Six Years After His Passing, We Still Have Much Love For Nate Dogg (Video)
Six years ago today, music lost a true talent in Nathaniel Hale. The singer better known as Nate Dogg has one of the richest voices of the last 25 years. Alongside Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Ludacris, Fabolous, Pharoahe Monch, Eminem, and his right-hand-man Warren G, the crooner within Tha Dogg Pound family took Hip-Hop Heads to the vivid intersection where the music of the church met the voice of the streets.
On top of just a distinct vocal tone, the 213 member used his instrument like a Jazz player. Aside from his cemented choruses, Nate could riff. The singer was able to freestyle his sound and take over a song. This quality in the Long Beach, California representative’s music traced him to Hip-Hop roots. While Nate was not a rapper, he melodically delivered lines that may as well be raps. He sung of plight, hardship, pain, yearning, lust, wealth, and wrath. Deftly, Nate blended the control and style of the music of the ’70s (Isley Brothers, Donny Hathaway) with the more rugged and profane displays of the ’90s (Bobby Brown, Jodeci). Although it appeared effortless for Nate to slide into songs by his early Death Row label-mates and fit in with the “Gangsta Party” as it were, the singer had his own identity.
While Nate’s G-Funk Classics debut was derailed as a Row release following the killing of Tupac, lengthy incarceration of label CEO Suge Knight, and exodus of Kurupt, Snoop, and later Daz, the music eventually released. In 2001, after proving himself with a bejeweled double disc using the originally-intended title, Nate was courted by Sylvia Rhone and the brass at Elektra Records. There, Nate had anchored Fab’ in with a hit. Elektra liked what they heard, especially at a time when Death Row escapees were bringing their faithful fans with them, right to the charts. Music and Me was the result.
Released in the last weeks of a watershed year of ’01, the album had the gravitas to welcome Dr. Dre, as well as distinguished producers including Bink, Fred Wreck, Battlecat, and Dre’s then understudy, Mel-Man. So many of the artists Nate had helped in the last four years returned the favor to the droopy-faced singer with the sleepy gaze. “I Got Love” was the calling card. Free of any major Rap guests, Nate collected on a promise that he could stand alone. The “Hardest Working Man In Town” finally stood alone in the spotlight. There, he sang of love…not sex, scandal, or unloading the clip in revenge. Alas, Nate was the top dog, with the G-Funk flute to match his stride. The lyrics, while simple, say it all. Nate was loved. Long before he was ill, or even taken away from his fans, the guy in the background in one of Rap’s most colorful eras took his shot, and scored. And for anybody thinking Nate’s tune had changed entirely, the video showed that he was still the mack in the derby hat.
The album would break the Top 40. While 213’s lone album went to #4, Nate had to have looked at Music and Me as his crowning arrival. Elektra would retain Nate as an artist. There, he released an additional album three years later.
Sadly, on March 15, 2011 Nate Dogg passed away in California, following complications from a stroke. He may be gone, but he is still beloved by Hip-Hop Heads and music fans alike.
#BonusBeat: For those mourning and celebrating the soul of Nathaniel, the rare “I Need A Light (Fred Wreck Remix)” by Warren G and Nate Dogg from around this time:
This appears on Fred’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 compilation.