The Look Back: Revisiting Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle

[The Look Back is an occasional column in which we dive into a notable album from a band or musician with a deep discography before they perform in Louisville.]

While the laid-back party anthem “Gin And Juice” is unquestionably one of the most iconic and definitive songs of West Coast hip-hop, “Murder Was The Case” is the most striking song from Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle. It begins with him getting shot, bleeding to death on the street. Then, he makes a deal with the devil to be resurrected. And, ultimately, he ends up in prison, fearing that he’s going to be stabbed. It’s a critical and existential look at fast living and gang violence, and it’s an honest moment in the middle of an album that’s otherwise decadent and depraved.

Doggystyle was released on Nov. 23, 1993, a few months after Snoop Dogg was arrested on murder charges (he was eventually acquitted). “Murder Was The Case” is an intense look into his anxieties surrounding that situation. And on an album known for vices and indulgences, the track gives a peek at the person behind the persona.

“Murder Was The Case” is the brightest set of lyrics on the album, but the soundscape and production of Doggystyle was its most influential aspect. With a breezy, synth-heavy bounce, the record solidified the power of g-funk, showing producer Dr. Dre’s versatility and vision, while Snoop’s distinct flow carved out one of the most unique and instantly-recognizable vocal styles in music. In a genre that typically valued high-energy and aggressive deliveries, Snoop countered by being cool and calculated. 

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“I don’t like to get all pumped up and rap fast ‘cause that ain’t me,” Snoop told The New York Times two days before Doggystyle was released. “I want to be able to relax and conversate with my people. It’s a distinction between Steven Seagal and Clint Eastwood. Seagal ain’t laid back. Eastwood is.”

While Snoop Dogg’s guest spots on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic launched him into stardom, Doggystyle proved that he had the ability to carry an entire record. And while some of the songs are cringingly misogynistic, there’s also more depth on his debut than anything else that he would release after it. Doggystyle captured a time of transition for Snoop Dogg, when he was moving from a kid who was caught in a system of drugs, violence and poverty to becoming a cultural icon with a fat bank account. But, it’s the way he told that story — through truckloads of charisma and magnetic melodies — that made Doggystyle so successful. I mean, if you went outside right now, walked up to 10 strangers and asked each of them to hum the chorus to “Gin And Juice,” the majority of them probably could. •

Snoop Dogg
Saturday, Jan. 25
Louisville Palace
625 S. Fourth St.
louisvillepalace.com
Prices vary  |  8 p.m. 

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