Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus) was, of course, born relatively poor and got to work early on his cred: While a high school student, he spent six months in prison for cocaine possession. He had repeated run-ins with the law on his way up as a rapper and it all culminated in his trial for a 1993 murder. He (and his bodyguard) were acquitted, but his gangster image was retained.
But, since then — and in spite of multiple marijuana arrests, as well as a few more serious weapons charges — Snoop has become utterly mainstream. Let’s put it this way: My mom likes Snoop Dogg. Not only does she know who he is, but this middle-aged, Midwestern white woman likes Snoop. Not his music, per se, but his persona. How have we gone from skinny thug to Katy Perry BFF?
We went from this:
I would argue the “Ice Cube factor” is for a couple of reasons, beginning with Snoop’s goofiness and approachability. After he made “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” with Dr. Dre, “Doggstyle” was D-O-Double-G’s self-constructed foray into the public consciousness. While it contains some fairly aggressive material — the one-two combo of “Murder Was the Case” and “Serial Killa” being the darkest and most taboo — it also feels fairly tongue-and-cheek when compared with a lot of the similar East-vs-West material released around the same time. And, to boot: The cover art is a cartoon. A lewd cartoon, but a cartoon nonetheless.
Tha Doggfather has doubled down on that Snoopy caricature, basking in comedy. There he is, laughing with glazed-over eyes all the way to the bank. He’s broken into reality television and web videos. He has basically created his own version of the English language and his social media presence is laugh-out-loud. A combination of the two found its way onto his Facebook page recently, promoting his upcoming Coachella headlining gigs with Dr. Dre. [Sic] alert: “who rolln??,” he asked, in what can only be interpreted as a double entendre.
On that subject: Snoop smokes copious amounts of marijuana. When I last saw him — at Bonnaroo — I commented that I didn’t think I’d ever seen a higher man in my life. And I’ve been to 37 Phish concerts. And Amsterdam. And a midnight showing of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” My hypothesis is thus: Many Americans don’t care about pot usage and most who frequent pop music concerts care even less, even if they aren’t using it themselves. This nonchalance stretches its wings wider in our state, where Snoop headlines the Fillmore Auditorium tonight and SnowBall Music Festival on Saturday. While it might be annoying that many national news outlets have taken hyperbole to the place where they can’t seem to figure out whether the “C” in Colorado stands for Cheech or Chong, the fact of the matter is that the plant is on the ballot for legalization in November.
Still, none of this can fully explain Snoop’s mass appeal. But, maybe Bill Clinton can.
While I was watching the PBS “American Experience” on our 42nd President, I couldn’t help but key in on a specific moment. Trent Lott, the former GOP Senator from Mississippi, couldn’t believe that the public wound up not caring about the Lewinksy scandal while he and his pals continued their witch-hunt. I could and can: Americans love flawed people. And Clinton couldn’t have been more flawed, lies and all. Snoop, while eminently imperfect, goes one step further. While both he and Clinton rose from the bottom to the top, Snoop is a pretty truthful guy. He is upfront about his humanity. And in this country, that’s what makes a hero.