorbell rings, people pouring drinks, I want the whole shebang. Let’s re-create the record.”
Snoop plans to bring out a bevy of guests from the album, although he declines to say who.
“I’ve been rehearsing and going to bring some extra surprises to fans, ya dig,” he said. But even though he’s finally allowed himself the chance to reach back to his first album, he’s more curious to see how it plays out for a very young crowd of 65,000.
Everyone’s likely to know “Ain’t No Fun” and “Gin and Juice,” but how many kids in the era of streaming services have heard the whole record in one go? Even for a generation raised on playlists and instant-gratification singles, there is still a certain joy to following an album through its intended long arc.
Everything — from the racy skits to the sound effects and track order — is essential to why “Doggystyle” made such an impact. And that’s where Snoop feels most confident about this show. The vibe and aesthetic he pioneered in 1993 more than holds up in a post-EDM, everything-all-the-time music culture.
“We’re classic — we laid the foundation for the sounds, styles and artists you are hearing today,” Snoop said. “That never goes outta style. I love seeing these new artists out here flippin’ it and putting their own on it.”
SNOOP DOGG says of the festival: “Looking forward to giving L.A. another classic show for the books.”