Snoop Dogg faced a year of reckoning in 1996 when he was acquitted of murder, three years after he and his bodyguard were charged in connection with the death of rival gang member Philip Woldemariam.
That same year, the prolific West Coast lyricist released his second studio album, Tha Doggfather, a project whose theme challenged his persona as a merciless gangsta rapper that was established on his debut LP, Doggystyle.
“Death Row wanted me to change, like they didn’t want me to go, like, as soft as I did on [Tha] Doggfather,” said Snoop in a new interview with Jemele Hill, where he spoke candidly about his commitment to remaining authentic in his music and entertainment endeavors.
“They wanted me to keep it gangsta. They wanted me to, like, remain gangsta and still be, you know, f**king s**t up, but I just went through a murder case and I couldn’t. My heart and my spirit wasn’t in the place to write, ‘N**ga I’ll kill you, I’ll f**k you up…’ I was on some I wanna live and my baby is here,” said the 16-time Grammy-nominated artist about the space he was in.
Instead, he claimed Death Row advised him to lean into the gangsta persona, “You would think it was the other way around when they like, ‘You should maybe go commercial.’ Nah, they was like, ‘You should keep it gangster.’” But nearly losing his freedom shifted something inside of him.
Amid the label’s criticism of his album, Snoop recalled thinking, “‘Y’all not feeling what I’m feeling. Y’all didn’t sit in that courtroom with your life on the line. Y’all didn’t have to go through the agony of watching this man’s family look at me as being responsible for this man being dead, like y’all not carrying that weight that I’m carrying.”
The project would go on to sell more than two million units and earn a double-platinum certification by the RIAA. Last year, the “Drop It Like It’s Hot” artist completed the purchase of his former label.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Doggstyle. To commemorate the milestone, he has made the full original LP, including the track “Gz Up, H**s Down,” available for streaming and special edition vinyls for purchase.