Snoop Dogg Reveals The Record Deal He Nearly Took Before Dr. Dre Called
In 1992, Snoop Dogg made his debut alongside Dr. Dre on “Deep Cover,” the title song from the soundtrack of the same name. The song arrived as Dr. Dre made a high-profile exit from N.W.A. and Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records. Dre would join manager Marion “Suge” Knight at Death Row, a fledgling label that would go on to become a music empire over the next five years. In 2022, Snoop acquired that label, and has been involving past artists as well as releasing his new material on the imprint for the first time since leaving in the late 1990s.
This week, while speaking to Big Boy—a prominent radio and video personality who also did business with Death Row in the 1990s—Snoop revealed how close he was to making his debut with another crew. The video from BigBoyTV is only available on YouTube due to age restrictions.
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At 24:50, Snoop tells Big Boy, “Y’all don’t know this story. I was with Above The Law. Above The Law was about to give me a situation—but they had me waiting on the bench. I was behind Kokokane; I was behind another girl named [Mz.] Kilo, and I was waiting behind Above The Law’s next album that they were doing. But Laylaw and [Big] Hutch and the whole crew, Go Mack and the whole nine—they f*cked with me and Warren G; Warren G was they ni**a! So Warren G brought me to them, and they was like, ‘Okay, we gon’ f*ck with him!’ But, ‘Sit down there and play that Madden while we work in the studio.’ And this was when we was comin’ from Long Beach to Inglewood—didn’t even know I was going through a Blood neighborhood on the Metro while Warren G was trying to make a career happen.” Snoop describes walking through the section where rival gang members lurked. He details the studio, which was not far from where he Big Boy conducted the interview and Snoop’s current media compound. “This is a Blood neighborhood, and this is Warren G and Snoop, young Crips not active-active gangbanging, but don’t know. We’re going there to get to that. This is probably every day for two months.” Laylaw, the affiliate of N.W.A. and Above The Law that Snoop mentions, passed away earlier this year.
Snoop likens Above The Law and the Pomona, California group’s affiliates as “Baby Ruthless,” referring to being a successful outfit on the label made famous by N.W.A., The D.O.C., and J.J. Fad. The group debuted with 1990’s Livin’ Like Hustlers. “But…[Dr.] Dre is about to leave Ruthless. It’s not [known yet], but he’s about to leave.” Snoop says he was unaware of Dre’s planned departure with The D.O.C. and the latter’s manager, Suge Knight. “I’m just trying to get on. So I’m in here with these ni**as every day. Friday, they take me upstairs in the studio—one of the only times. And they play a dope-ass track for me, and they’re like, ‘This yours. Monday, we gon’ record this.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, sh*t. I finally get to…I’m on, ni**a.’ Saturday, Warren G goes to a f*ckin’ party with Dr. Dre and them, and take our  cassette tape, and plays it when the music cuts off, and rocked the house. So Saturday night, Dr. Dre calls with Warren G on the phone.” Snoop, who had met Dre through Warren in the late 1980s, answers in disbelief—then hangs up. “Sunday, Warren G calls again, in the daytime.” This time, Warren convinced Snoop that Dre’s interest was legit—then hands the phone to the producer/rapper. Dre made a invitation of his own. “Monday, could you come to the studio?” Dre asked Snoop to come to SOLAR Records, the famed 1980s label run by Dick Griffey—where the would-be Death Row label would assemble to record songs around Dre. “Why certainly, that’s Dr. Dre,” thought Snoop. “I been waiting for months…if I miss Monday, I’ll just go Tuesday,” Snoop says of his thought pattern regarding ATL. “But let me see what this Monday look like.”
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Upon entering SOLAR Studios, Snoop Dogg went to work. “I get up in there on Monday, and this ni**a Dr. Dre did one of the songs I got called ‘Gangsta’s Life.’ He flipped it.” Snoop details the song, pointing out that Dr. Dre had added samples from James Brown’s “The Payback,” as he flows the rhymes lyrics from a song that eventually released (in another form) as the Nate Dogg-assisted “O.G.” on The Lost Sessions. “The story was so gangsta that ni**a Dre fell in love,” he says, referring to a Gangsta Rap narrative. “It was some sh*t!”
Snoop returns to the history-altering turn of events. “So we did that record. Tuesday, Above The Law [is] calling. I’m like, “Boy, I fell in love. I’m with The D.O.C., I’m with Dr. Dre, and he put me in the studio with him, where it was just me and him.” Big Boy that Dre brought Snoop to the studio “immediately,” whereas ATL had kept the hungry rapper waiting for weeks and months. “I was on from there, and it kinda ruffled Above The Law’s [relationship with] us because they felt like they was [with] me—like, they were the ones who were supposed to put me out. And then the first single was ‘187 on an undercover cop.'” Big Hutch’s popular alias was Cold 187um, possibly interpreting the “Deep Cover” lyrics as style-jacking, or a jab at the producer. “So it’s like, in so many words, ‘Ni**a, you leave and then you take my sh*t?'”
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Snoop adds that 30-plus years later, he and Big Hutch coach football together and are “the best of friends” today. In 2016, Snoop and Big Hutch united on “Mind Ya Own” from the MC/producer’s Black Godfather album. Snoop would also do extensive work with Kokane in the ensuing years. “At that moment? There were problems. That’s why Above The Law, Snoop Dogg, Eazy-E, Bone Thugs [n-Harmony]—it was a conflict. It was conflict in the beginning.” Snoop Dogg and Big Boy allude to disses and reported acts of violence. “It was business, but it got personal. ‘Ni**a, you stole…’ and I became the biggest ni**a in the world!'”
In 1992, things were even more complicated. To make matters murkier, Hutch told Sway In The Morning about the sonic similarities between Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Above The Law’s Black Mafia Life. Those albums sampled some of the same Parliament-Funkadelic records, particularly on video singles “Dre Day” and “Let Me Ride,” which have similarities to “Never Missin’ A Beat” and “Pimp Clinic,” respectively. Each enlisted Kokane—who, like Above The Law, would land at Death Row for a time years later. In 2015, Hutch and Dre worked together on Compton.
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Snoop does close his story by asserting that he and Dre’s chemistry and sound were original, pointing to “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang.” “It went from [‘Deep Cover’] to ‘G-Thang,’ had no influence from nobody.”
Highlights from Snoop’s interview and the power of his revelations are discussed (at 1:19:55) on episode #106 of Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast. This episode also unpacks Black Thought & El Michels Affair’s new album, discusses a recent J Dilla documentary, and more.