Calvin Broadus was just 20 years old when NWA producer Dr. Dre introduced his Long Beach protégé to the world in 1992, and Snoop Doggy Dogg quickly became gangsta rap’s first true pop star. Snoop’s subsequent career has had its peaks and valleys, but he’s maintained a remarkable and nearly unparalleled run as one of the most famous appers in the world for over a quarter century.
With Snoop performing at the Island Event Center in the Treasure Island Resort & Casino this Friday, here’s a look back at voluminous back catalog of the West Coast legend, whose 17th solo album I Wanna Thank Me is due out in May.
Snoop Dogg’s career-launching early work with Death Row Records looms large over his legacy. After his scene-stealing work throughout Dr. Dre’s 1992 blockbuster The Chronic put all eyes on the charismatic rookie, Snoop capitalized on the buzz a year later with Doggystyle, which set records as both the fastest selling debut album and the fastest selling hip-hop album to date in 1993. Snoop’s smooth, conversational, Slick Rick-inspired flow and Dre’s hard hitting G-funk production style were a magic combination, producing crossover hits as well as bawdier club staples like “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” featuring Snoop’s cousin, gangsta rap hook singer nonpareil Nate Dogg.
Death Row’s volatile reign as rap’s hottest label was short-lived, to the detriment of Snoop Dogg’s flowering career. Dr. Dre had already left the label when Snoop made his second album, and 1996’s Tha Doggfather was a sophomore slump that suffered from the lack of Dre beats. Still, the album included lively moments like the flow experiment “Freestyle Conversation,” and sparked what would become one of Snoop’s most fruitful musical relationships, as he helped revive the Gap Band frontman Charlie Wilson’s career with the first of many collaborations.
Following Death Row’s demise, Snoop hopped from one crew to another to stay commercially relevant, first with three albums on the insurgent New Orleans label No Limit Records, and later a successful stint with Virginia beatmakers the Neptunes and their Star Trak imprint. That Snoop’s effortless rhymes and gregarious pothead persona have proven adaptable to so many different regional sounds and eras is a testament to his talent and versatility. He’s never revisited the heights of the near-perfect Doggystyle, but his discography is stacked with minor classics like 1999’s No Limit Top Dogg and 2006’s Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.
Snoop Dogg has remained a ubiquitous pop culture figure in part because he plays well with others, whether he’s starring in a TV variety show with Martha Stewart or guesting on hits by everyone from Katy Perry to comedian Lil Duval. But even as Snoop Dogg has branched out from his West Coast roots, he’s remained California hip-hop’s foremost ambassador to the rest of the world. Most of his albums still feature frequent forays into G-funk—even his No Limit output had some great Dr. Dre and DJ Quik beats. And while some of his albums this decade have bordered on novelty records, including the 2013 reggae album Reincarnated (under the name “Snoop Lion”) and last year’s hip-hop gospel album Bible of Love, Snoop’s durable flow has served him well on even his most unexpected genre experiments.