A small entourage of three cars, one of them driven by the notorious Dr. Dre, were stuck deep in LA's lazy midday traffic. The driver in the first car, the one that Snoop's driver and Dre were following, turned right looking for a shortcut to their photo shoot. The three cars wove up a small hill and into "the jungle," a neighborhood noted for its Black P. Stone Bloods and distinctive because of its crowded, pastel-colored apartment buildings that wind upwards on the outskirts of South Central. At a stop sign a young brotha waiting for a bus recognized Snoop, a Long Beach Crip, and tied his red bandanna over his face. He pulled out a .22 and pointed it at Snoop Doggy Dogg, one of the most anticipated rap artist in hip-hop history. Dre's car swerved slightly. Snoop told the Cross Colours rep who was driving his car to "just keep on driving." He sang it in his laid back, distinctive LA twang, nuthin' but a G thang, baby. He pulled out his two .380s, uncocked both of them and stared at the Blood. The Blood kept his shit up until Snoop's car and his .380's were around the bend.
"He ain't really want none. With that li'l ass .22" He's laughing the next day as he retells the story to Daz and Warren G. "The barrel was small as hell! The bullet would've hit the window and went like this," he makes a diagram with his hands of a bullet being stopped in midair, cartoon style. Everyone in the hotel room cracks up. "He ain't want none."
Snoop, Dre's little brother Warren G and Daz have come to pick me up for a ride to Long Beach. Downstairs, in the hotel lobby, Li'l Malik (of the group Illegal) and Snoop's cousin, Big C-Style, are waiting, watching cars. Malik runs up to Snoop, "Yo, that fat PM Dawn nigga is right there. Look!" Prince Be is waiting for a valet to park his convertible. " Faggot, biiyaach!" Snoop doesn't join Malik in dissing Prince Be, but he doesn't speak to him either. Once we're inside Snoop's black Grand Cherokee 4x4, I glance back at Prince Be through the tinted windows; his feelings are visibly hurt.
"You seen our tags yet?" Malik is pulling my arm for attention. He slides over to my side and proudly displays a plastic set of dog tags hung from a long silver chain around his neck: LIL MALIK. DOGG POUND. BOW WOW WOW. Daz leans back from the front seat to show me his. The Dogg Pound is Snoop's crew, friends and family who love him unconditionally and unselfishly hope for the best as he rises to superstardom. Daz, his cousin from Long Beach, and Kurupt, an MC from Philly, make up the official Dogg Pound and were feature prominently on The Chronic. Like other groups on Dre's Death Row label, they are waiting their turn. Li'l Malik is an incredibly talented and buck wild 14-year-old whose single "Head Or Gut," on Dallas Austin's Rowdy Records, recently reach #1 on Billboard's rap chart. "When I grow up I want to be just like Snoop," he offers. "That makes me feel good, when I hear that," Snoop tells me and Daz.
Snoop leans back gangsta mack style when he drives. His .380's are tucked in the seat cushions in case of trouble. Daz has the chronic. "We don't smoke blunts, strictly Zigzags," Malik lights Daz's joint with a blow torch, then proceeds to try and bum Daz down. He doesn't stop until Daz reaches back and hits him twice and even then he fights back, trying hard to set Daz's curly black 'fro on fire.
"I'm hungry," Malik is using his cute voice, Snoop plays pops, "Here li'l chocolate ass nigga eat this." He passes a melting chocolate donut to the backseat.
"Naw, not chocolate. Chocolate fuck up my face."
"Nigga you gon' get pimples! Snoop is getting ready to get his clown on. "I used to act that way, trying to be cute. Your shit's gon' break out."
"Fuck that. I get too much pussy for bumps. White that down, I get too much pussy for bumps," Little badass starts pulling my pen out so I can quote him.
"Li'l ass dick nigga you ain't gettin none." Snoop is smiling at Li'l Malik as he teases him about prepubescence. Me and Das are rolling in our car seats. Malik starts fucking with the blow torch again.
Snoop throws in an Evelyn "Champagne" King CD. While he searches for his cut he dips out of the lane and barely misses a small accident. "The Way I Feel About You," one of those official rollerskating classics, comes on and without missing a beat Snoop glides back into his lane on Sunset Blvd. and get his freestyle on. "Oh shit/I almost got hit..." Daz and Lil Malik stop fighting and listen up. From the top of the head, Snoop cracks jokes on Warren G who's in the car ahead of us, describes our trip, traffic, his hood and his talent. Malik picks up; his voice has an almost pure tone to it. He rhymes about his .22 and being a short pimp. Daz is as good in the jeep as he was on "Stranded on Death Row," his style and subject matter straight gangsta. Snoop rides out the rest of the beat and ends it with a "it don't stop."
Interstate 110 South to 91. Snoop wants my tour to be complete so we're detouring through Compton. Somehow, some brotha for a Compton Crip set managed to tag the 12-foot-tall freeway sign that directs drivers to the home of N.W.A. Oakland's Too Short is all that can be heard from cars around. Daz and Snoop trade off verses. Like my younger brother in Detroit, I imagine they also came up on Too Short and his pimp lyrics. After they've recited verbatim one of his more vivid gangsta sex songs, Snoop turns down his system, "Does that bother you?"
I look up, kind of startled. He's addressing me from the rear view mirror, "Whatever. Too Short's one them kinda niggas that fall in love quick." I'm plenty disappointed with myself for failing to seize the moment; it's not everyday I'm given an opportunity to talk womanism with the author of "Bitches Ain't Shit." He pushes repeat and turns up the volume.
"See it's like this," Daz turns down Short Dog so I can learn something, "Bompton, that's Blood neighborhood." He calls it Bompton in deference to Bloods who don't use the letter "C." "It's Crips there too, but it's Bompton. There'll be two stores on either side of the street. One'll be Bloods, the other Crips. They check you at the door."
"Sometimes you forget," interrupts Snoop. "The other day we were in Compton shooting this short film with Dre. I wasn't even thinking. I show up to this mothafucka in all blue," he releases the grey leather steering wheel to motion from head to toe. "I'm standing outside with a blue comb in my hear, blue khakis, blue sneakers, blue mothafuckin' shoe laces!" He leans forward into the steering wheel, shaking his head at how wrong he was. " So I'm in the trailer, niggas roll up. They're Bloods. They're strapped. They got bats and they're like whazzup, Blood? Y'all gotta leave"
"But our nigga Topcat was with us." Daz chimes in to help Snoop with the story. "He's a Blood, but he's down with the Dogg Pound, knowwhatimsayin'?"
"So Topcat came in and asked me, 'whassup, dawg, you wanna handle this?' I was like 'yeah, we all Black and shit." Malik provides them music for Snoop by beatboxing; he's bored with the story and ready to start another freestyle session. "They was basically mad I had on blue. I went outside and hollered at 'em though. Everything was cool. I wasn't there for banging, I was there to make money. They saw I wasn't no punk ass nigga. It was cool."
After the rebellion last year Crips and Bloods declared a citywide true. For several miraculous months, gang violence decreased and gang-related murders practically ceased. "The true is on a li'l bit, but it ain't like it was," Snoop explains carefully. "It's on in Watts. It's mostly back to business as usual, 'cause it ain't no money out there. When the peace treaty was on it was money cuz mothafuckas had looted and had goods to come up on. It was money and everybody was loving everybody. It was feeling good."
Bloods and Crips. With few exceptions every West Coast rap artist ever pumped in jeeps is down with one or the other. Though they may not throw their sets up in videos or pull off any whorides on wax, every neighborhood has its set. To grow up banging in LA is like hustling in New York: everybody does it or is down with someone who does. Snoop is worried that I'm going to glorify banging. "I don't know if you should write that I'm a Crip, cuz then li'l niggas'll think it's cool." I respect his concern, I too have thought about the little niggas. "I'll write what you just said," I promise him.
"It's so fucked up that families that are in different sets be killing each other," he continues with a weighted compunction, more to himself than anyone else.
He careens his jeep off the freeway and onto Compton Boulevard. He reaches beneath his seat and pops in the Straight Outta Compton CD—he knows the whole thing word for word.
Malik is climbing over my shoulder trying to ready the notes I've been taking. I read him the part about him dissing PM Dawn. He's not even listening, he's reading the first paragraph where the Blood pulls out on Snoop. He misreads and think I wrote that Snoop wearing a red bandanna.
"Yo, turn down the music!" Daz and Snoop ignore him; Cube is getting his rhyme on. Malik repeats his command, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs. "Gimme the gat, Daz." Daz looks back at him and turns down N.W.A, taking hims seriously this time. "Gimme the gat, I'ma smoke this bitch." I'm not sure if this is the beginning of some new rhyme or if this little boy is trying to get a spanking. He tells the front seat what he thinks he read. He has nothing but love for Snoop and thinks I'm trying to start some gang shit. I correct him, only because Snoop is studying me from the rear view mirror again. This is our second time working together and Snoop's been consistently warm, friendly and unassuming, like he is with everyone he meets. After I explain Malik's error I turn to him, "stay yo little ass out my notes." Snoop laughs at us and turns up the radio. Malik leans into Daz's seat and starts rhyming.
We make a brief stop at T&D's, a record store owned by Topcat, the brotha that intervened for Snoop days before. "See he's a Blood and we're chillin'," they give each other a pound and for the first time I notice that Snoop has on all blue. Malik jacks Onyx's CD from the display rack and jumps in the front seat so he can pump it. Snoop needs convincing, it's not really his style, "Why they gotta hollar?" But when Malik fast forwards to "[Suckin'] Da Nex Niguz" Snoop nods his head in appreciation of real hip-hop—fat beats and bitch-bashing.
The LBC. Long Beach Crips. Insanes, Rollin' 1-9s and Rollin' 20s. In general there are more Crip than Bloods, but constant set trippin' between Crips keep them from being as unified as the Bloods. Long Beach is like any Black working subdivision of urbania. Economy-sized cars sit outside modest homes. Grass is a little wild, the way we like it."
A group of brothas are posting in front of a dilapidated house. They throw up the sets as Snoop pulls up to the curb. Daz and Snoop return the greeting. An anxious-looking brotha in his early thirties runs up to one of the kids that's hustling. The kid gives him a paper bag filled with crack wrapped in foil. "See, that's what you're looking for." Daz points to the drug deal. I would tell him I see that every day around the corner from my house, on Fulton in Bedstuy, Brooklyn. But I keep it to myself—there are enough journalist flashing their ghetto passes in rappers' faces.
As we approach Signal Hill, a neighborhood park with a full court, the brotha with the ball loses concentration. The is stalled, if only for a few seconds, because all eyes are focused on Snoop's black jeep. Ego keeps them from giving it up to Snoop first; they're waiting to see if he's on some bullshit. Yes, he's still a G from the neighborhood but he's also in perpetual rotation on their TV and radio; the transition from ghetto kid to celebrity is always awkward. Snoop is completely oblivious to the momentary tension. He sits in his car until "Bitches Ain't Shit" is over then hops out to kick it with his homies. Duke, a childhood friend, drives by, spots Snoop, backs up and parks. Like everyone around he's proud of Snoop. "We use to play football together," Snoop introduces us, "he went to the Air Force and I went to the County. He was the one always trying to keep me on the right track. We both awright now."
Snoop spent four years in and out of jail, primarily for a drug case he caught when he was 18. He sold crack to a fiend who was working for an undercover cop. "It's gang banging all through the county jail system. But I was really just getting my knowledge together. I stopped hanging out with the hardheads and started hanging with the educated ones, the ones that had been in the pen and was telling me, 'Young nigga you need to be out there rapping, getting paid.' And it was making sense to me. Why was I going back to the jailhouse and I wasn't makin' no ends?" Then he adds almost apologetically, "The jailhouse ain't the best place to learn something, but I learned almost everything I know to this day from the jailhouse."
Snoop grew up in his mother's home. She and his father met in Mississippi, where they were raised. During summer breaks, would visit his dad, who now lives on Detroit's east side. His mother, grandmother, three brothers and cousins (Big C-Style and Li'l C-Style) as well as his DJ Warren G still live in Long Beach. Snoop shares his spacious apartment in Hollywood with Daz and Malik. Dre needed Snoop in the studio for much of the year-and-a-half it took to complete The Chronic, and the forty minute ride from the east side became too much. When he did live in Long Beach, he would stay in his room for hours at a time writing rhymes and listening to Old School hip-hip like Captain Rock and Roxanne Shante. Before sharing his lyrics with Warren G, he would accept criticism for his homie Li'l Half Dead. "I'm a student to this. I don't just write and listen to music, I study it. That's why my skills are as precise as they are. I listen to the way the great ones put songs together. Like Rick James. He had the music, the lyrics and that funky ass feeling."
He wrote "Deep Cover" and "Nuthin' But a G Thang" in his mama's house, before MTV knew where he lived. The first cut introduced us to his outrageously smooth flow and gangsta realism, while "G Thang" provide the year's anthem, sold a million copies and launched The Chronic double platinum hip-hop heaven. Real Gs and ghetto bastards everywhere recognize his authenticity and are enamored by his effortless affirmation of ghetto life. Like Cube and MC Eiht, he evokes pain, pathology and self-realization. Women like him because of, not in spite of, his verse on "Bitches Ain't Shit." When he recounts how " the pussy was the bomb/ Had a nigga all sprung/ Was in love like a mothafucka/ Lickin' the pearl tongue," b-girls throw their hands in the air. He'a pimped his way through three bomb-ass videos and still managed to come off self-effacing, shy even. " I wasn't expecting it to blow up as fast as it did." he blushes when I ask him about his new fame. "I figured it would take a good year before niggas really understood where I was coming from. But with 'Deep Cover' the East Coast felt me. I knew the gangstas would be with it, but for the East to have love for a West Coast artist was strong." Is it important for you to have the respect of the East? "Why not? It's important for them to have our respect. When I go into the studio, my heart and my time are into making the best song that's out, that's gon' be out," he stresses, "I'm not trying to be friendly. It's a competition thang. I'ma tell you the real. If you're a musician, you're making music for other musicians. Me and Dre didn't just get fucked up one day, go to the studio and say 'blam, we got the bomb-ass album. ' That shit took a year and a half! Now I'm ready and with our [the Dogg Pound's] talent and Dre's skills, Doggy Style is gonna be the bomb."
Before leaving Long Beach, Snoop stops by his grandmother's house. She's sitting on her wide porch, watching the neighborhood. Afterwards, we a get treated to a meal at Sizzler's, thanks to an entire afternoon of Malik's persistence. Snoop orders fish and chips, Daz hits the salad bar and Malik inhales a steak and lobster before polishing off Snoop's and Daz's plates. Bombed-out and full, Daz and Malik pass out in the backseat. Snoop asks me to drive. "You're probably the only one with a license anyway." He slides in the The Best of the Dramatics and reclines his seat way back, speaking only to direct me back to Hollywood.
Death Row Records sits inside one of the many slick, modern buildings that make up corporate Los Angeles. Across the hall and through heavy oak doors in Interscope Records, the independent that brings us Marky Mark and 2Pac. Dre and his partner Suge (as in sugar) Knight approached the executives at the label with an early version of "G Thang" a few short months after release of Niggaz4Life. "They didn't get it," Suge remembers. "They was sitting around the room looking at each other, trying to figure it out. We knew we had the song of the decade, so we said fuck it. I snatched the tape up and we left the meeting. When we came back, we had the entire album completed—artword, video treatment, marketing plan, everything." The Chronic, of course, is still selling at more than two million copies, while "G Thang" is platinum-plus and "Dre Day" is gold.
From the moment N.W.A hit the streets, Dre's talent equaled millions, a one man empire. Everything he touched turned gold or platinum (even JJ Fad). Young, eager and relatively naive, he made millions of dollars for Eazy E's Ruthless Records. When D.O.C lost his voice in a near-fatal car accident he asked Suge, a friend of the group and a college grad, to review his contracts. Sure enough, it was fucked up. "So they came to me and said, 'yo, you should check your shit out, it ain't gonna hurt you to find out," Dre recollects. " I checked it out and it was shitty." A menacing 6-foot-something Suge has a reputation as an enforcer; he's been known to flip on those who and fuck with his people. In one of the many lawsuits filed against Dre, Eazy claims that he was forced against his will to release artists from Ruthless. Rumor had it that Eazy was looking down the barrel of Suge's semi-automatic. "That's some Hollywood shit, I ain't gotta pull no gun on Eric." Like Dre, Suge is cautious with his words when it comes to legalities. "Mothafuckas who can't make hit records need to make up stories."
Unlike the countless new label deals in the industry, Death Row's relationship with Interscope is a self-sufficient one. Interscope is Death Row's distributor. Period. Dre and Suge own their acts and the masters (original reels of recordings). "If we leave Interscope we take Snoop, The Chronic, everything. That's ownership, that's independence," distinguishes Suge.
Death Row's deal is said to be a multi-million one. "You know how EPMD say they haven't seen one rapper living comfortably?" Dre is referring to "Crossover." (I'm reminded that EPMD was one of the first East Coast groups to hit nationwide with the gangsta funk.) "Well, tell 'em to come see me." In addition to his stately home complete with pool and other luxuries, Dre boasts a collection of cars: a white Chevy Blazer, a convertible 300sec Benz, a 735 BMW, two 64s and a Nissan Pathfinder ("My moms jacked my Pathfinder. She's like my sister, she looks young. She's flossing in my shit. So I guess I only have five cars.")
The artists that appeared on Dre's album—Snoop, Rage, Daz and Kurupt, RBX, Jewel and Nate Dogg—were an indication to all that Death Row had tapped into the dopest new talent around. After Doggy Style is completed, solo albums for Rage and Michel'le are slated. Also in the pen are 2Pac, K-Solo and D-Ruff, a m R&B singer from Detroit and namesake to his father, David Ruffin of the Temptations. D.O.C., whose surgery later this year will enable him to rhyme again, has some "last minute paperwork" before he's an official inmate. Dre will produce for all of the groups. His younger brother Warren G, who brought Snoop to Dre in the first place, put the gangsta lean in new tracks for Mr. Grimm and MC Breed. "I'm definitely gonna be bringing Warren out as a producer, he let me hear some of his new stuff the other day. She was banging."
But RBX, who sets shit off on "High Powered" jumped ship just as Death Row began to move into their new offices. When THE SOURCE'S News Editor Matty C received a fax from Disney's Hollywood Basic announcing they'd signed RBX, he called Suge. According to Suge, he'd heard of no such thing. I ask Dre about RBX, "Ehh... that's my boy, me and him are... I don't know." he paused briefly. "He been having those mothafuckas running up in his ear. See it's like this, when RBX came down, that Snoop's cousin you know..." He decides to end it there, remembering what words can do when exchanged in public. I ask if RBX's deal with Hollywood Basics is official. "Naw, legally he still with me. I'm just gonna wait to see what happens." He decides to continue. "Soon as he blew up, soon as my record came out, you got a gang of mothafuckas talkin' about what they should be doing, where they should be, what they should have, Mothafuckas that didn't give a fuck about 'im before the record came out."
But isn't that what N.W.A went through? "Naw, my shit was real. My business was fucked up. I'm not fucking over my people. Cuz I been on that side so I know what they expect and what they want. You keep the artist happy and there won't be no problems. Snoop is like my little brother yaknowwhatimsayin'? I'm just watching everybody's back. Everybody knows I've been in the industry a long time and they know what I'm talkin' about. So they listen to me. And I love them for that, because they trust my judgment."
Since Dre's break-up with Eazy, there has been speculation about a reunion between he and Ice Cube. Dre confirms the rumors. "We planned on doing this a long time ago, but we had to go through all the drama and shit. We got a chance to come together. Everybody's heads are on straight and the offer is, uhh... a nice amount of money." The album is tentatively titled Helter Skelter and will be released on Death Row Records. Dre plans to share production duties with Cube's camp. "You Don't Want to See Me" the project's first single features a guest appearance by George Clinton.
By now everyone with a TV has seen Luke's hilarious takeoff of the "G Thang" video, complete with a collared Snoop and Dre in drag. "It's here somewhere. I haven't seen it, but I hear it's funny as a mothafucka." Dre scans his expansive office for his advance copy of the "Cowards In Compton" video. Still, fans are generally clueless about the origins of the beef. "It started out like this, he dissed me on a record that nobody heard," Dre begins. "I don't even know the name of it, I never heard it. Some of my homies told me about it. You know I never listen to none of that shit they do, I don't like it. I can't fuck with that fast shit, I like some slow, gangsta shit." Dre digresses as he relaxes. "So I just heard about it and was like 'Oh, is that right? OK, I'ma make some money off this shit." Have you seen him since you dissed him? "Naw, I talked to him on the phone. He was like 'I got something for your ass.' I was like, 'Come with that shit, nigga.' I can't be faded." He throws his head back and laughs at hip-hop's latest media battle. Then as an afterthought, "If he don't have no girls in his shit, shaking that ass, it ain't gonna be on Jukebox."
From the balcony of a rented Burback rehearsal studio, Dre can supervise his band and shout instructions to the long-haired whiteboy engineer. It's the first day of two weeks of non-stop practice sessions. In August, Death Row will headline a national tour that includes Run-DMC, Geto Boys, Onyx and Boss. On stage, a funk band is doing a run-though of "Let it Ride." Tony Green, one of the original bass players from the Dramatics, recreates Bootsy's famous hook. Jewell mellifluously belts out the chorus. "Swing low, sweet chariot/ Stop/ And let me ride." 'She can sing her ass off," Dre remarks as the keyboard fall in line. The band drops out for a break and Jewell and the background vocalists (Rage is standing in for one of the absent girls) continue the chant. "This is where my car comes up from the stage." Dre bought a second '64 Impala for the tour. He took the engine out and cut it in half so that he could ship it from city to city. Before grabbing the mic to recite his lyrics for eager audiences, Dre will hit six switches, lifting the '64 to the beat. "I gotta practice though. There's an art to hittin' switches. I ain't got it yet."
Long considered the visionary behind N.W.A, Dre describes his concept for this show. "See the whole stage is gonna be like a block. There's gonna be a liquor store right there," he motions below him, in Rage's direction. "On the other side will be a garage. That's where my car'll be. Then I'm gonna put a 10 foot skeleton in the center of the stage." When it's all said and done The Chronic will be presented by a fourteen piece band, a $200,000 stage show and a 42 person entourage. Snoop will begin the show, introducing his first single, "Who Am I," to the country. Dre is considering building a complete studio in an 18- wheel diesel so that Snoop can complete Doggy Style on the road. While promoters and label execs are cramming every group with a single into a tour package, Dre is dreaming about bringing back the old Fresh Fest arena days. "When you hear niggas talking about the market is soft, it's cause they're not selling. If you make a good album, people will buy your album. If you put together a good show people will come to your concert."
I ask Dre if his three year old son (who looks exactly like him and spends more time playing with Dre's 48-track board that with his Tonka) will join him on the road for any of the dates. "He'll probably come out with Michelle, I'll be starting her album in the truck too."
"Are you two still married?"
"We ain't married. I keep asking her but she keeps telling me no. She say she won't marry me until I stop being Dr. Dre." I try to imagine Dre on one knee and surprisingly, I can.
\After rehearsal, there are a couple of hours to kill before heading over to an all-night video shoot. Dre hops in my rental to drive to his friend Pam's house where everyone is gathering to watch the NBA championship. I'm following D-Ruff, who is driving Dre's monster Blazer. Rage and her girl Diamond are riding in a Bronco behind us with Samara, Dre's assistant. Dre and I are jamming to the Gap Band's "You Dropped the Bomb on Me" and don't hear 5-0's sirens. Dre checks his side view mirror and spots a lone LAPD traffic cop on a motorcycle. "I hate those mothafuckas."
I pull over and prepare to accept my speeding ticket with little protestation. Dre notices the time and uses his mobile phone to call his office manager Kim, back at Death Row. The cop decides to fuck with Dre, asking him for ID. Dre tells him he doesn't have it with him and resumes his call. "Well, where is it?" Mr. Officer isn't sure what he's dealing with. " I left it at rehearsal," Dre answers, annoyed that he has to hang up. " What are ya? Some kinda singer, actor, dancer, what?"
"Yeah, all that." Dre picks the phone back up, putting wannabe John Wayne in check. " So what's your name, sir?"
"Andre Ramelle Young... 28 years old... 6-1...230 pounds." The policeman has no idea that he's writing a $25 seat belt ticket for a multi-millionaire superproducer, co-creator of "Fuck Tha Police."
When we pull off, the Blazer and Bronco reappear; his crew was positioned nearby, carefully monitoring the exchange: protocol in a police state.
A short two miles back on the road and it's on again. This time five Mexican men in a pickup truck decide they want to play road hog with D-Ruff. They cut him off thinking they're going to get away with it, but Samara maneuvers her Bronco to the other side of the pickup. Diamond rolls down the rear window and hurls an empty raspberry Tropicana bottle at the Mexicans. The glass shatters, some of it landing in the pickup's bed.
After a brief chase the Mexicans catch up with Samara, Rage and Diamond at a red light. They attempt to surround the Bronco in retaliation, still not realizing that we're all together.
"Fuck that," Dre says before he jumps out of my car and joins D-Ruff, who's already in their face. "Nigga. What?" Dre throws his arm in the air, towering over the frightened group of men. Once they realize they're dealing with a little more than three gangsta bitches they back down, muttering to themselves in Spanish.
The sun is setting. The Bulls are putting an asswhipping on Phoenix. Dre is intimating his vision to an assistant who will in turn communicate his directions to an all-white film crew. "Tangueray and Blunts’ is only the third video Dre directed, but already he's experimenting with new lenses and sophisticated angles. His hands are making pictures where words won't do. Finally he decides to improvise, "We're just gonna make shit up as we go."
Dre's blue '64 arrives—it's just been painted black and two naked women wearing chronic leaves are airbrushed on the trunk. Dre approves the job then practices hitting switches. The car jerks violently before he catches the beat. Rage and I take turns riding in the passenger seat, then each stumble out from dizziness.
'Round midnight, Snoop and the Dogg Pound arrive and the long shoot begins. The concept is simple: Rage, Daz and Kurupt kick lyrics in a parking lot full of cars and posse. Snoop complains about the extras in the background. Among them is the redheaded whiteboy who painted Dre's car.
"Ay Dre! That's the new Dogg Pound or something? You goin' Hollywood?"
"Well then get yo ass over here, nigga. You the one being Michael Jackson and shit," Dre hollers back across the lot. Even though they're joking it's then that it occurs to me that I haven't asked Snoop the one question I flew from New York to pose.
"I can't really say what a real nigga is, 'cause in other parts of the world they run things different than how I run mines." He pauses, then reconsiders the question. "But I'll tell you this. Where I come from it's something positive about being a real nigga—staying down for yours, not switching up, standing up for yourself. With all this negative shit around being Black, real niggas are in demand."
Malik wants Snoop's attention and the two of the walk off a distance to discuss something. The floodlights silhouette them, exaggerating Snoop's tall, lean frame. For the next hundred days, in front of countless fans, he'll be cast in this same light. Snoop doubles over with laughter at something Malik tells him. I realize then that it's not just me, half the people on the set are staring at him. Of course, he doesn't notice up. He has the remarkable ability to fill a room with his presence yet defer to his own largeness with comfortable modesty. A superstar indeed.