Friday, March 13, 2009

From the Vaults: Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G

A rap supergroup like 213 (Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg) always brings a colorful party atmosphere to the backstage area of any event—and a politically aware club night hosted by Rock the Vote in Hollywood was no exception. Instead of voter registration forms and brochures, 213’s dressing room found a smattering of attractive women navigating their way through giant clouds of smoke, around the gaze of hungry eyes and over to plates piled with chicken and ribs.As an almost universally recognized multimedia star with a growing film career, multi-platinum music success and even a few action figures and video game characters rendered in his likeness, the scene was nothing Snoop Dogg hadn’t seen before. Nonetheless, he couldn’t hide that he was still a bit of a kid in a candy store, impressed by an ample backside nestled in tight pants.

“I see you goo-gooin’!” cracked Nate Dogg, as he busted his buddy ogling one of his female friends. Nate’s mischievous reaction stood in marvelous contrast to the harder and more serious side he portrays on record as hip-hop’s most successful singer and writer of hooks on hit songs (most recently for Houston’s summer R&B smash “I Like That”). “I had to,” admitted Snoop. “She looked right!”

As their popular current single attests, it seems as though 213 are still looking for a little “Groupie Luv” after all these years. And why not? There’s reason to celebrate for these three talented men, tight friends who grew up from church boys and Pop Warner football heroes in Long Beach, California into internationally famous music stars and fathers of their own budding athletes. Behind the scenes they’ve stuck together throughout solo careers marked by tumultuous relationships with various record companies. Music industry politics prevented Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G from realizing their childhood dream of making an album together until recent years, but their goal has finally been achieved with the release of 213’s The Hard Way. The album debuted at number four on the Billboard Top 200 and as the Top Independent Album in the country with nearly 100,000 copies sold in the first week.

Warren G (Warren Griffin III) and Snoop (Calvin Broadus) met in elementary school in Long Beach, California, participated in Pop Warner football and sold candy together. As a sophomore, Snoop transferred from Jordan High, which he attended with Warren, to Poly High, which boasts a host of NFL players (more than any high school in the country) and Cameron Diaz among its famous alumni.

Though he had bumped into him a few times growing up through church and various summer activities in Long Beach, Snoop really developed his friendship with Nate Dogg (Nathaniel Hale) in Kathy Clark’s Life Sciences class at Poly High. The two clowned around a lot during class; Nate tapped out beats on his desk, Snoop busted rhymes and Clark taught lessons in evolution and chemistry.

“They both were good humored and seemed to attract the attention of the other kids with their music and rapping abilities,” recalled Kathy Clark by telephone. She now teaches at a neighboring high school and gets a kick out of the success of “the boys.” “Not stellar students, but respectful and easy to get along with. What I remember most are happy smiles, good natured and 'musical'—they enjoyed being teenagers and spending time with each other.”

As they performed spontaneous and original works over beats from the likes of James Brown, LL Cool J and Run-DMC, Snoop (the rapper), Warren (the DJ/producer) and Nate (the singer) had some faith in their abilities when they impressed crowds from Long Beach’s Toe Jam to the streets outside famous Sunset Strip nightclubs in Hollywood. But they didn’t predict the size of the eventual outcome, or that they would first break out as solo artists rather than a group. “I didn’t know it could be as big as it [got],” said Snoop. “But that was probably why we pushed so hard. We wasn’t satisfied with just being regular even though we had simple dreams.”

“I knew we had talent and I had a gut feeling that if we just kept on striving harder and harder that one of these days we’d make it,” said Warren. “If we gave up all of the negative things that we were involved in and not try to continue getting that fast money or get caught up or end up dead or in jail, then someday it would happen.” He has spent the last 10 years since his multi-platinum debut album Regulate producing, raising a family and even designing his own signature series of amps and speakers from electronics giant JVC.

There were plenty of unproductive distractions and grim odds on the gang-infested streets of Long Beach in the late Eighties, but Warren seemed to have the vision of their truest potential. He frequently attempted to steer 213 on a more righteous musical path.

Warren’s hustle included getting the attention of his half-brother Dr. Dre (Andre Young). Dre had already hit big with his group N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) and wasn’t about to automatically help out his younger brother just because of nepotism.

After Warren’s repeated attempts to get Dre to listen to Snoop rap, only to have Snoop’s shyness mask his true talent, their break with Dre came one Friday night at a bachelor party at Dre’s house. The party ran out of music and Warren seized the opportunity, popping in a tape with a song called “Super Dooper Snooper” on it. His curiosity piqued, Dre was working in the studio with them just a few days later.

Snoop and Nate would go on to sign to Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. Warren meanwhile signed with Russell Simmons’ New York-based Def Jam Records. The brewing East Coast/West Coast rivalry, fueled by the media, would make recording a 213 album at that point impossible, but the trio—now well on their way to multi-platinum solo careers—vowed to one day regroup properly.

Now in control of their own recording careers, 213 headed into the studio last year to start vibing on the possibility of an album.

“The studio was crazy,” said Nate. “It was almost like a brand new feel, like we was doing it all over for the first time again. I had a lot of fun doing it.”

Snoop also had a particular way of ensuring a good time during the recording sessions. “Every day was like a party because you know me, I’ve always got the scene lit up,” he smirked. “I always invited all the beautiful women to give them some eye candy and then, you know, it just was a pleasurable event.”

Those good feelings are audible all throughout The Hard Way, where 213 offers the tight interplay, street tales and edgy humor that people have always loved from them. And while response has been positive, there are fans who are upset that Warren G, whose original role in 213 was as the DJ and producer, did not produce any of the songs on the album, instead focusing on rapping and leaving those duties to Battlecat, Kanye West and others.

“That’s the one thing that I’m not all the way comfortable with,” he admitted, vowing to produce at least half of the next 213 album. An online petition for Warren to remix the entire album (he’s already done a classy after-hours version of “Groupie Luv”) garned 900 signatures in one week.

“Groupie Luv” takes off from where their 1994 collaboration “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Have None)” from Snoop’s multi-platinum debut Doggystyle left off. But where “Ain’t No Fun” epitomized the concept of sharing, where the loose “hoochie groupies” got about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield, “Groupie Luv” finds the trio less likely to trade sloppy seconds.

On “Another Summer,” a Kanye West-produced song built off a sample of former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks’ 1978 tune “Intimate Friends,” Snoop declares their feelings simply and elegantly. “213 is more than friends,” he says. “We’re more like blood brothers.”

They may not have pricked their fingers to make their vow to each other to stay together, but they’ve kept their promise nonetheless. And a kid-like spirit still remains.

“The way we all hustled back then is similar to the way we do it now,” noted Snoop. “It’s the same little childish [stuff] we did as kids. We still do it now and incorporate it in what we do. I see it in all of us.”

“ We’re kids,” agreed Warren G. “We’re in our early Thirties, still playing X-Box. I think I’m gonna be 70-years-old playing X-Box.”

“But that’s what keeps us right and keeps our hearts right,” said Snoop. “Because we gotta have some kid in us in order for it to still be fun.”

(Originally published by Undercover, 2004)


Blogger srr said...

great article! & had me laughing too!

9:06 PM  
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