Snoop Dogg's Emergence

'The Chronic' At 30: Snoop Dogg's Emergence

Published Thu, December 15, 2022 at 3:00 AM EST

Who has had Hip-Hop's most anticipated debut?

It's a question that has come up fairly regularly across social media and in rap circles. There are certain artists who's debut albums were talking points for months prior to their actual release; those artists who had such a strong following before the release of their first albums that they seemed to be ready-made for stardom. Need some examples? 50 Cent, in the early 2000s, was primed for superstardom ; he'd dropped several popular street mixtapes, dropped some highly-buzzed about singles, and engaged in more than a few high-profile beefs. That was all before the release of his multiplatinum debut album Get Rich Or Die Tryin.' in 1994, Nasty Nas out of Queensbridge had Hip-Hop heads geared up for his first album Illmatic after no less than three years of buildup via everything from his classic appearance on Main Source's "Life At the BBQ" and his single "Halftime" appearing on the Zebrahead soundtrack.

But nobody's buzz was as big, loud or broad as Snoop Doggy Dogg in 1993.

Calvin Broadus was a native of Long Beach, CA who was introduced to superproducer Dr. Dre by Calvin's friend, Warren G. Warren was Dre's stepbrother, and the connection that was made would alter the course of all three men's lives and career. Dre was famously defecting from his old group N.W.A. and his former label, Ruthless Records. In launching the new Death Row Records with Suge Knight, Dick Griffey and former Ruthless artist The D.O.C., Dre was kickstarting a solo career and laying the groundwork for an empire. In this kid Calvin, who called himself "Snoop," Dre had a new protege with the distinctive flow and undeniable charisma to become a major star.

Snoop Doggy Dogg made his debut on the soundtrack for the gritty crime drama "Deep Cover," and the song stood out because of Snoop's laconic-but-menacing style. His memorable "1-8-7 on a undercover cop" hook was delivered in his uniquely melodic drawl, and it was the first shot in what would be a decades-long run. Released in early 1992, "Deep Cover" let the world know that Snoop Doggy Dogg was coming. And it made it clear that solo Dr. Dre was showing no signs of slowing.

The buzz around "Deep Cover" built anticipation for Dr. Dre's solo debut. And the first single arrived in early fall: a G'd up take on Leon Haywood's "I Want A Do Somethin' Freaky To You." The song was called "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" and it once again prominently featured Snoop rapping alongside Dr. Dre. Snoop was growing both as an artist and as a star; coming under the tutelage of The D.O.C. as they worked on what would become Dr. Dre's epic The Chronic. "'G' Thang" wound up being a monster hit for Death Row, and it sent anticipation for The Chronic to a fever pitch. Even before the album's release, Snoop was becoming the most famous newcomer in rap. In the early 2000s, 50 Cent had the benefit of internet buzz; and as for Nas, he was The Chosen One amongst East Coast rap circles, but hadn't really had the kind of national hit that would make a mainstream star prior to his release of Illmatic. But at barely 21 years old, Snoop Doggy Dogg was now on the hottest song in America. And the album was dropping in December.

The Chronic dropped in mid-December 1992, and Dr. Dre's solo debut became the album that defined the first half of 1993, with Snoop Doggy Dogg's star on the rise. Snoop and the new wave of West Coast artists that Death Row and Dre had assembled were given plenty of room to shine on the album. Snoop appears on no less than nine of the album's tracks, sometimes as sidekick, sometimes a s scene-stealer, sometimes just contributing a hook. But it was clear to anyone who was listening that this lanky guy from Long Beach was being primed to be Death Row Records breakout star. Dr. Dre was serving almost as emissary to the rise of Snoop Doggy Dogg.


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Snoop's quantum leap to the big stage was almost a foregone conclusion. He showed up again prominently on the second single from The Chronic; the Eazy-E (and Uncle Luke) diss track "(Fuck Wit) Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin'.)" Commonly referred to as simply "Dre Day," the song featured Snoop and Dre taking aim at Eazy and Luke, with Death Row vocalist Jewell providing some stunning backing vocals on the outro. "Dre Day" followed "G Thang" into the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100. By mid-1993, The Chronic was double platinum.

And Snoop Doggy Dogg was prepping his own solo debut. But there was also tragedy looming.

In 1993, Snoop was charged with first-degree murder after a member of a rival gang was shot and killed by Snoop's bodyguard, McKinley Lee, (aka Malik.) The incident would spark a media frenzy around the rapper; adding to his notoriety but also fueling criticism of his lyrics and image. It also had the effect of bolstering Snoop's profile across popular culture; he would land on major magazine covers throughout the year. This all happened before his debut album Doggy Style, would be released in the fall of that year.

By the time Doggy Style hit stores, Snoop Doggy Dogg was already a household name. It happened for a myriad of reasons, and Snoop would be famously acquitted for murder in 1996. But it made Snoop a star before he'd had a hit under his own name. That star has burned brightly for 30 years since, and it's arguably who had the most anticipated debut in rap; but it stands that Snoop makes the strongest case. It was a combination of talent, opportunity and pain; and it made for compelling music and riveting real life drama. But it would all be moot were it not for the charisma and appeal of the man himself. Snoop always had that going for him.

It was evident from Day One.

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