Snoop Dogg: How the West Was One

Snoop Dogg - Apollo Theater, Harlem

Monday, May 2, 2005

As light rain trickled down onto the Harlem streets Monday night, another reign was taking place inside the city’s world famous Apollo Theater.

“I feel good being up in Harlem,” yelled Snoop. And Harlem felt the love.

The night was an ode to old school and a declaration of peace in more ways than one. Low rumbling vibrated the smoke-filled room, which felt like a massive earthquake for most of the night due to excessive bass. The show officially jumped off when Snoop’s signature flow emanated from the speakers, alongside a nine-member band called the Snoopadelics. The Doggfather emerged onto the Apollo’s legendary stage, a legend in his own right, Cripped out in a blue handkerchief-pattern suit and a platinum gun pendant chain. The set was a large backdrop of Snoop under the words, “Tales from the Crip,” and, although road dog The Game was at another engagement, Snoop and friends carried the show.

Despite his gangsta persona, Snoop’s definitely got some soul in him. During the unusually long intermission prior to his entrance, oldies like “Express Yourself” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” filled the arena, and during his performance, Snoop grooved to several classic jams. Opening the show was the overly hype Tru-Life, rolling about 30 deep and bigging up “Da New New York,” then a stellar but brief showing by newcomer Saigon. The lights dimmed and a racy, roughly 10-minute long movie titled “Corleone’s Revenge” played, featuring Snoop as Corleone. In typical Snoop fashion, the porno-like film was packed with sex scenes, two half-naked ladies (Peaches and Cream), a setup and a shootout.

Focusing more on his early 90's songs and revisions of classic hits than new cuts from his latest LP, R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, Snoop started the night out with “Murder Was the Case.” Also intriguing were Snoop’s remixes/freestyles over current hits. Instead of Cassidy’s “I’m a Hustla” hook it was “I’m a Gangsta.” Snoop replaced Camron’s lyrics on “Down and Out” with his own, and rapped the sexually explicit version of the Ying Yang Twins “Wait (The Whisper Song).” The room was most animated when Snoop performed his classics, “Gin & Juice” and “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None),” prefaced by the rapper’s pronouncement of West Coast loyalty.

In between puffs of weed and shouts of “I’m fu**ed up right now,” Snoop also professed East Coast love while honoring his fellow West MCs. Most notable was his stirring tribute to Hip-Hop’s two kings from opposite coasts, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. “I wanna give the East Coast some love,” Snoop said before displaying a photo of Notorious B.I.G. on two large screens. He let the music play and rhymed with the crowd, miming “Hypnotize” and passing the mic to the ladies for “One More Chance.” Biggie’s tribute was followed by Tupac’s “Hail Mary” and “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted.”

Besides neophyte Oowee displaying his rhyme skills mid-show, Snoop’s usual sidekicks were at hand. Daz and Kurupt graced the stage for most of the night, rapping to the Dr. Dre-crafted “Xxplosive” and “The Next Episode” among other joints. And speaking of joints, Snoop took one from an audience member at one point, passed to his homies and proclaimed, “You know you ain’t getting this back.” Naturally, Bishop Don Magic Juan was present with pimp cup in hand, while Snoop’s 64-year-old Uncle Junebug mingled with the crowd and danced about rambunctiously, appearing not a day over 40. John Legend (seated in the audience next to this writer) even got a quick shout-out from Snoop. But it was an appearance by Hip-Hop pioneer Ice T, who sported a white Yankees cap and a few extra pounds, that made the night special for youngsters in the building.

Despite the blatant sexual exploitation and violent lyrics that warrant parental advisory stickers, Snoop’s legendary status cannot be denied. Besides, he has been around in the Rap game for more than a decade. Even as he smoothes out his rough edges with his inventive R&G style, Snoop is still straight gangsta—and he can still Crip-walk his ass off. Outside after the concert, which culminated with “Who Am I? (What’s My Name)” and a fitting shout of “Peace” from the Doggfather himself, the rain had ended. But the reign of the West was to be continued.