If you want to get an idea of how quickly the Hip Hop landscape changes, take a look at Snoop Dogg. Anyone in their mid twenties or older, still remembers the fresh-faced, young rapper ironing his khakis in the now classic Dr. Dre video, “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang.” Ask someone a decade younger, and their first glimpse of Snoop was probably via a cameo as the permed-out, buck-toothed pimp Big Jeffrey in 50 Cent‘s “P.I.M.P.” video. Now that MTV no longer shows music videos, it’s easy to forget Snoop provides a direct link to icons such as Tupac Shakur and Fab 5 Freddy.
As CDs and videos have given way to MP3s, ringtones and YouTube clips, the grumblings from those familiar with Hip Hop’s last golden era get increasingly louder. Somewhere between all of the Auto-tuned choruses and Superman-ing of hoes, Snoop Dogg embraced the new landscape. If you question the decision, take a look at how many of his fellow emcees have followed in his Chuck Taylor‘s to cash in on television, movie roles and various endorsements.
Shortly after inking a landmark, all-inclusive deal with MTV, Snoop explained to HipHopDX why he’s still relevant in the mainstream, when few others from his era are. Despite the fact that it might make your stomach turn to watch Paris Hilton stumble through a freestyle, “Tha Doggfather” would like to remind you that it’s all part of a larger plan.
HipHopDX: In 1999, after a lot of labels passed on Tha Eastsidaz, you hooked up a deal through Dogg House Records. After they sold 100,000 units in first week, would you say that was the start of people respecting your business hustle?
Snoop Dogg: Yeah definitely. It was the first time they actually saw me do business other than as a rapper. They looked at me as a CEO, producer and as an executive producer of the group as far as the direction of the group and putting the movie together. After putting together and executing the deal, that was a chance for them to see me in a business atmosphere.
DX: And it looks like that carried over into you new venture with MTV.
Snoop Dogg: Yeah, and I think that was one of the steps I had to take to get to this point. I had to see exactly what was needed in the industry and how we need to approach it as far as having a business mind.
DX: You usually rap about some hardcore subjects and still have fun, dating back to skits like the “$20 Sack Pyramid.” Is it hard to balance the fun and serious sides of your entertainment?
Snoop Dogg: Nah, because that’s me. A lot of people feel like I should’ve been a comedian�all my homies growing up would say that, because I used to be a class clown. I could always bag on niggas good and whatnot, so the comedic side has always been there. For me to put that in the world of the gangsta and let the gangstas smile and laugh a little bit in between all of them tough-ass songs is a good thing. It’s like an emotional roller coaster.
DX: You’re in a time slot that has more or less been vacant since Arsenio Hall’s show was canceled. Did anything in particular make you want to include Dogg After Dark as part of this deal?
Snoop Dogg: Because I know MTV is the king of media, as far as visibility. What better way to capitalize than to take some time on a network that everybody tends to watch? We can put some TV on that’s completely different with me hosting. We get a lot of celebrities and I’m getting my favorites to make it look like the best thing that TV’s seen in the last 20 or 30 years.
DX: Going back 20 to 30 years ago, entertainers like Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson laid the blueprint for this kind of show. As a fan of both, what elements of their shows did you incorporate into yours?
Snoop Dogg: They both were inspiring to me as a youngster seeing them play characters. To take their show to the movie screen and back to the TV screen was definitely inspiring to me. I’m not half as funny as they are, ’cause they were natural comedians. I’m just trying to get in where I fit in and add my niche to the table. I just wanna give them respect and honors for what they did, because they inspired me to do what I’m doing.
DX: Does the light-hearted variety format have better chances of success since times are so hard?
Snoop Dogg: Yeah, ’cause my personality is like that anyway. It’s about movin’ and groovin’ and not being in one spot. So my show couldn’t be like [Jay] Leno, [David] Letterman or [Jimmy] Kimmel with me sitting behind a desk, interviewing a guest and drinking a cup of water. That would be boring. My thang gotta be movin’ and groovin’ and flowin’. I’m constantly having new, up and coming guests and also having old school actors like Fred Williamson, who was The Hammer. He paved the way for black actors and directors. Then we’ll let a young artist like Soulja Boy [click to read] get down. That’s what we do-we appeal to everybody.
DX: A lot of artists aren’t doing 360 deals, because it gives the label a part of your touring income. What made this deal work in your favor?
Snoop Dogg: Because this doesn’t affect my touring. My touring deal has nothing to do with this. This is just an asset to help my touring, because MTV is global. They’re probably one of the only networks that’s in every country-MTV Japan, MTV Europe, MTV Africa, MTV everywhere.
For them to be down with me just takes my visibility and my awareness level to the next level. It also says that two great powers are coming together, and everybody always loves when two great powers come together. It doesn’t matter if it’s Superman and Batman or whoever else it is. They just love seeing two great powers come together.
DX: And they’re also looking for a way to incorporate this into Rock Band right?
Snoop Dogg: Yeah, we definitely are gonna do a video game element to my deal. We’ll take some crackin’ Snoop Dogg songs and put them on Rock Band. Then we’ll take some songs of my new album, Malice in Wonderland, and put them on there to make a version as well.
DX: You had a show on MTV before with the skits and performances mixed in too, right?
Snoop Dogg: Yeah, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle. That was a show that I had created a while back when I was like a baby at it. This was before [The] Chappelle Show and all that shit had started. I was just figuring I wanted to do something that was funny and showed my comical side. I really wanted to show that side, and that TV show gave me the opportunity to get off like that. It felt good to me. Once the show got rollin’ and poppin’, I felt like I should get paid for it. But MTV felt differently, and that’s why I stepped away after those six episodes.
DX: So you guys had to revisit that�
Snoop Dogg: Yeah, but I was young. So I didn’t really understand the business like I do now. I was going in there saying, “I want this and I want that,” when I should’ve stayed on the air and kept the quality shit rollin’. When I got off the air, [Dave] Chappelle got on the air, and it was what it was. That’s my partner, and I ain’t mad at him; he did his thing. He took it to a whole ‘nother level ’cause that’s his life. That was just me dibbling and dabbling in something that I like to do.
DX: So is it a big stretch to sit back and laugh a these characters you created, like Big Jeffrey?
Snoop Dogg: Nah, this is me, man. This is what I do. I’m a fool, and it’s naturally me. I have fun finding time to create characters that appeal to people. Look at 50 [Cent] [click to read] right now. I like the way that he created Pimpin’ Curly [click to watch]. Me and him was on the phone talking. He let me know that by me playing Big Jeffrey and doing what I did, it helped him understand that he could get into playing a character. Nobody would expect, as gangsta as 50 is, that he would play a character who’s that open and that funny.
But this is the kind of game that I do to inspire my peers. You gotta have a little fun with it. It can’t just be so serious all the time. When you’ve done this as long as I have, you get to the point in your career where you’ve gotta respect the moment for what it is. Some of the young rappers are so dapper and debonair that you gotta respect the diversity and the fact that they’re just as good as you were when you came out. So, do what you do.
DX: Just to backtrack, is there any advantage to this aside from getting a better financial split when the industry is in such bad shape?
Snoop Dogg: I just felt like this is the kind of deal that I need to be doing. I want to show people it’s not always about getting a regular record deal with a label, taking the small advance money, doing a couple videos that don’t work, and then you end up looking bad at the end of the day. This is about venturing and doing business that will be here 15 or 20 years from now. We’re thinking longevity wise, because it’s two superpowers coming together.
DX: In line with that, what alternative do you recommend to an unsigned artist who thinks the old business model is still where it’s at?
Snoop Dogg: I think the best way to approach it is [doing] what Soulja Boy did. I was just talking to him on my show the other day. The way he promoted himself and went to the Internet�He wrote, produced, directed, promoted it and created his own fan base. That’s the way it’s gotta be now. The community of music is hip now, so you have to be personable with them. If you can get a relationship and build yourself a core base of fans, then do that. You need to stay in front of them, stay down with them and communicate with them. That’s what makes you who you are.
DX: This is your second TV show and you’ve probably done about 100 movie roles. Is there any chance of connecting with Master P now that he’s getting his own network?
Snoop Dogg: I’m trying to get it in, man. I have a great relationship with everyone I’ve ever done business with, so you never know what might happen.
DX: As a fan of video games and variety shows growing up, did you ever imagine that your raps would help you get you own?
Snoop Dogg: Nah, man�no way. Listen, I knew I was cool. I thought I’d be in it for a minute and then be out like every other rapper. I didn’t think it would be what it is. But at the same time, I never approach it like the average rapper. I didn’t go in it with the mentality that I was gonna be gone tomorrow. I just always thought it would be like that, because that’s just what the program was. It was no such thing as rappers lasting 20 years when I came to the game. I just said, “You know what. I’ma just do me, and hopefully this is my future. This is what I do.” But I always seen The Beatles and Rolling Stones get better as they get older. They didn’t fall off. They didn’t do less numbers. They did the same or even better, so I wanted to put myself in that world.
DX: The generation that you were first introduced to is either close to or past 30-years-old. Some of us complain about being sick of the game and what have you. How do you avoid that?
Snoop Dogg: The young generation. You know I’ve got my own football league, so I deal with 3,500 kids in the inner-city. When you’re dealing with kids, they’re letting you know what’s hot and what’s not. If I’m around and they’re playing music, if they ain’t playing my music, that makes me feel like I need to go get it right. I’ll hear what they’re playing, and it’s either out do what’s going on or get with what’s going on. �