West Coast rap legend Snoop Dogg has come a long way since being discovered by Dr. Dre in the early 1990. As impressive as he was when guesting on Dre’s The Chronic in 1992, few could have guessed he’d go on to global fame, tens of millions of record sales, and a career in movies and TV. And that’s only part of the story, from battles with the law to reinvention as a reggae artist. Snoop’s story isn’t finished yet, and who knows what this Long Beach native will do next?
From Snoopy to Snoop Doggy Dogg
He was born Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. in Long Beach, California, on October 20, 1971. His "Snoop Dogg" nickname came from his mother because she thought he looked like Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon. He played piano and sang at his local Baptist church, before starting rap in sixth grade. After graduating high school, Snoop was arrested several times for drug possession and spent time in prison. He was also associated with the Rollin’ 20 Crips Gang. He started making music as a way out of his troubles and recorded early demos with his cousin Nate Dogg and friend Warren G as 213. A track on one of these came to the attention of Dr. Dre who invited Snoop — then rapping under the name Snoop Doggy Dogg — to audition. From there they collaborated on a song called "Deep Cover" for the soundtrack of the film for the same name; and Snoop became the key rapper on Dre’s hugely successful first solo album, The Chronic, in 1992.
Snoop's first album, the Dre-produced Doggystyle (1993), climbed its way to the No. 1 spot on Billboard's hip-hop and Top 200 charts, based in part on the success of the singles "Who Am I (What's My Name)?" and "Gin and Juice." It built on the G-Funk template that The Chronic had established, as Cypress Hill’s B-Real later reminisced: “I think Dr. Dre gave Snoop a sound that would resonate in the minds of hip-hop fans for generations. It made Snoop an icon.”
Next came a short film called Murder Was the Case, the soundtrack of which went double platinum. Snoop's next album, Tha Doggfather (1996), also reached the top of the charts, despite the absence of Dre, who had left Death Row over a contract dispute. While it didn’t do as well either in sales or with reviewers, it still showed that Snoop was a major-league artist. Snoop then left Death Row himself, falling out with label mogul Suge Knight and moving to Master P’s No Limit Records. He scored the top slot on the hip-hop charts with his next two albums: Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998) and No Limit Top Dogg (1999). His last album for No Limit, The Last Meal, came in 2000 and sold over 2 million copies. By now his sound had become less "gangsta rap" and somewhat smoother.
Branching Out: From Rapper to Actor to Reality Star
Snoop continued to make music throughout the noughties, enjoying a big hit in 2004 with the chart-topping single "Drop It Like It's Hot," which sparked several fruitful collaborations with Pharrell Williams. He reunited with Warren G and Nate Dogg as 213 to drop the album The Hard Way in 2004. In 2007, Snoop became the first artist to release a track — "It's The DOG" — as a ringtone prior to its release as a single.
He also branched out into acting during the same period and appeared in several films, including Starsky & Hutch, The Wash and Training Day. He also made guest appearances on television shows, including The L Word and Weeds, and starred in his own E! reality show, Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, in 2007. The series featured his wife, Shante, and their three children, Corde, Cordell and Cori. He was part of a sketch show, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, and participated in the Comedy Central Roast of the future president Donald Trump. He also uses his likeable laconic personality to good effect in a new venture for VH1, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, where he and Martha Stewart host dinner parties for various celebrities.
Legal Issues, Banned From the U.K. & Australia
Since achieving fame, Snoop has had a number of brushes with the law. In 1990, he was convicted of cocaine possession. Three years later, he pled guilty for gun possession. Snoop was also tried and acquitted of murder charges in 1996. The case involved the killing of an alleged gang member who was shot by someone in the vehicle Snoop was riding in.
Snoop made the news again in April 2006 when the rapper and his posse were taken into custody at a London airport after the group got into a fight at the terminal. The British government banned Snoop from entering the country, although they later had to change their position. (It wasn’t his first brush with notoriety in the U.K. — in 1994 the British tabloid The Daily Star carried a picture of Snoop on its front cover with the headline “Kick this evil bastard out!”) Later in 2006, he was arrested at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, after officers found marijuana and a gun in his vehicle. In 2007, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, citing his prior criminal convictions, banned him from entering the country and appearing at the MTV Australia Video Music Awards.
Changing His Name to Snoop Lion
In early 2012, Snoop announced that he was working for the first time on an all-reggae album, called Reincarnated. Later that year he announced that he was dropping "Dogg" from his name to become Snoop Lion.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Snoop decided to change his name after traveling to Jamaica where he met with a priest, who told him: "You are the light, you are the lion." Moved by the meeting, Snoop immediately changed his name. In August 2012, Snoop released Reincarnated's debut single, "La La La."
His 13th studio album arrived in May 2015. Titled Bush, it was produced by Pharrell Williams. With the release of singles like "Peaches N Cream" and "So Many Pros," the album shot to No. 1 on the hip-hop/R&B charts and debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200. In July 2016, Snoop followed up with his 14th studio album, Coolaid, which also garnered positive reception.
Cannabis Business, Latest Album Release
Outside of music, Snoop has made investments in the burgeoning cannabis business. In November 2015 he launched Leafs By Snoop, becoming the first A-list celebrity to brand a line of cannabis products. That same year he also launched a new digital-media venture called Merry Jane, which focuses on the latest marijuana news. In May 2017 Snoop dropped his fifteenth studio album Neva Left.
Snoop has been married to his high school sweetheart Shante Taylor since 1997. They have two sons and one daughter together. Snoop is first cousins with the R&B artists Brandy and Ray J.
He is held in high esteem and affection by hip-hop fans worldwide, and is one of the most recognizable faces and voices of the whole genre, even to those who don’t listen to his music. He has the distinction for having the most Grammy nominations of any music artist— 17 to date — without having won one. But as Snoop Dogg shows few signs of retiring, don’t write him off just yet.
(Profile photo of Snoop Dogg by Estevan Oriol/Getty Images)
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