The group of young boys shifted uneasily, eyes fixed on the gangly figure towering over them. They were an exclusive audience about to hear Snoop Dogg do his latest rap. But they didn't feel...
LOS ANGELES — The group of young boys shifted uneasily, eyes fixed on the gangly figure towering over them. They were an exclusive audience about to hear Snoop Dogg do his latest rap. But they didn’t feel so lucky — they knew it was going to be a bad rap on them.
“You better go gangsta — they can’t beat us, so they’re tryin’ to cheat us!” snarled Snoop Dogg, tearing into the Rowland Heights Raiders, a team of 8- to 10-year-olds — including one of his two sons — in the Orange County Junior All-American Football League. The Raiders were taking on the Norwalk-Santa Fe Springs Saints, and though the unbeaten Raiders were ahead by a touchdown at halftime, the Saints were breaking their spirit with rough-and-tumble play and crunching tackles.
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The eyes of a few Raiders were wet with frustration and pain. The eyes of Snoop were narrow with rage.
“You better get your minds right, or you’re gonna get beat,” the Raiders coach growled. “I don’t care about nothin’ else, ’cause if you lose, I’m out! You’re better than this team! You better get your focus back now, knowwhatImsayin’? Quit cryin’ and do your job, get focused!” He gestured dismissively toward a cooler on the sidelines: “Now go get some oranges or something!”
Snoop ignored the nearby crowd of parents and fans in the stands of the Rowland Heights High School football stadium snapping pictures and shouting out to him. This was not show time.
For now, nothing else mattered: Not his chart-topping “Drop It Like It’s Hot” single with sizzling producer Pharrell Williams that has again made him the champagne toast of the rap/pop music world. Not his just-dropped album “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece,” already a best seller. Not his star turns this year in films such as “Starsky & Hutch” and “Soul Plane” that endeared him to a cross-section of moviegoers. Not his growing status as a pitchman for corporate America.
At this moment, he was merely Coach Snoop, desperate for another notch in the win column. He says the quest for a championship trophy with his boys is more fulfilling than acting or music, his two “girlfriends.” And the tirade worked — the Raiders trounced the Saints in the second half. Overjoyed, Snoop jumped and clowned around with the team in a victory celebration, then ran to a truck in the parking lot to award each player with a brand-new WRFF bike.
The scene united the conflicting sides of Snoop that have made him practically ubiquitous in today’s pop culture — the streetwise former thug from Long Beach, Calif., who can “throw down” when pushed against the wall; the showman who shines in the spotlight; and the playful, generous artist who can turn into a 6-foot, 3-1/2-inch kid at a moment’s notice. As the rapper juggles his various prospects, youth sports has provided him much needed balance amid the showbiz whirlwind enveloping him.
More than 10 years after his lazy, distinctive drawls made him one of the top original gangsta rappers on the West Coast scene, and more than eight years after being acquitted of first- and second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of a Los Angeles gang member, Snoop Dogg (who was born Calvin Broadus) wants to turn Hollywood into — to quote one of his hits — “a Doggy Dogg world.”
Playing off his dual images as a no-nonsense gangsta with Pied Piper appeal who can poke fun at himself, the 33-year-old is tackling a dizzying array of diverse projects designed to position him as a hip-hopper who can maneuver easily between the arenas of mainstream popular culture and hard-core rap. New ventures range from small independent films to clothing lines to video games to animated series.
Seemingly already unavoidable with his commercials, film appearances, TV guest shots and music videos, Snoop, along with the prestigious management company the Firm, is determined to further boost the profile of Snoop Inc.
“There’s a definite strategy to what we’re doing as far as shaping Snoop’s future,” said Constance Schwartz, the rapper’s manager. “We don’t want him everywhere, but we want him in all the right places. He’s proven that he can do cameos in movies, and now he wants to prove he’s a serious actor.”
While rappers such as Will Smith, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Eve and Missy Elliott have crossed over, most have opted to soften the harsh edge that first established them in the hip-hop world. Not so Snoop Dogg — he’s been able to make the leap without undermining his outlaw image.
References to drug use and violence peppered throughout “Drop It Like It’s Hot” are overshadowed by a sing-song chorus and an infectious percussive beat that could feel at home on any schoolyard playground. He was able to jump back and forth between his “Doggy Fizzle Televizzle” MTV comedy series and less savory projects such as his video “Doggystyle Vol. 1.”
He appeared in numerous straight-to-video and low-budget films such as “Bones” and “The Wash” but also held his own against Oscar winner Denzel Washington in a small role in “Training Day.” He can kick it with the hosts on “The View” with ease, even though it’s hard to imagine Meredith Viera and Barbara Walters bobbing their heads to the flow of profanity exploding through such “R&G” tracks as “Can U Control Yo Hoe” and “Pass It Pass It,” a track that has nothing to do with sports.
The full range of Snoopworld was in evidence recently when Snoop performed “Drop It Like It’s Hot” with Williams at the American Music Awards (much of the song was unintelligible because of the heavily edited lyrics) and appeared in a star-studded commercial for T-Mobile.
The following day at the Vibe Awards he presented a lifetime achievement award to his friend and mentor Dr. Dre. Snoop was in midtribute when Dre was attacked and a melee broke out in the audience. Though Snoop was not involved in the riot, he issued a warning onstage when the fracas calmed down: “If y’all want problems with me and my crew, we want problems, too. So leave Dre alone and come see us.”
Remarked comedian Jimmy Kimmel on his ABC late-night show: “Snoop took the smoldering embers of hatred — and poured on some soothing gasoline.”
Analyzing Snoop’s wide appeal, Jimmy Smith, executive creative director of BBDO Worldwide, a prominent advertising firm who has worked with the rapper in the past, concluded: “Most gangstas don’t come across as fun-loving guys who you would want to hang out with. But with Snoop, it’s different. He has that Long Beach life, but he can also be appealing to people. He’s got a funny bone, he’s got kids. He’s shown that he’s smart and not just a rapper, and people gravitate toward celebrities who bring diversity to their game.”
But even as the plan moves forward at breakneck speed, the rapper remains a Dogg in progress, his increasing determination to explore new horizons clashing with his real-life drama and contradictions.
He filed for divorce in April from Shante, his wife of seven years, but the couple recently reconciled. Despite his insistence that he gets “emotionally high” from his coaching gig, his highly publicized pledge to give up marijuana has gone up in smoke, and he’s not shy about smoking a joint or holding a plastic bag filled with reefer. Last week in Los Angeles, Snoop sued a woman and her attorneys for extortion, alleging they demanded $5 million to keep silent about an alleged assault against her.
Whether they’re G-rated or X-rated, Snoop says, all his projects have a sincerity behind them that accounts for his wide appeal.
“Kids gravitate to me because I’m real — they know I’m not fake,” he says. “I’ve made my mistakes and I’ve fixed them. There’s a side of me that likes to do things for kids and adults.”
In the course of one week last month, Snoop filmed a new commercial for Nokia; flew to New York and contributed a verse to a hip-hop album; performed along with Williams in a surprise appearance at a Jay-Z concert; flew back to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas to film a car-related edition of “MTV Cribs”; flew back to Los Angeles to participate in a conference call with his managers and made the decision to move the release date of “R&G” up a week; coached a playoff football game; shot a big-budget music video with Williams for the upcoming single, “Let’s Get Blown”; and wrapped up filming of his first leading dramatic role in “The Tenants,” an independent feature in which he plays a tortured novelist.
Jumping from one project to another with barely a break isn’t daunting, Snoop claims. “It’s easy to switch up,” he says, displaying one of his rare smiles. “It’s like going into a phone booth and turning into Superman.”
The future includes a tour, more TV projects and several other ventures he declines to discuss. He sees leaving show business behind one day to concentrate full time on coaching.
“All I know how to be is Snoop Dogg, and sometimes he is a little negative, and sometimes he is a little positive,” he says. “But for the most part, he’s going to do more right than wrong.”