1. Dr Dre feat Snoop Dogg – Deep Cover
Although his debut single wasn’t released until October 1993, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s first recorded effort featured on the soundtrack for the 1992 crime thriller Deep Cover. Dr Dre, working on his first single since NWA’s split, used the opportunity to introduce Snoop to the hip-hop mainstream. Dre’s vocal delivery is characteristically aggressive, although Snoop’s flow is particularly harsh; it was not until Dre’s debut album The Chronic (released eight months later) that we were introduced to the lithe, melodic ocals that have become such a recognisable Snoop trademark.
2. Dr Dre feat Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang
Snoop’s stamp can be heard all across The Chronic – he co-wrote much of the album. The Chronic paved the way for a whole new era of hip-hop, deeply rooted in 1970s funk: a sub-genre that would later become known as G-funk, which would crop up throughout Snoop’s titanic discography. The album’s lead single Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang is a pioneering example of it, featuring intertwining vocals from both Dre and Snoop in which two of California’s cities are brought together to begin an enduring musical alliance. The result is a stone cold classic.
By the time Snoop’s Doggystyle arrived in November 1993, the rapper had already begun to accrue his own following off the back of his work with Dr Dre. The time for Snoop Doggy Dogg to shine as a solo artist had arrived. Who Am I? was a self-indulgent single that became one of his signature tracks, Snoop promoting himself as the young gangster rap pioneer – at this point the idea that he would become one of music’s most adored figures would have been laughable. Not only does the heavy sampling of George Clinton’s Atomic Dog lend Snoop his strongest hook, it also provides the basis for one of the most infectious hip-hop choruses of all time.
4. Gin & Juice
Doggystyle’s lead single was Who Am I? (What’s My Name), but Gin & Juice was the real jewel in the crown. On top of one of hip-hop’s most recognisable hooks – a loose interpolation of Slave’s Watching You – Snoop’s lyrics tackled a number of social issues, among them street gangs, something of which Snoop Dogg has always been closely linked, having controversially associated himself with one of California’s biggest gangs, the Crips. Suddenly, gang culture was part of the pop culture mainstream.
In September 1993, Snoop Dogg and his then bodyguard McKinley Lee were arrested after the MTV video music awards and charged with murder, in connection with the death of a gang member named Philip Woldemariam. Snoop was placed under house arrest until the trial took place two years later, and the occasionally violent nature of his lyrics didn’t seem to help matters: they were, in fact, used against him by the prosecution. Nevertheless, he was acquitted. In 1995 Snoop participated in a documentary about the case, titled Murder Was the Case, named after a song from his debut album. Nonetheless, the lyrical theme of the track is closer linked to a fictional deal with the devil, often linked to Snoop’s deal with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records (from which he severed ties after the trial). Exploring a theatrical death, this dramatic track is lyrically one of Doggystyle’s finest moments, and the vocal delivery is sensational. It begins with a drive-by shooting that leaves the rapper for dead, before he makes a deal with the devil – and ends up facing time in prison for murder.
6. 2Pac feat Snoop Dogg – 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted
Some hip-hop artists have made remarkable second albums, although most have catastrophically failed to match the standards set by their debuts. Unfortunately, the latter was the case with Tha Doggfather, as well as its successor, Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, with both LPs sounding both underworked and overproduced. The two records do have their moments, but it was Snoop Dogg’s collaborative work in this period that was most impressive. He teamed up with Tupac – just months before his death – for 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, a track inspired by Tupac’s recent release from prison as well as Snoop’s murder charge. The video featured a controversial Scarface-inspired scene that taunted The Notorious BIG (“Piggy”) and Puff Daddy, stoking the feud between east and west-coast hip-hop. The track itself was a flawless, seamless flow of rapped verses from the pair, and was famously revived during Snoop and Dre’s Coachella headline set in 2012, starring a Tupac hologram that performed the track alongside the two live artists.
7. Dr Dre feat Snoop Dogg – The Next Episode
This sequel Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang, The Next Episode appeared on Dr Dre’s second solo album, 2001. The origina version featured just Snoop and Dre and was intended to feature on Doggystyle, however the recording never saw an official release. Instead, the instrumental was used for Warren G’s Runnin Wit’ No Breaks, and the later single version saw the original pair team up with Kurupt and an uncredited Nate Dogg. Containing a swaggering sample from David McCallum’s The Edge, which plays throughout, The Next Episode is a standout cut, an incredible follow-up to the duo’s greatest moment on record.
2004 saw the release of R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, Snoop’s first great album since Doggystyle. Its lead single Drop It Like It’s Hot gave Snoop his first US No 1 single, with simple production provided by the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) – it’s little more than a “tongue–click” beat topped with bass and keyboard. The first versecame from Pharrell, introducing Snoop’s insouciant flow. Lil Wayne may have originally coined the phrase “drop it like it’s hot” on Juvenile’s Back That Azz Up, yet he never managed to match the popularity Snoop achieved.
R&G had been heavily rooted in radio-friendly pop singles, and Snoop Dogg’s credibility had begun to wane. Had he sold out? He was no longer a gangster – he was a movie actor and a brand ambassador nowadays. With the follow-up to R&G, however, instead of stepping further into the mainstream Snoop took the opportunity to make a grand return with all guns blazing. The title – Tha Blue Carpet Treatment – alluded to his affiliation with the Crips, once again, and the result was perhaps the artist’s most fierce LP release since Doggystyle. Produced by the Neptunes, again, Vato attempts to tackle the issue of racial tension between African-Americans and Hispanics in Los Angeles. Throughout, Snoop’s aggressive narrative works alongside another relatively simple instrumental backdrop, including a break in which the rapper’s lyrical flow resembles a barking dog. It reaffirmed Snoop’s position as the king of west-coast hip-hop.
10. Peaches N Cream
Snoop’s 13th album, Bush, was released earlier this year and was a welcome return to form. It followed a peculiar diversion into reggae under the name Snoop Lion, following a spiritual trip to Jamaica. Three years on, he dropped the Lion, as well as the short-lived Snoopzilla (a funk-based tribute to Bootsy Collins) and returned to his roots. He teamed up, once again, with Pharrell Williams to produce a collection of pop-rap awash with funk influences – lead single Peaches N Cream sampled Parliament, once again, as well as Teena Marie. It was a trip back to the late 1970s, everything we’ve come to expect from Snoop Dogg.