CALVIN BROADUS acquired his nickname because of his resemblance to that popular Peanuts character Snoopy the Dog. His father said that Snoop "had a lot of hair on his head as a baby and looked like a little dog." His parents split up when he was still a boy; he lived with his mother and two half-brothers, and spent his free time rapping with a friend, Warren Griffin, who would later find fame as rapper Warren G. Snoop was a good student and athlete in high school??eral basketball programs recruited him?? he fell in with the L.A. Crips gang, started selling drugs, and wound up in jail soon after he graduated high school. Snoop claims that fellow inmates told him to get his life together because he had talent.
Over the next three years, Snoop bounced in and out of prison, but he eventually decided to devote himself to rap. His buddy Warren G. gave Snoop his first break. Warren played Snoop's tape for his brother, who just happened to be the godfather of rap, Dr. Dre. Dre loved Snoop's tape, and put him on the soundtrack of the film Deep Cover and on his 1992 album The Chronic. This album went on to become one of the top-selling rap albums in history, and Dre and Snoop scored a megahit with "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," with the chorus, "Bow wow wow, yippee yo yippee yay." By this time, Snoop's reputation as a rapper was so great that his first solo record, Doggystyle, released in 1994, spawned several hit singles, including "Gin and Juice," "Doggy Dogg World," and "Who Am I (What's My Name)." He was voted best rapper by Rolling Stone readers and critics in their annual poll, and he won an MTV award for best rap video with "Doggy Dogg World."
In the midst of all this success, Snoop was arrested and charged with the murder of Philip Woldermariam, a rival gang member, who was gunned down on August 25, 1993, in a drive-by shooting in L.A. Snoop and his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, were both charged in the murder. Ironically, right around the time the charges hit Snoop released a single and a long-form video entitled "Murder Was the Case." Snoop and Lee were both found not guilty of murder.
The November of 1996 release of Snoop's second album, Tha Doggfather, showed that his scrape with the law did little to tone down his gangsta cockiness on songs like "Ride 4 Me," though "Snoop Bounce" (based on Zapp's 1980 hit "More Bounce to the Ounce") did suggest a more playful side. It would seem fair to suggest that Snoop needed a bit of levity in his life at that moment; Tha Doggfather was released just three months after the death of his friend and labelmate Tupac Shakur, to whom Snoop dedicated the album.
Tha Doggfather debuted at No. 1, and Snoop's personal problems seemed to have abated, but the press and the public were more engaged by the darker stories emerging from the rap world than by the new album of its premier performer. Questions surrounding Shakur's murder cast a pall over the entire Death Row Records camp, and by early 1997, serious legal problems facing label head Suge Knight were making headlines. Snoop did perform two songs ("Snoop's Upside Ya Head" and "Vapors") on Saturday Night Live in January, and he added to his old-school credibility by bringing along the Gap Band's Charles Wilson, who has since become his de facto band leader.
Plans called for Snoop to take to the road in the spring of 1997, but the death in March of the Notorious B.I.G. caused him to cancel his tour out of respect, and, undoubtedly, fears for his own safety, given the murder of two peers in the span of seven months. Yet as Tha Doggfather slipped from the charts, providing Snoop with the perfect excuse to lay low, he instead opted to accept a high-profile slot on the summer's Lollapalooza lineup. By June, Snoop was making headlines for accepting his first movie role (in a film tentatively titled The Real) and for marrying his longtime girlfriend Shantay Taylor. He also took time out for a pair of collaborations (with Tony Toni Ton?pos;s Raphael Saddiq and Rage Against the Machine), which will appear on a new EP titled Doggumentary, and to record a track for the highly successful Men in Black soundtrack.
In January 1998, Snoop made a shocking announcement?? departure from Death Row Records. "I definitely feel my life is in danger if I stay in Death Row Records," Snoop Doggy Dogg told a reporter from the Long Beach Press-Telegram. "It's going to be ugly," he said, "But it's going to happen." Death Row's legal troubles in the past year, and reported mismanagement, reportedly contributed to his decision. "They don't know how to run business. That's why their business is gone. There's nothing over there. Suge Knight [Death Row President] is in jail, Dr. Dre left, and Tupac is dead," Snoop continued. "Everybody in the industry knows that Snoop Dogg was a part of making Death Row, so if he don't want to be there no more, let him go."
The following March he dropped another bombshell?? to mention his middle name "Doggy" name?? new deal with rap impresario Master P's label No Limits. The newly christened Snoop Dogg's first album for No Limits, Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, released in August, received mixed reviews but made a huge dent in the charts, debuting at No. 1 and selling over half a million copies its first week. Snoop further solidified his No Limits loyalty at the September MTV Music Video Awards, when he joined in a spirited onstage jam with several of his labelmates wearing a custom No Limits jersey.
In November came word that Snoop was set to put his life to paper, reportedly landing a six figure deal to pen his memoirs for publisher William Morrow. He'll work on the book, tentatively titled Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg, with writer Davin Seay, who has biographies of Mick Jagger and Erik Estrada to his credit. Snoop also contributed to N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton??h Anniversary Tribute, an album celebrating the release of N.W.A.'s pivotal rap album a decade ago.
1998 turned out to be a supremely busy one for Snoop. In addition to appearing on or planning to appear on albums from Slick Rick, Dr. Dre, Mia X, and more, November and December found Snoop embarking on a tour of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. And in the works for Snoop are a number of film projects, Bones, 3 the Hard Way, and King, the latter featuring Ice-T.