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The Saga of Snoop Doggy Dogg : How did Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Doggy Dogg, ascend to the heights of gangsta rap when his debut album isn't even out yet? And what about that murder charge? Hey, it's his life--let him explain it all

November 07, 1993|CHUCK PHILIPS | Chuck Philips writes about pop music for Calendar

"I'm just a student, man," he says quietly, his brown eyes beaming with intensity. "It's like I'm studying for an exam. My goal is to outdo everybody--to get the highest grade."

Unlike other hard-core rappers, Snoop seems unafraid to show his soft side. He talks warmly about family and friends and waxes philosophical about faith and his desire to perfect his craft and improve his lot.

In fact, his favorite track on the new album is a gospel-tinged tribute to his mother titled "Gangsta Life."

"It's about how my mama raised me and my brothers on her own and how we got caught up on the streets," he says of the song, which features the backing of a gospel chorus. "In the song I give my mama her respect and yet I try to show just what the wages are for kids not paying attention. I ain't no gospel rap musician, man, but I got faith in what I believe in."

So why did he pose for magazines earlier this year, boldly brandishing a pistol?

"Back then, I was new to the game, you understand," he says of those stark, pistol-toting poses. "The photographers would tell me, 'Hey, man, take a picture with a gun and you'll look real hard.' And that's what I did. I sold myself to the T and now I'm in the house. But you don't see me posin' with no guns anymore, you know what I'm saying?"

Those who know him well say Snoop remains relatively untouched by the excitement surrounding his sudden rise to stardom. While his bank account gets fatter by the day, they say he still hangs out with the homeboys and frequently visits his old stamping grounds.

Success, however, is helping Snoop put his own turbulent past into perspective. Despite criticism from media watchdog groups and family organizations that he glorifies criminal behavior with his music, the rapper sees himself as a positive role model and hopes his fame will inspire gangbangers to put down their guns and pick up a mike.

"The media is quick to point their finger when trouble strikes, but nobody ever asks a successful rapper like me how he feels about what's going on in the 'hood," Snoop says. "I guess they think I'm macho and I don't care or something. But man, I'm someone who's trying to turn his life around. And it gets emotional.

"A dozen people I know have been smoked for no reason at all. I wish the violence would stop. I mean, right now I got some little homeboys coming up who are happy to see me doing right, but it's so dangerous out there they might not even live to see my album come out."

*

Snoop is no stranger to gang violence.

Born and raised in a tough section of eastern Long Beach, he tells of being caught up early on in the cross-fire of turf fights between various factions of the notorious Crips gang.

The community he grew up in is a hodgepodge of window-barred wood-and-stucco bungalows police say is plagued by crack dealing, car-stealing and drive-by shootings.

"On a danger scale of 1 to 10, Long Beach rates about a 9," suggests one Long Beach Police Gang Task Force agent. "The gang situation has been way out of control there for more than a decade."

As a child, Snoop sold candy, delivered newspapers and bagged groceries to help his mother and two brothers make ends meet after his father moved to Detroit. He says he was a dedicated student and athlete who looked forward to attending weekly services at one of the neighborhood's many storefront churches.

Despite his mother's best efforts to keep him singing in the choir and playing football, Snoop says he fell in with the wrong crowd during his teens and started running the streets and hustling dope. However, he denies reports circulating in the media and among Long Beach police sources that he was ever a bona fide Crip.

"If you're white and you grow up in a KKK neighborhood, people out there are going to label you a racist," Snoop says. "The neighborhood I grew up in was full of Crips. That was just one of those labels I had to adjust to. It was a jacket that I had to wear for awhile. So I wore it and then I took it off."

Barely one month after he graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, the rapper was incarcerated on a drug charge, and he returned to jail several times on probation violations.

"I want to stress something to the little kids out there: There ain't nothin' cool about selling dope," Snoop says. "I did it because I thought it was cool but I was wrong and I went to jail for it.

"But when I was rappin' in the county jail, a lot of the older inmates told me, 'Man, you're too talented to be in here. You need to be outside, not wasting your life away with crime.'

"I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea, though. Life in the ghetto ain't easy like they want to make it seem. People take wrong turns for a reason. You wake up in the morning and there's no work. Nobody has nothin'. That's what makes them want to go take it from the next man. That's what leads to all the trouble and commotion. Man, I mean it's really tore up."

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