Rap icon Snoop Dogg brings his stash to Lincoln

by Ryan Snyder

For a guy whose music hasn’t really set the world on fire since his debut album, Snoop Dogg sure does have an impeccable sense of public relations.

His A-list celebrity status owes more to his vigilant sense of image preservation than it does his laissez-faire flow and wordsmithing, both of which have always been above par, but not elite. He’s made good, not great albums ever since his acclaimed debut Doggystyle and his appearance on Dr. Dre’s incomparable classic The Chronic. Even if reading Rolling Stone’s reviews of each successive release would have you believe that “[Insert album’s name here] is his strongest work since Doggystyle,” there have only been a handful of memorable cuts since those mid-’90s pacesetters. Yet he still soldiers on as one of the most recognizable faces in not only the music industry, but film and television as well. Even his hardcore porn video, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, was the first of its kind ever listed on Billboard’s music video sales chart. As a live performer, however, he’s always been in high demand, pun intended. At $40 per person, his May 13 show at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre may have been a bit pricey, but that didn’t thwart an elbowto-elbow audience of hip-hop fans and partiers in general from piling in to see one of the rap game’s first-ballot Hall of Famers. The Snoopadelics and a few Nation of Islam members took position on the stage a few minutes after the Hustle Boyz took it upon themselves to lift the audience’s spirits (even with the Raleigh PD within sniffing distance). It was a little disappointing to see Snoop rolling with only a backing quartet of DJ, bass, drum and guitar; not the Clinton-esque assemblage that promos would have had you believe. His drummer’s kit even consisted more of electronic drum pads than it did poplar and animal skin, distancing Snoop’s stage aesthetic further from the pioneer he so liberally namechecks. Snoop took the stage with diamondstudded mic in hand whose knuckle guard looked to be made of scraps from Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Belt. The nearcapacity crowd was absorbed from the moment the “La da da da dah” of Dre’s “The Next Episode” were dropped by the mother-effin’ D-O-G, though it was also apparent that the disparity between instrumental and vocal levels would act as a detriment to the show’s quality from the start. Some of the beats were swapped out for others altogether, as was the case with “Deep Cover.” Fortunately, the crowd already knew all of the words to the hits, though Snoop burned through some of his best work a little too early in the show, which later created some awkward moments. Snoop consistently worked the crowd with the aplomb that’s characterized him over the years, peppering quick hitters of some of his collaborative work like “PIMP” in with the more recognizable work. “Gin ‘N Juice” was preceded with the observation that his fans were looking a little thirsty, to which he compelled Dogg Pound accomplice Kurupt to “show ‘em what we drink in Long Beach.” In a telling indicator of our tough economic times, even Snoop’s posse has been reduced to drinking Korbel, which was vehemently rained down upon the by-then sweaty crowd. He did bring along a couple of old-timers, his uncles Rio and Junebug, to enhance decorum. The middle-aged Rio worked his soulful pipes with some nasty lines directed at women in the audience young enough to be his daughters, while Junebug showed off his sweet old-man dance skills, which looked to be part shag, part Jimmy Stewart and part crotch-scratching. After a smooth interlude of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and his own “Sensual Seduction,” he cranked the vibe back up with “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” He looked to be running out of familiar material, however, as indicated by a full cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and things got really weird when Snoop failed miserably at engaging the crowd in call-and-response of some unintelligible spelling. A mildlyfrustrated Snoop shrugged it off, however, and played the last few cards in his hand to resurrect a show that was quickly spiraling out. The long-awaited “What’s My Name” made his previous pitfalls a distant memory, as he induced his band into a drum-and-bass jam while spit a dancehallstyle improv to close out the set. As his parting words “smoke weed, mother f**ker” echoed out from the dub delay effect on his mic, P-Funk’s “Atomic Dog” played him off stage as his posse passed out water bottles to the exhausted front rows. Despite the occasionally slapdash nature of the show, I’m willing to write off some of the miscues as incidental. It was a gratifying experience to be so close to one of the coolest customers in the rap game, one who undoubtedly deserves a permanent spot among the greats.