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Snoop Dogg Still Kicks Ass, Doesn't Give a Damn About Your Day Job

By Marcus Gilmer in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 28, 2008 5:40PM

2008_02_snoopdogg.jpgIf you saw a haze hanging over downtown this morning...nevermind, that joke's too easy. The Doggfather kicked off a two-night stand at the House of Blues last night on his current tour promoting his new record, Ego Trippin' (due out March 11th), and left our ears ringing.

Frankly, we weren't sure what to expect. We're old enough to remember when Dr. Dre protege's first record, Doggystyle dropped over 14 years ago. Following that record's release, he beat a murder rap and has been in trouble with the law more times then we can count. Yet, recently, Snoop's image has, dare we say, softened? First, he left notorious label Death Row Records for Master P's No Limit Records, and then took another step up by signing with major label Geffen Records. With appearances in movies like Half-Baked and Starsky & Hutch, as well as television shows like Weeds and Monk (not to mention appearing on Larry King Live and his own new E! show, Snoop Dogg's Father Hood), Snoop has almost become a cartoon character shell of his former self. We were skeptical, going in, if Snoop could still lay down a decent set.

We regret ever questioning the man.

Chicago rapper Really Doe kicked things off promptly at 9 p.m., backed by a handful of other local MCs including Que B.I.L.L.A.H., promoting his single, "Plastic", from his forthcoming record First Impression (due late 2008 on Kanye's GOOD Music label). Getting the audience hyped up and participating, and roaming the stage with the swagger expected from a Kanye accomplice, Really Doe and his crew exhibited the confidence necessary to hold their own when sharing a stage with one of the biggest names in music. We weren't familiar with his music going in, but rest assured, that will change. After an almost too short 20 minute set, Doe left the stage and the DJ at the soundboard started banging beats while the diverse crowd danced and made it feel like a big party, all excited to see the main event.

Then the wait began. We heard stories from some friends in New Orleans that he didn't take the stage at his recent show there until well after midnight. And we've seen enough hip-hop shows to know that a late start is inevitable. But this wait was almost interminable. Here are some of our notes from the time between sets.

9:25 - Really Doe set finished.
10:15 - Guy comes on stage asking for all the 'sexy ladies' to go to the side door. Sexiest two get all access passes. Promotes merchandise booth. Best line, as he leaves stage: "We even got hotel keys!"
10:35 - Our friend says he spotted Michael Jordan at the Common show here a while back. No celebrities to gawk at tonight.
10:45 - However, a girl next to us just started doing The Elaine.
11:15 - DJ does the inevitable, plays Soulja Boy and the entire floor crowd at the House of Blues dances along.
11:30 - Segments of the crowd are booing. Or saying, 'Snooooooooooop.' We go with booing.
11:40 - Even the girl doing The Elaine is tired.

Finally, at 11:55, two and a half hours after Really Doe exited, Snoop strutted on stage by himself, clad in sunglasses, a bucket hat, a red Air Jordan jacket, and a blinged out, diamond encrusted mic, and launched immediately into a riveting version of "Murder Was The Case." Flanked by two posters promoting the aforementioned new record, Snoop glided around the stage as members of his entourage, including Nate Dogg and Snoop's uncle June Bug, bounced onto the stage. The crowd, who had spent the last 20 minutes booing, was putty in Snoop's hands: all was forgiven. Next was "P.I.M.P.," complete with a stageful of local pimps, including The Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan.

The show reinforced one of the most interesting contradictions about Snoop's ability as an MC: his seemingly lackadaisical delivery that still manages to enrapture the listener. He's the opposite of DMX or Mystikal with a smooth, almost lazy, rhythm to his flow, but is still able to come across as menacing, like he did on the still-lively-after-all-these-years "Nuthin' But A G Thang" and the bone-rattling "Deep Cover." We admit that we're a bit rusty on Snoop's older material and somewhat unfamiliar with the newer stuff, but with the help of some accompanying friends, we were able to piece it all together. Not that it mattered: even if we had never heard a Snoop song in our life we would have been enthralled.

With brief intervals that featured Snoop asking the standard questions related to the crowd's love of Snoop or partying, the music kept coming. With members of the entourage blatantly ignoring the venue's "No Smoking" rules (as well as the drug laws), the crew kept the crowd involved and active. Never one to go stale, Snoop injected new life into one of his older song, "Lodi Dodi," by backing it with samples from "The Big Beat" by Billy Squier. Jay-Z ("99 Problems") and Dizzee Rascal ("Fix Up, Look Sharp") beat him to that particular punch, but what the choice lacked in originality was made up for in this version's new-found energy.

As to our worry about whether Snoop had gone soft, well, maybe "soft" isn't the right word. He is well into his 30's, after all, and a father to boot. We'd worry if he was still getting rung up on murder charges. What Snoop has done is solidly establish himself in the mainstream, no longer a gangster rapper from "the LBC" feared by the general public. If anything, his current place in pop culture juxtaposed against his engaging live performance shows that Snoop has adapted himself with a certain flexibility; he's a cultural chameleon, playing it safe for a network comedy cameo one minute, then delivering "Gangsta Party" with an unmitigated ferocity the next. He's having his grass and smoking it, too. With Eazy E, Biggie, and Tupac all long since passed, Ice Cube content making family movies, and Dr. Dre out of sight, Snoop remains one of the few voices of his hip hop generation that's still vital. Besides, who are we to begrudge the guy an extra payday or two?

Rolling through old hits like "Gin & Juice" and new hits like "Sensual Seduction," Snoop played the role of a 21st Century Pied Piper and the crowd, no matter how tired and cranky they had been earlier, was happy to dance along and wave their motherfucking hands in the air like they just didn't care.

As of this posting, tickets for tonight's show are still available through TicketBastard ($50+the usual fees). Local MC Ben-Sity opens. Doors open at 10:30 p.m., show starts at (allegedly) 11:30 p.m. 18+

Image via Snoop's MySpace Page