High Times Greats: Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg chilled with us for a classic cover shoot and interview in the first High Times issue of this millennium.
High Times Greats: Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg by Michael Benanib

In this January, 2000 cover story by Pat Charles, legendary rapper Snoop Dogg smoked some trees, rolled some blunts and told us how weed saved hip-hop. In honor of Snoop’s birthday on October 20, we’re republishing it below.

The scene outside the Metropolitan Opera House is smokin’. The MTV Video Music Awards have just concluded, and an army of NYPD stands between hundreds of screaming fans and a cluster of backstage trailers. Inside Snoop Dogg’s trailer a couple of blunts are circulating. “Yo, I can’t wait to go to Eminem’s after-party,” Snoop drawls. “He and Dre are waiting for us there.”

Snoop and Dr. Dre, the last performers of the evening, brought down the house with a rendition of Dre’s 1992 hit, “Nuthin’ But a ’G’ Thang.” The reunion is part of Chronic 2001, a Dre-Snoop collaboration due out before the end of 1999. “The album has me, Dre, Eminem, Xzibit and Mary J. Blige. Just wait ’til you hear it.”

Snoop passes the blunt to his nephew, Xzibit. “When that shit comes out, I suggest you roll up a fat one, pop in the CD, turn off the lights, light the blunt and listen to the music that’s bound to change the rap game as we know it. It’s gonna blow everyone’s mind.” When Snoop steps away for a minute, Xzibit explains his role on the album. “Snoop wouldn’t be puttin’ me on with him if he didn’t like the way I rhymed,” he says. “That’s the thing with Snoop—he doesn’t take any chances with people that he ain’t feelin’ one hundred percent, no matter if you’re his nephew or his son. If his name is on the line, it has to be legit.”

Snoop Dogg is feelin’ High Times. At a recent photo shoot, he arrives early and leaves late. As Snoop sits in the corner getting his hair braided by a young woman and puffing on a finely rolled herbal masterpiece, the rays of sunlight from the window behind him shine on his entire presence, and the smoke that filters out of his nostrils forms a transparent cloud around him. Here sits the man who amplified his lyrical arrival with Dr. Dre on The Chronic, who dispelled the notion that West Coast rappers couldn’t flow, who made the entire industry fall into lust with his multi-platinum Doggystyle, who helped put Death Row Records on the hip-hop map before its fall, who brought credibility to Master P’s No Limit label.

From a distance, Snoop’s subtle smile assures that he’s more affable than your average gangsta rapper, and his laid-back posture exudes an unmistakable peace. The ice is broken with a warm handshake. “What’s up, big man?” he acknowledges with his signature Long Beach drawl. The smoke he exhales uplifts the contact high to its peak, and the mouthwatering scent is enough to make it official: The next two days with Snoop are bound to be the bomb. Anything aside from rocking heavy beats, blazing delicious buds and, simply, living large is not on the agenda.

Snoop admires the immense amount of crystal-green weed on the table before him. “I never thought I’d get weed this good out here in New York,” he says, teasing our host. “The rappers out here be smokin’ some bullshit. Their shit’s got sticks, stems and seeds. They know they gotta tuck that bullshit away around me.”

“Y’all are taking good care of me, though,” he confesses. “This here is what you call bait.”

Bait? “Yeah, bait is good herb. I’m gonna start rollin’ another one, just to celebrate the fact that I got good shit out here. This weed here is as good as the indo.”

Was it Snoop who invented this classic weed slang? “Indo is this type of weed we smoke out in Cali,” Snoop explains. “It’s for Indonesian. So we call it ‘indo’ for short. Indo is some good bait.”

Snoop’s long, thin fingers rip a perfectly straight crack in the Phillie, and the nuggets he spreads onto the blunt overflow with kindness. “I still smoke with my niggas out here in New York,” he continues, “like Redman and Method Man—but when we blaze, I insist that they smoke my trees. They have no problem with that.”

Snoop applies the finishing touches to the blunt. “I used to smoke out of bongs,” he shares. “These guys from Graffix used to design me bongs with my name on ’em and everything. But homies would come over and break ’em. We’d have fun with those things, doin’ some ghetto-ass shit like fillin’ ’em up with gin instead of water. I love smokin’ blunts, though, especially this kind we get out in Cali called Mexicana. They got a honey flavor to ’em, and it tastes real good. I should have brought some with me.”

Snoop Dogg’s cannabis credentials are fairly impeccable. He wore the pot-leaf hat in Dr. Dre’s “‘G’ Thang” video and sang about “smoking indo” on his own hit “Gin and Juice.” So when he declares “weed is the most important element in hip-hop,” you stop and listen. “Everyone should be thankful for that,” he says. “Before hip-hop emerged, cocaine was the biggest factor in the music industry. And when you see what everyone then is doing now—they’re all broke and strung out—you can see what that did to the industry. If dudes in the game today were doin’ cocaine instead of weed, the game would be torn up. Weed, for one, makes you aware of your surroundings. It makes you watch your back. But, most importantly, when dudes smoke each other up it spreads peace. If niggas was on cocaine, they’d actually be doin’ the shit that they be rappin’ about. Cocaine is terrible, man. I used to sell that shit. I know. It’s terrible.”

Before he took the stage name Snoop Doggy Dogg, Calvin Broadus got arrested for dealing coke when he was 18. He spent a year in jail and then another four months after violating probation. “Man, that was so stupid of me—you know? But I was brainwashed,” Snoop explains. “The pressure was on at an early age. I had a job workin’ at Lucky’s, makin’ ’bout eighty dollars a week. I’d be walkin’ home after work in tight slacks and see the homeboys around the way flossin’. I mean these niggas had everything—bitches, gold, dope rides, dope rims and all I had was eighty bucks in the pockets of my tight slacks. That’s when I felt like I had to make a decision.” Snoop’s decision was to “floss” like the big boys—sell cocaine and make quick cash.

“Sometimes you gotta make those wrong decisions so that you don’t make ’em again,” he ponders in retrospect. A big sports fan, Snoop uses the Knicks’ Latrell Sprewell as an example. “It’s about fallin’ down and getting’ right back up. Look at Spree. That nigga was a villain just a year ago, now he’s got respect.”

The same could be said for Snoop Dogg, in a way. Despite the fact that all charges were dropped, Snoop is constantly reminded of the homicide case which alleged that he conspired to murder Philip Woldermariam in 1995. Whereas Sprewell did choke his coach, the charges against Snoop were dismissed, yet he cannot shake his cold-blooded image. Perhaps this cover story will help to lighten the heavy load he has been carrying for most of the ’90s.

Asked about the Woldermariam case, Snoop looks away. “Man, that’s the past,” he frowns. “I don’t think about that no more.”

Day two of the Snoop Dogg hang is off to a slow start. Due to a late-night smoking session, Snoop has fallen behind schedule. He’s already canceled a television interview and a radio show, and is more than two hours late for his visit to the High Times offices. Finally, he arrives, with his stash box of Phillies in hand, along with last night’s scarce remainder of weed. “This is all I got left,” he admits. “I smoked twenty-two grams since yesterday.” Mostly, Snoop just wants to talk about weed.

“I guarantee that if the government legalized weed, the crime rate would go down,” says Snoop. “People would just wanna chill. It’s better than committin’ a crime. Alcohol does more harm to society than weed could ever do. If that is legal, then marijuana should be too. It would balance out that aggression.”

If only Snoop could apply the same peaceful frame of mind to his lyrics—he still calls women “bitches” and “hoes” and glorifies gang-banging. This is the only drawback to his latest album, No Limit Top Dogg. When the Death Row Records shake-up occurred in 1996, Snoop Dogg’s future as an artist was in doubt. Master P eventually rescued him from his detrimental deal with Death Row’s imprisoned head honcho Suge Knight and signed him to No Limit—an expensive strategy which nonetheless got Snoop back in the game. Although his No Limit debut, Da Came Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, landed at the top of the Billboard charts, fans weren’t marveling over the Dogg’s new tricks. Many complained that Master P’s designated production team, Beats by the Pound, smothered Snoop’s magnetic style with unoriginal thumps.

However, with No Limit Top Dogg, which debuted at number two, Snoop Dogg has redeemed himself, verifying that the real Snoop has stood back up. It’s his best-produced album since Doggystyle.

Snoop was once Death Row labelmates with Tupac Shakur. Asked when was the last time he smoked with Tupac, Snoop takes a deep breath, arches back in his chair and places his hand on his jaw. “Matter of fact, it was out here in New York,” he recalls, at MTV’s Video Music Awards in 1996. “Pac and I ended up hookin’ up to smoke, and I let him roll a few blunts. He taught me how to roll the perfect blunt—tight from end to end. We smoked about three of ’em. When we were done, we split separately and I didn’t see him again until at the airport the next morning. We were both glad we got to chill together that night. If he wasn’t cravin’ bait that night, we would have never parlayed.”

Snoop reflects a bit more on Tupac. “Pac was a good nigga with weed,” he says. “Niggas would come up to Pac askin’ him to hit ’em off, and Pac would be generous with it—even to niggas he didn’t know. I’m a good one with weed too, but I ain’t gonna give a nigga too much. I be tryin’ to hold on to that shit for myself.”

That night we attend the Rap Roast—a high-class charity event, which, every year, honors a selected industry mogul. This year’s roastee is Def Jam Records’ cofounder Russell Simmons. When Snoop Dogg’s limo pulls up at Chelsea Piers, a massive wall of photographers immediately get trigger-happy. The never-ending pleas of “Snoop! Look over here” follow him all the way to the cocktail lounge. “I got no more herb,” Snoop admits grumpily. “But this is a fund-raiser. We can’t be smokin’ in this mothafucker anyway.”

Snoop runs the gauntlet of hip-hop luminaries, which includes Reverend Run of Run-DMC, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, Bill Bellamy and Rick Rubin. He orders a gin and juice (what else?) and heads to the deck, where he hangs with Def Jam artists Jay Z, Memphis Bleek and DJ Clue. The last time Snoop was in New York, he smoked out Memphis and Ja Rule, also a Def Jam artist. According to Snoop, Bleek and Ja Rule couldn’t keep up with his blunt-blazing stamina. “You gotta be a real smoker to keep up with me,” he kids Bleek. Snoop then approaches Russell Simmons and his wife, Kimora Lee, noticing that Kimora is pregnant. “I just had a baby girl,” Snoop shares proudly. “That makes two of ’em. Spanky’s getting big too,” he says about his six-year-old son.

Hundreds of guests are ushered into the dining area to occupy their $10,000-per-seat tables, which various record label bigwigs and executives occupy in their snazzed-out banquet attire. As Snoop downs his fifth gin-and-juice, his nostrils flare. He’s detected the unmistakable aroma of marijuana. “It’s coming from that table over there,” he whispers alertly. Seven tables over, photographer Ricky Powell is firing up phat bowls of tasty trees. “Let’s go over there,” Snoop urges. We take seats at Powell’s table and soon the bowl is passed to Snoop. He triple-hits it. A waiter informs us that smoking is not allowed. After the waiter leaves, Snoop inhales a few more monster hits.

“I haven’t smoked out of a bowl in a long time. And this is some bait right here, man. Thank you,” Snoop nods as he hands the pipe back to Powell.

“Hey, Snoop,” Powell says, “how the hell did you smell these buds from your table way over there?”

Snoop walks away, turns back and grins. “That’s what dogs do best.”

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