The smell of burning ganja hovers around Snoop’s shiny motor home, parked on a busy street corner in Hollywood. It’s not a billowing fog like in Cheech and Chong, more like a haze sweet enough to make some passers by lift their noses and sniff. A black gentleman built like a Hummer is guarding the door to the motor home; his name is Keys, he’s 6’9” inches tall, and he looks like he eats several KFC Variety Buckets per day. Keys opens the door with a polite smile.
“You can go in now.”
Inside, a suspension of smoldering herb vapors—aka stoner smog—hangs low in the air, swirling and translucent like dry ice in a hair metal video. Gliding toward me is Snoop Dogg, West Coast G-funk superstar rapper and original gangster, all 6 feet and 4 skinny inches of him. He’s got a blunt in his right hand, prayer beads round his neck, and a knit cap on his head in the Rastafari colors of black, red, gold, and green—black is for Africa, red is for the blood of martyrs, gold is for treasure, and green is for…
“Do you smoke?” asks Snoop in his laid-back drawl, s’s cut smoother than glass.
Yes, I say. If I’m going to pop my blunt cherry with anyone, it’s gotta be Snoop.
“I’m gonna roll us up a new one so we can have one fresh,” says Snoop, stubbing out the blunt between his fingers, and busting out some fresh blunt wraps. “I would never disrespect you like that, such a lady.”
Hearing him speak, I’m immediately transported to the first time I heard his voice, nearly 20 years ago in 1993, when his debut album Doggystyle (still his highest-selling album) dropped. Following on from Dr Dre’s The Chronic (which featured many contributions by a then-unknown Snoop), the record redefined West Coast hip hop, presenting a sweeter, smoother kind of gangsta rap, prompting me and all my suburban teenage girlfriends to start dropping phrases like “tha shiznit” into casual conversation. We were obsessed with this slick but dangerous new G-Funk vernacular, informed by the exotic world low riders, gin, juice, Crips, Bloods, bitches, pimps, hos, and chronic. Back then, Snoop was the only thing as cool as Nirvana.
20 years later, unlike so many 90s artists who have had to deal with their own irrelevance, creative stagnation, or just not being around anymore—Salt n Pepa, Axl Rose, Biggie—unlike them, Snoop’s still the Doggfather, ever-ballin, still super high. It’s because he pays attention to his fans, says Snoop—rather than ignoring the haters, he listens to the feedback he gets, positive or negative, the feedback of his fans acting as divining rods that so far, usually send him in the right direction.
“I let the people tell me what and how to do,” he says. “Like I may throw a whole lotta records out, because I want to feel what the people feel. Maybe they say “That’s wack dawg. That shit aint on. I want to hear that old Snoop Dogg shit man, that shit dope right dere.” So I’m playin it by ear to hear what they like, and when I find out what they like I’m on it. I’m on it like I’m on it. And then sometimes I just take a chance and just jump in the swimming pool and do some shit they wouldn’t expect and they’re forced to like it, because I love it.”
This year he headlined the Coachella festival with Dr Dre, projecting that now-famous hologram of Tupac on stage in what will be remembered as much more than the ultimate West Coast rap reunion. Tupac may be gone, but through him, Snoop and Dre were showing us the future.
“You like that?” he asks, passing me the blunt.
“It was amazing,” I say, squinting as I inhale.
“I didn’t see it.”
I wonder what he means—he didn’t see Tupac looking like a Star Wars hologram on stage with him? I start wondering if maybe it was a ghost, or maybe Tupac actually came back from the dead, already stoned enough to have a shaky grasp on reality.
“I’m just fucking with you, I say that to everyone,” says Snoop. “So, people liked the hologram?” His voice drops, perhaps we’re moving into emotional territory.
“All my friends were stoked and Instagramming it. They loved it.”
“That’s beautiful. That was for a memory of Tupac more than anything… for the people who loved him to be able to see him one more time. That was special.”
“Thank you for doing that, Snoop.”
I’m really super duper baked now and except for the cottonmouth, I feel awesome. I can’t imagine interviewing Snoop in any other condition. There’s music playing on a laptop and Snoop is nodding his head in time. The song is by a young R ‘n b singer who he is producing. “This is like love…you know what I’m saying? That’s what music is made for—to give an expression to love. Music is a loving, peaceful instrument to be played around the whole world, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s a love thang.”
I feel like Winona Ryder in the South Park movie, everything just feels like whoa (“war man…wow, you know? Wow.”) and the feeling’s heightened by the happy mystical vibes the D. O. Double G. is emanating right now. It feels like pure L.O.V.E., a vibe that’s warmer and fuzzier than I’d expected, different to the gangster pimp persona he after shedding his straight-up gangsta shit—actually it wasn’t just a persona, Snoop really was a pimp in 2003 and 2004, hooking up rich athletes and entertainers with girls, and runnin’ with real pimps (he quit to spend more time with his family). Has the evolution of Snoop Dogg taken him from hood to hustler to hippie, I wonder? I ask Snoop to explain his mellow state of mind.
“Mellow has always been my state of mind,” he says, “but now I’m at a point in my life where I’ve found Rastafari and it’s helped me develop a peace and a tranquility, so I can put myself in a zone of relaxation at all times. It’s just about being more positive and peaceful; about trying to help, not trying to hurt.”
Seems like we’ve caught Snoop in the throes of a mystical metamorphosis, a Rasta rebirth sparked by recent visits to Jamaica this year during which he spent time bonding with the Marley family, shaking a maraca at Niyabinghi sessions with Rasta elders (rumors are that Snoop was anointed as a Rastafarian in a ceremony on the island), and recording a reggae album in Port Antonio with Diplo and Switch (called Reincarnated - Peace, Love & Soul, it’s due in late 2012.) Oh, and he’s growing locks. Tasha Hayward, his soft-spoken personal hairdresser for 20 years and friend since the Long Beach days, has been through a lot of hair styles with Snoop—braids, cornrows, ‘fros—but this is the first time she’s used beeswax on his hair, helping him grow in his dreds. Tings a gwaan for Snoop.
“When I look back in time what do I see? I see a young, wild, misguided wannabe,” says Snoop, “because I wanted to be. In the future I see a leader, a motivator. I see a politician. A legend.” A nappy dreaded legend, by the sounds of things.
When I ask him how his connection with Rastafari came to be, his head drops and his eyes close.
“It chose me,” he says.
His publicist taps me gently on the shoulder, shaking her head. Snoop’s Rasta-fication isn’t something she wants us to get into right now. Nonetheless, I try and imagine what it would have been like if Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley had sat down, wrote some lickle songs together, praised Jah and blazed some major reefer. We’ll never know—Bob Marley died in 1981, when Snoop, now 41, was just ten years old. One has to wonder, who would have out-smoked who in such a clash of the ganja titans? Would it would have been a photo finish? In fact, has anyone ever out-smoked Snoop?
Yes. Once, confirms Snoop. In the Weed Olympics, country singer Willie Nelson takes gold, hands down.
“Willie would win a gold medal, I would win silver and Wiz Khalifa would win the bronze,” says Snoop, second place to the 79-year-old country legend, poet outlaw and straight O.G.
So what happened exactly when they crossed spliffs?
“I lost,” says Snoop. “Couldn't hang. Had to pull out the white flag.”
Wow. They must have smoked literally mountains of weed.
“It’s not even that it was mountains, it was so many different procedures,” says Snoop. “It was a joint, a blunt, a vaporizer, a bong, a humidifier, so just much shit going around. It was just me and him, and we was playing dominos, and I’m trying to concentrate while he is whooping my ass at dominos, trying to smoke at the same time. I had to say ‘white flag’.”
(I’m feeling kind of the same way after three hits.)
This April, Willie Nelson released the track Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, a rootin’ tootin’ 420 anthem featuring Snoop Dogg that celebrates the booming weed culture in the U.S. Today, medical cannabis use is legal in 15 states, and despite federal unease at how cross-eyed everyone is getting, the consensus is that a national lifting of marijuana laws can’t be too far away. In California, for example, you can get already get yourself a medical marijuana card under virtually any pretext—maybe you’ve had period cramps, nightmares, or a persistent hiccup? These all qualify as conditions that can be legally treated with cannabis. I asked Snoop what ailments he had that entitled him to be a certified, card-carrying stoner.
“I have migraines,” he says. “Back pains. Yeah.”
The longest Snoop has ever gone without smoking weed (aside from when he was in the womb, presumably) is 185 days, he says. This occurred in 2003 around the time he started coaching football to kids. It felt awkward being baked around small children, so he refrained from smoking at practice. Then he stopped smoking in the studio. Five whole days went by without Snoop taking a single hit, toke or bong rip. “I showed up one morning for the Steve Harvey show (popular US chat show)and he looked at me like ‘what’s wrong with you? Your eyes is white.’ I say ‘I stopped smoking. And he’s like ‘what?!’”
The first two weeks, Snoop went through some gnarly weed withdrawals. “I was like…’motherfucker, I think I am gonna die.’ But my homeboy gave me green tea, and all kinds of shit to get my body working. My shit was like heroin-addicted because I was so used to it.”
How long before he started feeling good about being weed-free?
“Three weeks. I was awesome. Rocking on stage, skin started to fill in on my face, hair started to grow, clothes started to fit. I needed that.”
Snoop’s puffing while his assistant rolls him another blunt, and it’s clear that those days are over. Whats more, he’s found the perfect stoner buddy in the form of 24-year-old rapper Wiz Khalifa. While Snoop—who embodies the first wave of chronic-obsessed hip hop in the early 90s—may be passing the ceremonial spliff to Wiz (part of a new wave of super-baked, weed-obsessed rappers, along with Curren$y), we’ll all be getting a contact high once their movie, Mac & Devin, comes out this summer. In it, Wiz plays a recalcitrant and uptight Chong-type character to Snoop’s wiseguy Cheech, who takes the viewer through 90 minutes of plot-driven instruction on weed lifestyle. You’ll learn basics like how to roll giant spliffs, how to combine “medical with medicinal”, how to dump your “controlling bitch” girlfriend, how to lose your virginity to a hooker, and you’ll learn why edibles make you trip balls. “I don’t do edibles,” points out Snoop, “because I don’t have no control, its like I don’t have an on or off switch. But my homeboy Warren G daddy used to make the chronic cake…that shit was good as a motherfucker.”
There’s even a whole part where Snoop’s character Mac, a charming pot dealer who has somehow resisted graduating high school for 15 years, postulates pussy as the ultimate renewable resource. Snoop, who is now finishing the blunt alone after I bow out, is more than happy to explain the physics. “The reason I say it’s a renewable source is that because once you get it, you are reenergized to wanna get it again,” he says. ”Whether it’s mentally or physically or spiritually, you are driven to want to it again. And that’s a renewable energy, because you have to get some new energy in order to do it again.”
“Yes. Whoa. Yes! That’s so fucking true,” I say. After the interview, I sat in my car for two hours, trying to remember how to drive, and trying to recall how Snoop had somehow figured out a way for pussy to solve the world’s energy needs. Because it made perfect sense at the time.