Sleepy-eyed, slow-drawling gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg had no trouble getting noticed. His smooth, slurry and laid-back delivery has made him one of the most identifiable voices in hip-hop. And the strange lyrical combination he struck between ghastly gunplay and naughty humor has been pinched by other rappers for 15 years now. He started as a pup under the wing of NWA’s sonic architect Dr. Dre, a visionary whose big funky beats defined West Coast rap. High-profile and mean-spirited rhymes on Dre’s The Chronic started Snoop’s rise, and his easy flow and grittily detailed lyrics made him sound like a hip-hop vet rather than the kid he was. That appearance primed the world for Doggystyle, his masterpiece and the first debut album to arrive at No. 1 on the pop charts. It wasn’t an easy album to digest. Doggystyle was a trip through his nightmare, success having made Snoop a target for gunmen and hangers-on. The years that have followed are testament to the strength of his persona, because although Snoop has spent the 16 years since Doggystyle not quite surpassing that album’s critical or commercial success, he’s all the while refused to sink into has-been status. He’s diversified himself with reality TV shows and movie appearances, remaining in the public eye even when he’s not plugging an album. But it’s not like he’s lost his nose for music; Snoop remains a fierce creature onstage, and with that sinuous style of delivering a rhyme, he can still drop an undeniably hot single.
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