It’s Doggy time at the Democratic convention
Rapper Snoop Dogg has been a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton
How the hell did Snoop Dogg go from gangsta rap pariah in the early ’90s to performing on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton? How did Snoop Dogg, whose catchphrase “We don’t love these h—” simultaneously enraged and endeared him to millions, land center stage on one of the biggest political nights in recent memory? Better yet, how the hell did Snoop Dogg and the Clintons become, well, a thing?
Thursday night in Philadelphia, shortly after Clinton officially accepts her party’s nomination to do battle with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Snoop, the “entertainment icon” and “globally recognized innovator” – as a joint press release from the event’s organizers labeled him – graces his own stage six miles away at the Electric Factory “unity party” for Democratic party donors as its headline act.
The Undefeated couldn’t track down Snoop for comment this week. But The Doggfather’s Clinton commitment dates to the last few weeks of President Bill Clinton’s final term. And it hasn’t always been of the G-rated variety, either. True Lies, found on Snoop’s December 2000 album, Tha Last Meal, attempted to answer the question “What’s the truth if you can’t tell a lie?” featuring a sample of Bill Clinton addressing the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
In 2008, sitting with TV talk host Larry King, the West Coast emcee referred to Hillary Clinton as her husband’s “backbone” and said she was “probably the mind and soul of him being the president.” Seven years later, Snoop officially endorsed her effort to become President Barack Obama’s successor.
“I’ll say that I would love to see a woman in office because I feel like we’re at that stage in life to where we need a perspective other than the male’s train of thought,” the rapper said in May 2015 on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, an opinion not all his peers have shared. “And just to have a woman speaking from a global perspective as far as representing America, I’d love to see that. So I’ll be voting for Mrs. Clinton.”
Snoop’s liaison with presidential politics isn’t hip-hop’s first fling with the executive branch. As far back as 1991, gangsta rap impresario Eazy-E attended an exclusive luncheon with President George H.W. Bush in Washington, D.C. The N.W.A. frontman was invited by Republican Senate leader Bob Dole after donating $2,490 to the party. More recently, Jay Z and Young Jeezy’s co-signs of Obama won the politician ample street cred in rap’s realm, capped off by the 2008 anthem My President (Is Black) and its remix featuring both artists.
Two decades ago, the idea that Snoop would not only endorse a presidential candidate, but perform for one was a pipe dream. Snoop, a force in popular music with a lyrical delivery as smooth as jazzman Miles Davis’ trumpet, was also its most notorious bad boy. He was featured on the cover of Newsweek as the face of a genre that many in the media pegged as cancerous and spiteful. Charged as an accessory to murder in 1993, and eventually exonerated in 1996 with the help of famed lawyer Johnnie Cochran, Snoop had an image as one of the most intimidating figures in American entertainment. It’s a label he occasionally wore with honor, defiantly accepting the title as one of “2 of Amerika’z Most Wanted” alongside former labelmate, the late Tupac Shakur.
Still, with a trial and Death Row Records behind him, Snoop began to reach audiences beyond music. He had his own short-lived TV show, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, and was a late-night TV personality. As a pitchman, he endorsed everything from GPS systems, adidas, St. Ides, Hot Pockets, Girls Gone Wild and HBO’s True Blood to the airline Air New Zealand. A frequent partygoer at the Playboy Mansion, he was also a community organizer whose Snoop Dogg’s Youth Football League has produced NFL players such as De’Anthony Thomas, and many more Division 1 recruits. He got involved in causes such as Flint, Michigan’s, water crisis, gun violence awareness and a call for unity between people in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods who saw his music as their soundtrack and the Los Angeles Police Department that, for decades, was perceived as their enemy. And, of course, he had a higher-and-higher profile as a marijuana advocate. He has his name on a vape pen and various other weed-related products and once allegedly got high in a White House bathroom.
Noah Rubin, editor-in-chief of Merry Jane, a site dedicated to covering the cannabis lifestyle, had a team in Philadelphia all week covering the Democratic National Convention. Snoop and manager Ted Chung are acting co-founders for the website, for obvious reasons, along with celebrity partners comedian Seth Rogen and tech guru Guy Oseary. Rubin said Snoop’s appearance Thursday night holds weight.
“Snoop’s transition from sort of a subculture, underground figure to kind of a household name has obviously been almost 25 years in the making,” he said. “I think it’s just reflective of where he’s at, the broad appeal of his approach, his ideas and his personality. For it to manifest in as formal a way like performing here at the DNC, obviously it’s a testament to the power of his voice.”
Aside from gray hairs, Snoop remains the same appearancewise. The hair is still braided. The dark shades look the same on his face as they did when he was Death Row’s Rookie of the Year, when stars such as Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar were in elementary school. His voice is still reminiscent of an old blues player, even if the demand for new Snoop Dogg music doesn’t always match the demand for Snoop Dogg the personality. The portrayal of women, both in and out of his catalog, has been a hot button topic since his debut album Doggystyle in 1993. He doesn’t regret those days, but has admitted to a metamorphosis in his thinking.
“Definitely, my attitude has changed towards women,” he told Sky News. “I’m more sensitive and I’m more vulnerable as far as writingwise. And accepting a woman for being a beautiful person as opposed to me saying she’s a b—– or a w—- because that’s what I was trained when I first started. As I grew and fell in love with my wife and started to love my mother and my grandmother and my daughter, I understood what a woman was and I started to write that.”
Through it all, Snoop’s mainstream appeal in America and abroad elevated him from being a self-identified Crips-affiliated gangbanger to America’s favorite weed-toking celebrity uncle. In ways both flattering and R-rated, inspiring and controversial, Snoop Dogg has been the star of a hip-hop Truman Show. He’s not the greatest rapper of all time. But not many can equal the longevity of his career, making him more hip-hop institution than rapper in 2016.
“I keep my ear to the street and I keep my feet to the pavement. To be able to still be relevant is key,” Snoop said at SXSW 2015. “I’ve always maintained a level of respect for the artists, whether they’re new or old. And they treat me with respect, so it’s not like I’m an old man tryin’ to infringe. It’s like ‘That’s Uncle Snoop. It’s all good.’ ”
Not every Democrat in Philadelphia this week supports Snoop’s presence, of course. Traci Ellis, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Illinois, sees the Let’s Get Blown rapper as a suitable choice for amusement. But now isn’t the time for entertainment, she said.
Ellis would have preferred rapper Killer Mike of Run The Jewels, a vocal Sanders supporter. Her son enlightened her to Mike, one of the genre’s most respected and outspoken emcees. He eviscerated former President Ronald Reagan on the 2012 standout Reagan. And his takes on issues such as race, police brutality, gun control and financial literacy have made him a go-to voice both in and out of the booth.
“Killer Mike is an activist. Snoop Dogg is not an activist. I think the DNC is trying to mimic and pull in that crowd. That young, black crowd that Killer Mike pulled in for Bernie,” Ellis said, while riding on a shuttle bus to the convention center. “I don’t think that Snoop Dogg is an effective spokesperson for black folks. And that’s not who he’s going to pull in, the young black millennials she’s looking for. Because young black millennials are every bit as socially conscious as white millennials.”
Nevertheless, the next chapter in the Dogg-Clinton ticket writes itself Thursday night in Philadelphia.
For Clinton supporters such as Illinois floor whip John West, it’s not about Snoop’s controversial past. At political conventions, it’s really all about being on the same page. And on the question of Clinton for president, they are.
“He’s been very consistent with his support. And I love hearing when men say that it is time for a woman to be president and have more leadership roles,” West said. “I think that is absolutely necessary … They’re one of those our most underrepresented groups out there.”
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, West’s musical experience was focused on Kurt Cobain, Nirvana and the grunge scene of the early ’90s. His only exposure to the man whose real name is Calvin Broadus came on the 2008 campaign trail. But those moments stuck with him.
“Seeing him at a couple of events, work the crowds, and really talking to folks, and seeing the energy he brought in, I just found it fascinating,” West said. “He had an incredible charisma about him in those situations. People were coming up to him saying, you need to come knock on doors with us.”