This interview was originally published in the October 1995 issue of Playboy magazine.
Editor's Note: Every Monday we ask Playboy's Facebook followers to vote on which Playboy Interview to pull from the archives and post online the following Friday. Follow Playboy on Facebook and tell us which interview you want to see next.
"I'm 24 years old. Anybody older than me knows they were saying bitch before I was born. And fuck and dick. I didn't make that shit up. If I did, I mean, damn, give me some money! That's creative shit."
"We've tried it both ways. They killed Martin, they killed Malcolm. You got two black folk representing us through the Sixties. One of them was for violence, one was against and they both are dead. What is that saying?"
"If I had been a straight-A student my whole life and rapped about Jesus coming back to save us all, I wouldn't get no media. The motherfuckers wouldn't give a fuck about me. But since I'm telling the truth, I'm a threat."
In Los Angeles, as in most other cities, shootings among young black men on the street are all too common -- and all too often ignored by the media. But at least one murder trial scheduled for the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building promised to be different. The crime itself was commonplace, but this time it was one of the defendants who was making news.
That defendant was Calvin Broadus, and he was charged with murder and conspiracy and as an accessory after the fact. That's not why reporters showed up in force. It's because Broadus is best known as rap star Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Snoop was accused of driving to a park in the Palms district of Los Angeles, where his bodyguard, McKinley Lee, allegedly shot and killed Philip Woldermariam, who reportedly had been a member of a gang called the By Yerself Hustlers.
Dogg, his bodyguard and a friend also charged in the murder claimed they were innocent because Woldermariam went for his pistol first, forcing Lee to shoot in self-defense. But the district attorney contended otherwise. The criminal trial could influence the outcome of a $25 million lawsuit brought against Dogg by Woldermariam's parents, who accused him of benefiting from their son's death. The victim's sister told the press, "Snoop's career has gone very far because of this murder. He's being portrayed as a hero. I've heard it said, 'Snoop doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk.'"
Whether Dogg is guilty or not, his career took off following the killing. Doggystyle has sold 4.5 million copies, generating more than $40 million. He was nominated for a long list of music awards -- including a Grammy and an American Music Award -- and he won Soul Train's best rap album honors. His record debuted at number one, passing releases by Pearl Jam and Aerosmith. And Dogg's soulful raps have earned raves. A reviewer for the Los Angeles Times wrote: "No rapper has ever occupied a beat the way Snoop does, sliding around corners, lounging on the syncopations, slipping into the cracks and crevices of the grooves." At 24 years old, he seems unstoppable -- if he doesn't wind up in jail.
Of course, rappers have been in trouble with the law since the South Bronx days of Lovebug Starski. In 1991 Slick Rick Walters received three to ten years for the attempted murder of his cousin. Dasean Cooper, a.k.a. J-Dee of Da Lench Mob, is serving 29 years to life for the murder of his girlfriend's male roommate. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy has served three months in jail for firing a gun at a neighbor. Tupac Shakur, one of Snoop's closest friends, was convicted of sexual abuse and is serving a one-to-four-year sentence.
Rap, the most influential musical movement of the past two decades, grew from neighborhoods where violence pervaded. But a branch of the music that emerged from the West Coast in the late Eighties, dubbed gangsta rap, was the most explicitly brutal music ever. It made headlines when it hit the mainstream with such songs as N.W.A.'s "Fuck tha Police." Police organizations and groups such as the National Political Congress of Black Women and the People's Coalition condemned gangsta rap music. Many radio stations across the country refused to play it. More recently, Senator Bob Dole went on the attack, linking rap with violence and casual sex. Soon thereafter, Time Warner took the controversial step of axing the executive at the corporation's music division who was rap's biggest supporter. The controversies don't seem to hurt record sales, however. Rap now accounts for $800 million in revenue a year. Almost two thirds of gangsta rap recordings are bought by whites.
When N.W.A., the seminal gangsta rap group, split up, its members went on to successful solo careers. Ice Cube starred in John Singleton's movie Boyz N the Hood; Eric Wright, Eazy-E, had a hit solo record before he died of AIDS earlier this year. Dr. Dre's debut, The Chronic, remained in Billboard's top ten for 28 weeks. It went triple platinum and became the biggest selling rap record ever. Most of the writing and rapping on The Chronic was done by Snoop, then an unknown kid from Long Beach, California. Dr. Dre signed him to Death Row Records, the label he founded. Dre's choice was rewarded when Snoop released his debut album, Doggystyle, which went double platinum. The booming bass line and infectious choruses belie the raw lyrics. "Murder Was the Case," a song recorded with Tha Dogg Pound, is an eerily powerful mood piece about Snoop's own death in a drive-by shooting. It was made into a short film directed by Dre and starring Snoop. The album's biggest hit, "Gin and Juice," has an infectious melody behind lyrics about getting high.
Snoop was born in 1971 on the east side of Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles. He is the middle child between two half brothers and was raised by his mother, who gave him his nickname. Both his father and stepfather were only intermittently involved in his life.
As a boy, Snoop's world centered on Golgotha Trinity Baptist Church. He played piano and sang in the choir. He played basketball and Pop Warner football and was a class clown, rapping at lunchtime for an audience that continued to grow. Eventually church became less of an influence than the local gang, the Long Beach Insane Crips.
Barely one month after his graduation from high school, Snoop was arrested for selling cocaine to an undercover agent. He served a year in jail. Upon his release, he decided to concentrate on rapping, but he went back to jail for several months for violating his probation, and he was arrested two more times for gun possession.
In the back of a friend's record store, Snoop made rap tapes under his new stage name, Doggy Dogg. His life began to change when one wound up in the hands of Dr. Dre. Their first collaboration -- Dre creates and produces the music tracks and Snoop does the rhymes and rapping -- was the title song for the movie "Deep Cover." It went to number one on the rap charts. Then came Dre's album, followed by Snoop's solo debut.
Despite Snoop's success, there was more controversy, particularly after the Woldermariam shooting. When Snoop was in London in February 1994 for a performance, The Daily Star ran the headline KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT! In an article about the shooting, Denver's Rocky Mountain News observed, "While Simpson's selling power withered after he was accused of killing his ex-wife and her friend, Snoop Dogg's marketability has been enhanced by the murder charges against him." A Newsweek cover story asked: "When is rap too violent?"
We sent Contributing Editor David Sheff, whose last Playboy Interview was with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, to talk with Snoop. Here is his report:
"Since the murder, Snoop has given few interviews. None of them were in-depth. His lawyer wouldn't allow questions about details of the case, but his friends are free with their opinions. Snoop is being framed, they say. Woldermariam, they claim, had stalked and threatened Snoop in the past. When he drew a gun to shoot Dogg, the bodyguard just did his job. The district attorney, of course, lays out a far different scenario.
"Snoop lives with his fiancée, Chanté, and two-year-old son, Cordé, in a house in Claremont, California. Our first meeting was at the Beverly Hills Ritz Hotel, where he and his family were staying in a penthouse suite. He had a shadow mustache, a sparse goatee, a gold stud in his left ear, braids in his hair and a spinning pyramid ring on one of his fingers. He wore the colors of the Crips: blue sneakers, blue sweats and a UCLA Bruins football jersey. We began talking over a roomservice lunch, which was a disappointment to Snoop, who wanted chicken tenders with fries. Because that wasn't an option, he settled for a patty melt, well done, on white bread. 'Oh,' he added, 'and give me a big-ass soda.'
"Lunch arrived, but Snoop merely played with his meal. When asked if something was wrong, he poked at the burger. 'Nasty as fuck, cuz,' he said. 'Red meat hanging out of this shit. I like that meat panfried, well done. I gotta get some Burger King and shit.'
"He got his Burger King delivered the next day to a recording studio in the San Fernando Valley, where he was helping his friends, Tha Dogg Pound, record some tracks for their latest album, Dogg Food. Cigar-long joints circulated. After the basic beat was on tape, more tracks were recorded and more joints made the rounds. Snoop and some of the other rappers silently moved into various corners, where they sat in chairs, huddled over pads of paper. They wrote feverishly. The music was relentless, the room thick with smoke. The beat and the smoke were backdrops to the inspiration -- the rappers scribbling notes. It felt strangely churchlike.
"The interview began with a discussion of the violence from which gangsta rap sprang."