Nate Dogg: Singer who gave a soulful dimension to a raft of G-funk and gangsta rap records

Over the last two decades, the demarcation lines between hip-hop and R&B have become blurred as the two genres have cross-pollinated through the use of samples, the proliferation of remixes and the ubiquity of guest appearances by vocalists and rappers on each other's records. Nate Dogg, the singer whose signature baritone gave dozens of "G-funk" and gangsta rap tracks a soulful dimension, played a pivotal role in that development.

Starting in 1994 with "Regulate", the gorgeous Transatlantic Top 5 pop smash he and Warren G based on a sample of Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)", Nate Dogg appeared on some of the biggest hits of the following decade, alongside Snoop Dogg, his childhood friend, Dr. Dre, the rapper and producer he most admired, as well as Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent, Eminem, Shade Sheist, Kurupt, Ludacris, Tha Dogg Pound and Xzibit. His rich tones added a melancholy touch or acted like a Greek chorus, often lifting generic hip-hop tracks out of the ordinary and making them more palatable to mainstream radio. He was also employed to great effect on albums or remixes by artists looking for a dash of street credibility, such as Craig David, Mariah Carey and Mark Ronson.

Many R&B and rap afficionados think Nate Dogg would have become a bigger star in his own right but for the fact that he signed to Death Row Records, the West Coast company run by the notorious Suge Knight. The release of his first solo album was delayed after Knight became implicated in the feud with his East Coast rival, Puff Daddy, that claimed the lives of Tupac Shakur in 1996 and The Notorious B.I.G. the following year, and Death Row's business affairs began to unravel. "Everybody was new in the game, so we weren't really tripping on royalties," Nate Dogg later reflected. "I would say it got out of hand when Tupac passed. A lot of people started wanting to look into it. It's just the response Death Row gave his mother when she was looking for money. It all made us want to go and see about our money. They said that Tupac spent all his money up on girls, which was mighty funny."

By the time Nate Dogg issued his debut, G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2, in the summer of 1998, it had grown into a less impactful double CD, even if "Nobody Does It Better", featuring Warren G, made the US Top 20. Gangsta funk, a synth-heavy blend of hip-hop and R&B, favouring slower tempos than its antecedents in keeping with the West Coast's sunnier climes, had also peaked in popularity. Nate Dogg released two more albums under his own name, and remained the go-to guest vocalist of choice for many of his contemporaries.

Born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale in Long Beach, California in 1969, he grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where his father was a pastor, but returned to the West Coast every summer to visit his grandmother, and eventually moved back there in his teens. He first sang in church alongside his siblings. "That's where I get my voice from, I got a gospel voice," he told Vice magazine in 2004. "My family don't listen to R&B – never have, never will. My idols were Marvin [Gaye], Stevie [Wonder], Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire. But I was also into the Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now". I remember sitting up in my room, writing melodies."

He first met Snoop Dogg in the early Eighties. "They had them little church picnics and basketball games, that's where I got to know him, a real cool dude who was always trying to out-freestyle everybody," he recalled. "I started writing raps, but I sung them instead because I was in the choir."

He dropped out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School in the mid-Eighties, and enlisted in the Marines, but went AWOL after three years. After a dishonourable discharge, he returned to California in 1990 and began dealing drugs. "Both Snoop's and my mommas kicked us out. The crime was just to get by on a day-to-day. We'd make $100, spend $75, and put the rest towards music. Once we got our record deals, all that criminal shit was out the door," he said.

Now known as Nate Dogg, he formed 213, a group named after the local area code, with Snoop, and Warren G mixing and scratching. Influenced by LL Cool J and Run DMC, they made a tape in a small studio at the back of V.I.P. Records, their local music store. "I think it was called 'Long Beach Is a Motherfucker'," he recalled of the demo that caught the ear of Dr. Dre, Warren G's stepbrother.

Though 213 would only release a group album in 2004, both Snoop and Nate Dogg signed to Death Row and contributed to The Chronic, Dr. Dre's multi-million selling 1992 album, which put G-Funk and them on the musical map. Nate Dogg became Dre's ace in the pack and provided catchy vocal hooks for Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle in 1993 and Tupac's All Eyez on Me in 1996. He also guested on R&B or crossover hits by Mos Def, Fabolous, Houston, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri and Obie Trice.

"Regulate" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, as was "The Next Episode", the 2000 Top 3 single credited to Dr. Dre but featuring Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Kurupt as well. Nate Dogg also earned nominations in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category for his equally memorable cameos on "Area Codes" with Ludacris, in 2001, and "Shake That" with Eminem, in 2005.

In December 2007 Nate Dogg suffered a stroke that paralysed the left side of his body. He underwent physical therapy and seemed on his way to making a good recovery when he suffered another stroke in September 2008. He died from complications related to those strokes.

Pierre Perrone

Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, aka Nate Dogg, singer, producer, songwriter: born Long Beach, California 19 August 1969; died Long Beach 15 March 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory