Snoop Dogg has an uncanny ability to detect the scent of a burning blunt from afar. And he couldn’t have chosen a better time to smell one, as there’s a fifteen-minute break on the set of Crime Partners (the movie based on a novel by Seventies blaxploitation writer Donald Goines), and Snoop is definitely jonesin’ for the “sticky-icky-icky.” He’s been shooting the same scene in front of this building in Harlem for the past forty-five minutes, and his previous high is in its waning moments.
As soon as he simply gets a whiff of the herb being blazed behind the building, he heads full speed for it. “I’ll see y’all in a few minutes,” says Snoop to his movie director J. Jesses Smith and his fellow cast members Ice-T, Laz Alonso (host of the morning show AM@B.E.T.) and actor Tyrin Turner (Menace II Society). When Snoop turns the corner, he sees that it’s his part-time rap crew Tha Eastsidaz who are circulating the spliffs. “I knew I smelled somethin’,” Snoop says upon his arrival. Within seconds, he’s handed the herbal specimen and wastes no time inhaling it.
The potent blunt smoke, which he exhales, forms a thick cloud around him and makes it hard to study the expressions on his face as he talks about this point in his career. But, when the smoke clears, you not only realize that Snoop is genuinely happy, but you also believe him when he insists that the smile on his face won’t be going away anytime soon — no matter who tries to wipe it off.
Even though it’s over now, how often do you think about the success of the Up in Smoke tour?
Man, to this minute I can’t stop thinking about it. Up in Smoke was a piece of history and I was happy to be a part of it. It was some shit that was long overdue. It just proved, to me especially, that me and Dre are survivors in the biggest way possible. We began our quest together in ’92, and at one point it looked like we had fallen. But, now that I look at it all . . . we never fell down. We stumbled. We stumbled but we refused to fall.
Despite public perceptions about rap tours, with the exception of Detroit, it seemed to go without incident.
There was actually a time when things could’ve been worse. We showed up at one of the venues down south, and I walked by a sign that said, “No Smoking, $300 fine.” I was like, “No Smoking???!” I wasn’t havin’ that, ’cause you know that Snoop Dogg’s gotta be smokin’ his trees. So I told the niggas in charge that if I couldn’t smoke, I wasn’t steppin’ on stage. They didn’t even try to contest that, ’cause that shit could’ve started a riot. They were immediately like, “Smoke all you want, my nigga. It’s all good.” In all reality, they should’ve known better than to try that shit. Nigga, this is Up in Smoke — not no mothafuckin’ after-school special.
How would you describe the relationships between those of you on the tour?
I realize that we operate like a basketball team. Actually, we’re the L.A. Lakers of hip-hop. We got Dr. Dre who’s the Shaquille O’Neill of it all, the one who makes it all happen in the middle. Give him the ball and he’ll dunk on everybody. I play the role of Kobe Bryant, you know what I’m sayin’? Eminem is the power forward, the Horace Grant in our click. I see Nate Dogg as our Small Forward, because he comes in with roles that seem small but, in reality, they’re so big. Xzibit is the point guard who brings the ball up the court and hits us when we’re open. And he’s also the guy who makes his shots when he has to. And God plays the role of [coach] Phil Jackson. I believe God is the one who put our team together. You feel me?
I picture Eminem as the guard in the equation, probably because he’s small and quick with his delivery.
The reason why I think of Eminem as a power forward is because he’s such a powerful rapper. I would’ve compared him to Dennis Rodman, if he still played basketball — Rodman was on the Lakers for a minute. Regardless, Eminem is definitely a power forward, though.
Your upcoming album, Tha Last Meal, is the last one you owe to both Priority Records and Master P’s No Limit. There seems to be a message in the title.
The reason why I named it Tha Last Meal, is ’cause it’s the last time these redneck label executives is gonna be eatin’ off Snoop Dogg. And I’m not talkin’ about Master P or No Limit. I’m talkin’ ’bout Priority Records. I have nothing against P at all. If it wasn’t for P and No Limit, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If you think about it, No Limit is one of the best things that’s happened to the rap industry. ‘Cause before No Limit became so big, Death Row was the dominant force. Think about it this way: When niggas wanted to leave Death Row, there was violence and there was beef. They ran Death Row like a street company. No Limit, on the other hand, is run the way a business is supposed to be run.
Back when I was on Death Row . . . if a nigga wanted to leave, ma’fuckas would have the attitude, like, “This nigga’s a bitch. Fuck that nigga.” But that shit never happened with No Limit. Mystikal left, and there was no beef at all. Other people have left, and it was all cool. I’m leaving, and I’m gettin’ nothin’ but love. No Limit is full of positivity. Look what I did while I was on No Limit: I created my own record label [Doggystyle Records, distributed by TVT]. Master P didn’t come to me and say, ‘No Snoop. You can’t do that.’ He let me go about my business. P’s a real nigga. That’s why, with Tha Last Meal, I’m giving Master P the best record Snoop Dogg has ever put together, ever. It’s because I feel he gave me the best chance in the world. He broke me free from those suckas on Death Row. He gave me a new life and helped me breathe easier. Show a nigga love, he’ll show you love back.
Death Row continues to release your old material without paying you. It must upset you.
I’m tryin’ not to sweat it, and I’ll tell ya why . . . You see what the musical factors of Death Row was, right? The musical factors was Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. After Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg left, Death Row Records saw their fall. Now you see where Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg are now. Where we at?
That’s right, my nigga. We on top. Say it like you mean it next time. You see any negativity around us? You see anybody wantin’ us dead? Are we out here beefin’ with anybody? The only beef we got is with Death Row Records. And it’s not even us havin’ beef with them; it’s them havin’ beef with us. And why do they have beef with us? It’s because we actually bounced out of that situation and eventually became even more successful than we would’ve become under Death Row Records. And that’s the truth. It’s because Dre is bein’ Dre and Snoop is bein’ Snoop.
How do you think your new frame of mind will affect your music?
I honestly feel that the work that I’m doing will keep getting better than anything I’ve ever done. My mind is right, Dre’s mind is right, everyone affiliated with Dre is in the right frame of mind. I feel that this album is really setting the tone for the work I’ll be doing in the future. No more pressure, no more bullshit, no more greed. Just amazing music with no strings attached to it. This is the best state of mind I’ve ever been in. Ever. When people listen to my new album, it’s not like they’ll be thinkin’, “Damn, this is Snoop’s last album.” It’s more like they’ll be sayin’, “Damn. This nigga’s back on track — it’s official.”