POP / It's a Doggy Dogg world: Snoop Doggy Dogg is just a nice boy really, says Joseph Gallivan who tailed the rapper throughout his stay in Britain

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The Independent Online
Snoop Doggy Dogg, the infamous LA 'gangsta' rapper, came through in London last week. He came through the airport metal detectors, and through the sniffer dog zone, so there was no way he could have been packing his usual two pistols and chronic weed. All the same, the police alerted his hotel that their guest was currently on dollars 1m bail, on an accessory to murder charge, and he and his homeboys were asked to leave the establishment the same day for alleged 'crack-smoking' in their room.

This reaction of fear and fascination is exactly what has taken Snoop all the way from being a 'hustler' (loafer and small-time drug-pedlar) with the street gang the Long Beach Crips, to a platinum-selling artist. His album Doggystyle has sold three million copies and was the first debut rap album to go straight to Number 1 in the Billboard chart. Snoopy (his grandmother nicknamed him for his long ears) came to prominence on former NWA member Dr Dre's 1992 album The Chronic, where he provided about 65 per cent of the rapping. He played a sell-out show on Thursday, Friday he was on The Word, and on Saturday the Daily Star's front-page headline declared: KICK THIS EVIL BASTARD OUT] Things couldn't have gone better.

Snoop's power rests with the way he shuttles between being the nasty little homie harping on about glocks (guns), 'byaaatches' and 'hos', and the softly-spoken, innocent commentator at the centre of a storm of everybody else's making. He's the gangsta you could take home to mother.

Not for him the sneering pessimism of Ice-T, the rage of Ice Cube, or bully boy posturing of Naughty By Nature's MC Treach. At The Word's studios, Snoop, who is 6ft- 4in in his tube socks, shuffled around with his blue bandana tied round his head like a charlady, while his posse - the rappers Kurupt and That Nigga Daz, plus the cartoonist Joe Cool - sat about too shy to chat up the dancers.

For the show at the Equinox club in Leicester Square the night before, Snoop came on stage around 2am and stood for the first minute soaking up the hysteria in his black- and-white plaid shirt, arms horizontal, his braided head cocked to one side in the manner of a crucifix. 'London, it's cooler than a motherfucker out here,' he said with satisfaction on Saturday. 'That many niggas together in one place in LA? They'd be fightin' and shit, but London is cool.'

Sitting down to yet another interview, 23-year-old Calvin Broadus, as he was born, kept up his amazing mixture of humility and arrogance. His devotion to Dr Dre, who gave him his big break, is almost canine. Of Dre and Ice Cube's temporary falling out, he says: 'That's why we wrote 'Dre Day' and slid that li'l line about South Central, just to let him know - Dre gone sleep on you but I ain't' The arrogance consists of blithely talking up his status - he adapted Slick Rick's 'Lodi Dodi' as a tribute, but also 'to bring it to global recognition'. But he is unfailingly polite, even when his long-awaited shopping trip is cut to a 15-minute whizz round a shoe shop with a camera crew and the Caribbean Times in tow.

Just as his rapping is strongly melodic, working his Mississippi drawl and slipping into silly, even camp, little tunes, so his everyday speech has something added. He speaks quickly and rhythmically, embarking on discursive loops that are often illogical but have an alluring assurance to them.

On the recent killing of Tyrone Thomas, the organiser of the gang truce, who was even invited to President Clinton's inauguration, he alternately says that the 'peace treaty' is nonsense, merely sustained by a temporary glut in the trading of looted products ('TVs 'n' shit'), and then a real possibility.

'I think one of them high- powered mofos paid one of these stupid ass niggas to go smoke him. Mofos think I'm crazy for saying that, 'cos it happened somewhere in South Central, but that shit happens, man.'

Even Dre had his reservations about the amount of swearing, but words such as 'motherfucker' are just rhythmic fillers for a rapper like Snoop - depending on requirements, the word runs at anything from two to four syllables. In speech he often breaks into little rhymes, in love with the mesmeric power of his own language.

After the gig he and the Dogg Pound went straight to Capital Radio, where they 'freestyled' for 10 minutes, rapping to a backbeat without a script. There was a lot of filler here too: phrases such as 'and ya don't stop', 'on and on' and 'the D-O-double G' kept the whole thing in motion, but the trio genuinely played off each other and made each other laugh, wringing rhymes out of such words as 'clearer' and 'mirror', 'snitched on me' and 'century', and even 'Aunty Mary' and '61st and Cherry'.

When he doesn't wish to answer a question, Snoop just stares and shakes his head, but in a knowing rather than a mean way. Reluctant to talk about the case that is due in the spring, he perks up when asked if he is going to rap in court. He repeats the question, pauses, and replies. 'Yeeeh.' Then he falls into a long appreciation of 'macking' - verbal persuasion as practised by lawyers and pimps alike. 'That'd be some wicked shit.'

Unlike his politicised fellow rappers, Snoop Doggy Dogg's subjects are, for now, limited to the 'hood, just as his lyrical style is the word- bending slang of a bunch of lads who hang out together. He is both mindful of his roots and a complete fantasist. What would he be doing if he wasn't a rapper? 'I'm very educational, dog. If this rap shit wasn't happening, I'd be a true hustler. It probably wouldn't be no wrong-doing hustler but I'd be managing a great boxer, somebody like Mike Tyson, and he wouldn't be in jail. He'd be knocking mofos out and getting dollars 25m a night. Mike Tyson and Doggy Dogg? C'mon baby that's an instant hit.'

(Photograph omitted)