Photo: Jason Siegel
GRiZ Talks Pride, Snoop Dogg Collab, Detroit's Music Scene, Giving Back & More
"Be loud, be you, make some noise about it. And be of service to other people when they're in need," the DJ/producer said in a conversation with the Recording Academy
Funky-bass DJ/producer/saxophone player Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, has been getting people grooving to his joyful brand of dance music for quite some time now. He self-released his first LP, End Of The World Party, in 2011 and, most recently, released his sixth album, Ride Waves, in April 2019. GRiZ's latest not only features his quintessential upbeat sound, but also an epic, somewhat unexpected list of collaborators, including Snoop Dogg, Matisyahu, Bootsy Collins and DRAM.
We caught up with GRiZ before he performed at the It Gets Better Project Pride party in Los Angeles to learn what Pride and being part of the LGBTQ+ means to him, among other topics. We also learned more about his career beginnings in Detroit, why giving back is so important to him, and the magic behind the collabs on Ride Waves.
The collaborators on Ride Waves are amazing. How did you choose this group going into the album?
I feel like I fell into some of these people's spaces. The Matisyahu thing, I stumbled into that because the bass player, this guy Stu Brooks who is music directing [our appearance at] Bonnaroo and SuperJam, he played with Matisyahu in their band. He's like, "We got to link you guys up." It's like, "Cool. Awesome. Yeah, that sounds great."
The Snoop Dogg thing, that was more calculated. As a kid, [I was] a major hip-hop fan.
I really love that track; what was it like working with Snoop? How did that collab manifest?
It was really, really trippy too, we got the collaboration and I got the vocals back from them. It was just the weirdest thing, it was like an email that had treasure inside of it. It was like, there's these vocals that are in this email and you open it up, it's like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. You're like, "Oh my God."
Then working with DRAM was super awesome because I've been a huge fan of his since a few years ago; he's fresh on the scene right now. I had a chance to talk with him, talk through the collaboration with him and spin him the idea. When he sent back the work that he did on it, it just felt so right.
Sometimes you work with collaborators and stuff and you feel like you're forcing this thing to happen. You're like, "I don't know how these puzzle pieces are going to fit together but maybe we can make them work." In that case specifically [with DRAM], it felt like even before he had been involved with the song he was there from the beginning.
The Snoop Dogg feature, that's just like ... I don't know. When does he sound bad? That just doesn't exist. That's just not a thing.
That's so cool. So in terms of the creative process, it was like you had some ideas going into it but it all came together organically.
Yeah. Absolutely. I knew specifically the kind of thing that I really wanted to hear. For me it felt like a risk because I love the music that I make. Because I make music that works for me in my life. It's what I use as a point of celebration or things I like to rock out to. Or the music that I make is stuff that I use for a contemplative healing moment, as a point of catharsis for "this is how I'm feeling. I got to get this out."
Sometimes things feel really personal and it's hard to give somebody else, to let them hold the space. So hopefully they can represent the way you're feeling. Giving a sentimental gospel tune to Wiz Khalifa was like, I don't know man, maybe he's going to be like, "Is this about weed or something like that?" [Laughs.] That was another one of the songs that I don't feel like we really forced it too much with the features for this album. Things rolled along really nicely.
I don't think that anything ever goes exactly to plan, but that's probably for the best. Because the more you try and control a situation it just gets kinda fery-ish. It starts to lose personality.
You got to let it go and see what comes back to you. Everything that we let go and put feelers out for, that came back to us, ended up being the most natural and organic, and ended up creating the best vibe that we could never have planned on our own. I never planned to have Wiz Khalifa on the record. The way that that turned out, it couldn't have happened better.
"To me, Pride really represents bravery. To me that bravery is represented from this unabashed, "This is who I am. These are my personal needs and the things that we deserve as a community."
Can you speak to what Pride means to you?
If you look at it historically, it means one thing. Then I feel like what people were fighting for years ago is different in context to where it is today. But that's necessary because time changes and the needs of culture shifts too. But the basic need is still there.
To me, Pride really represents bravery. To me, that bravery is represented from this unabashed [feeling of]: "This is who I am. These are my personal needs and the things that we deserve as a community." To be brave enough in situations where you're being challenged against your beliefs by other people, to be able to meet those challenges with grace, and with strength, and not give up on how you feel. Not give up your position and the things that you need. Not shy away from the challenge and speak up for yourself.
Sometimes you run into situations where there's obvious hate or there's obviously awkward situations and you're like, "Man, maybe I don't want to make this awkward." You're like, "You know what? No. I need to stand up for the way that I feel about this. You can't be hateful around me or be bigoted around me." I'm not going to stand for that or I'm not going to shy away from holding my boyfriend's hand when I'm walking down the street just because I'm worried about what somebody might think. I want to normalize this.
I think the gay community has gained a lot of visibility over the past few years because of other people's bravery. At this point it's continuing to not shy away from expressing that personal sense of self. That's important.
I love that. And it's 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, which is crazy.
Yeah. It was a group of people who were at the Stonewall Inn. There were police raids happening in New York at gay establishments. They were like, "You can't organize this way. This is illegal." Gay people would resist or not. If you're arrested or resist then it was like, all right, this has reached a climax point. The Gay Liberation Front was the foundation that was birthed out of that. It was birthed out of people standing up for themselves and being like, "You know what? Nah. I'm not going to go quietly. We're not going to let you arrest us and kick us out of our spot."
That's the spirit that we need to continue to hold onto. It's great to celebrate around it because that's awesome. If you can take something that has a really deep historical context, and something that has a lot of weight to it, and put fun behind it then you can normalize this thing. Maybe that's what's great about throwing a party and drinking and being with your friends. It's like, let's maybe make this whole being gay thing look really f*ing extra normal and fun. We can just secretly convince everybody that it's chill. [Laughs.] That would be nice.
Well, you have some great things planned for Pride, including a party here in L.A. this afternoon with It Gets Better. Do you want to talk about any of the specific things that you're getting involved in?
Yeah. I did a partnership with MeUndies, which is important to me because The Happy Hippie Foundation is a great charity. A portion of the profits from the MeUndies Pride underwear is going towards the foundation, whose charitable outreach is to create safe spaces for young people who are gay and have been kicked out of their homes or need to link up with other people in the LGBTQ+ community. They are the resource for that and without money they can't exist. We need to give them money; if you buy cool underwear then money will be given to charities so that if kids get put out on the street because their parents aren't cool with them being gay, then they have a place to go; that's the reality of this sh*t. If you're down with the cause go buy a pair of underwear and help out.
It's almost exactly two years since you wrote your moving HuffPost letter. Can you speak to what it was like sharing that and sharing that side of you that you hadn't before with your fans?
Sure. I think I needed to get to a point where I had a substantial career behind me because I didn't want to be defined by sexual orientation. Because I think that... it would kinda suck. I want to be defined by the things that I do—not who I decide to date.
At the time, I felt like this was in a good enough spot [to come out]. I was like, "Okay, cool. I've done my rounds and I'm cool with it on a personal level." I don't even see it as a thing. It's just what life is for me. Sometimes I get these reminders that I'm like, "Okay, cool. Not everybody thinks that that's normal." There's definitely a rift there. I think that it was important now that I reached this point where I was comfortable with myself, comfortable with the music and I was like, "All right, cool. I feel like this could help people."
After writing that op-ed I've talked with a lot of kids in the GRiZ fan space mostly. Then new kids outside of it that are like, "I don't really know you as a DJ nor do I really care but I really f with your story. I really f with you as a person because I feel similarly." It's important and hopefully it's maybe inspirational for other people who are like, "I don't know if I want to do that, to come out."
That was the Harvey Milk thing, it was like we need to have people come out and represent the community, because if we are all hiding it doesn't really help. We need this movement to grow. We need to be represented in public and that will help other people find the courage within themselves. Then it's like a domino effect, hopefully. Then you'll see this thing being normalized and hopefully less people will feel outcasted because of their feelings towards their own sexuality. Suicide rates would drop. People would be living healthier lifestyles. Drug use will hopefully go down, and depression, all that kind of stuff.
I saw so much great support from the queer community. I was so surprised to hear so many kids coming out of the woodworks and being like, "Wow, that's my story too. Thank you so much for sharing that. It's helped me come to terms with the way that I feel. Now I'm having these conversations with my family and my friends." That's helping. It helped a lot of people. For me it was reaffirming as well to feel like, "All right. Cool. We're out people. That's just it." It doesn't need to be some weirdo thing. It's like, "Yeah, I'm a gay person. So what?"
I'm sure it connected on a very personal level with so many of your fans. Did any of them reach out to you and come out to you, or anything like that?
Oh, yeah. I mean, there was a few kids that I was talking to on a more personal level. A lot of people were just like, "Yo, thank you so much. Awesome. That helps a lot," but there were a few Twitter DMs and a few Instagram DMs that I read through that I was like, "All right. Cool. I want to talk this person through it." People on some serious levels. "I've been struggling with this my entire life. Since you wrote this article I feel like I finally have a jumping off spot."
Like, "How? Tell me more. Do you have any advice?" I ended up talking with a few kids. Then we did Camp Kulabunga. It gave me these tools to be able to talk about this with people, and understand on a therapeutic level how to be able to connect with people, and just have a conversation and continue a dialog that is soothing for struggling kids because I was one of those kids. I get that. Having that relatability aspect is so huge because a lot of people don't have that. I didn't have that when I was a kid. Growing up through this, there wasn't somebody I could just be like, "Hey, so tell me what that was like for you?" There just wasn't that. I didn't have that. There wasn't an example of this. I could ask my mom but she didn't f*ing know.
You spoke to it a little already, but what role has music played for you when you were going through the more challenging parts in your life? Was it always an outlet for you?
Yeah. That's always the safe space. Sometimes words don't do it, like trying to have a conversation with people. I need that emotional feeling of music. That's always been my therapy, having headphone space and listening to music loudly. I don't know what it is, it's just some physics of the sound and, I don't know, but it does it. I can tune the world out and just enjoy that. It can completely turn my day around, a good song. I don't know what it is but yeah, music is my safe space.
I think it is for a lot of people. I also think it's really cool when artists share their personal stories, too.
You know the body weight blankets? It's like that. It feels like a cuddle in music.
"When I can't relate and when I'm feeling awkward, when I'm feeling out of place, I will always be understood and I can always feel understood through music."
A sonic cuddle.
Yeah. That's like what it is. When I can't relate and when I'm feeling awkward, when I'm feeling out of place, I will always be understood and I can always feel understood through music.
When you make music, is that something that has always been important to you? To create upbeat, joyful music?
Sometimes it's like both, right? Sometimes I'm just feeling like I need to write a song that reminds me to put a smile on or sometimes I want to write a song that's going to make me feel happy. Or sometimes I'm feeling really good and I just want to write a really happy song. Sometimes I'm feeling really sh*t and I want to write a song so that I can just get it out, some crazy dubstep something or another and I can just rage for a second because I need that.
Most of the time I'm like, "I need music that's just going to make me feel really cool." It's like putting on a dope pair of clothes and new sneakers. You're like, "Yo, all right. Cool. That's my sh*t." That's my mood most of the time. Saxophone is the instrument that I play and funk is the rhythm that makes my heart beat so it always tends to land somewhere in there.
You grew up in Detroit, which is such a breeding ground for amazing underground music. How did growing up there influence what you listen to and the music you make?
I think the big thing for me, kind of the reason why I'm playing saxophone and doing this whole DJ thing, was there was just this underground movement, and it wasn't techno. This was after techno. There was the underground, alternative pre-EDM scene for kids in downtown Detroit. They would have people like Dan Deacon come through and do shows. It was just bizarro sh*t... It was this nebulous zone of people just trying to figure out what is cool.
There weren't real paid gigs. They would just have parties in their lofts. It was this collective of kids called the Scrummage Kids. They had this thing called Scrummage University that was like, we didn't go to college, we did that. It was really inspiring to see these kids. I was producing music since I was 14 but this was now in the performance space. I was like, "I didn't know you could play this music out to people."
I'd go down to Detroit and see these kids do this stuff, experiment and have fun, and just go way beyond. That really inspired me to just do whatever I wanted. It broke all the rules for what a performance space was so I was like, "Maybe I'll do a saxophone thing. Maybe it'll be like hip-hop beats but danceable."
Then at Michigan State University, during my time there, it gave me the platform to actually do this in a performance space. They're like, now we have parties in basements where guys and girls live. They're called co-ops. There's a bunch of hippies. This was before the DJ movement in America, really. We weren't doing the EDC thing, how it is now. We weren't doing the Marshmello thing. Skrillex hadn't been a thing yet. Dubstep hadn't come to America yet.
We were figuring out this weird thing and it was like this strange electronic music performance space. Where nobody really knew what we were doing but it was cool and it was ours. It was techno, it was indie dance, it was pre-dubstep, it was hip-hop, it was electronica. I was like, "Cool. I'm going to play my music and play saxophone, and it's going to be f*ing weird." That's where that inspiration started.
In terms of giving back to your community, you do a lot. You've done six years of GRiZMAS, right?
What are your thoughts on artists using their platform to speak up on getting involved in causes that are important to them? And what's your biggest driver in that sense right now?
I feel like it's your responsibility to do it, if you have a life that's easy. I have an easy life. I decide to work a lot. You know what I'm saying? I think it's a responsibility.
I see things in my world that are nice. If I want nice things I got to work for them or I've got to insert. If I want a nice education, I'm going to pay money and taxes or something and that's got to happen a certain way. If I want nice schools, and I want arts in education in schools, and I want to see these certain things well then I need to contribute to that, otherwise I'm just complaining about a problem. I don't want to be that kind of a person. I feel like it's my duty to contribute.
We have to do something. I have to do something. I support Seven Mile Music. They do really awesome work. They create after school music programs for kids who don't have music education during the school day. That's what we can do. This is our community and we just got to help. We got to help each other out. The entire world would be better if we could all just fucking pitch in. Just do a little bit of something. Maybe by doing that it will inspire other people to do something. I don't care what it is, just do something.
I feel that. It's a lot easier to complain, but…
It doesn't help anybody. People need help and if you're just complaining, those words aren't going to help feed people or add art to the world, or help create places where people can feel more mentally stable or have outlets for counseling. That doesn't help, us just sitting around saying, "Oh, I wish it was better." It's like, "Okay. [Laughs.] Do something and then let's party."
Photo: ZIK Images/United Archives via Getty Images
15 Reissues And Archival Releases For Your Holiday Shopping List
2023 was a banner year for reissues and boxed sets; everyone from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones got inspired expansions and repackagings. Here are 15 more to scoop up before 2023 gives way to 2024.
Across 2023, we've been treated to a shower of fantastic reissues, remixes and/or expansions. From the Beatles' Red and Blue albums, to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, to the Who's Who's Next, the list is far too massive to fit into a single article.
And, happily, it's not over yet: from now until Christmas, there are plenty more reissues to savor — whether they be mere vinyl represses, or lavish plumbings of the source material replete with outtakes.
As you prepare your holiday shopping list, don't sleep on these 15 reissues for the fellow music fanatic in your life — or pick up a bundle for yourself!
X-Ray Spex - Conscious Consumer (Vinyl Reissue)
Whether you view them through the lens of Black woman power or simply their unforgettable, snarling anthems, English punks X-Ray Spex made an indelible mark with their debut 1978 album, Germfree Adolescents.
Seventeen years later, they made a less-discussed reunion album, 1995's Conscious Consumer — which has been unavailable over the next 27 years. After you (re)visit Germfree Adolescents, pick up this special vinyl reissue, remastered from the original tape.
That's out Dec. 15; pre-order it here.
Fall Out Boy - Take This to Your Grave (20th Anniversary Edition)
Released the year before their breakthrough 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree — the one with "Dance, Dance" and "Sugar, We're Goin Down" on it — Fall Out Boy's Take This to Your Grave remains notable and earwormy. The 2004 album aged rather well, and contains fan favorites like "Dead on Arrival."
Revisit the two-time GRAMMY nominees' Myspace-era gem with its 20th anniversary edition, which features a 36-page coffee table book and two unreleased demos: "Colorado Song" and "Jakus Song." It's available Dec. 15.
Coheed and Cambria - Live at the Starland Ballroom
Coheed and Cambria is more than a long-running rock band; they're a sci-fi multimedia universe, as well as a preternaturally tight live band.
Proof positive of the latter is Live at the Starland Ballroom, a document of a performance at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 2004 — that hasn't been on vinyl until now. Grab it here; it dropped Nov. 24, for Record Store Day Black Friday.
Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark Demos
Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972–1975), from last October, is a terrific way to do just that; its unvarnished alternate versions strip away the '70s gloss to spellbinding effect.
Which is no exception regarding the Court and Spark demos, which got a standalone release for RSD Black Friday.
P!NK - TRUSTFALL (Deluxe Edition)
The dependable Pink returned in 2023 with the well-regarded TRUSTFALL, and it's already getting an expanded presentation.
Its Deluxe Edition is filled with six previously unheard live recordings from her 2023 Summer Carnival Stadium Tour. Therein, you can find two new singles, including "Dreaming," a collaboration with Marshmello and Sting. Pre-order it today.
Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle (30th Anniversary Edition)
After his star-making turn on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, 16-time GRAMMY nominee Snoop Dogg stepped out with his revolutionary, Dre-assisted debut album, Doggystyle.
Permeated with hedonistic, debaucherous fun, the 1993 classic only furthered G-funk's momentum as a force within hip-hop.
Revisit — or discover — the album via this 30-year anniversary reissue, available now on streaming and vinyl.
As per the latter, the record is available special color variants, including a gold foil cover and clear/cloudy blue vinyl via Walmart, a clear and black smoke vinyl via Amazon and a green and black smoke vinyl via indie retailers.
Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys 20
Alicia Keys has scored an incredible 15 GRAMMYs and 31 nominations — and if that run didn't exactly begin with 2003's The Diary of Alicia Keys, that album certainly cemented her royalty.
Her heralded second album, which features classics like "Karma," "If I Was Your Woman"/"Walk On By" and "Diary," is being reissued on Dec. 1 — expanded to 24 tracks, and featuring an unreleased song, "Golden Child."
The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set)
Fifty-seven years has done nothing to dim the appeal of 1965's The Sound of Music — both the flick and its indelible soundtrack.
Re-immerse yourself in classics like "My Favorite Things" via The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set), which arrives Dec. 1.
The box contains more than 40 previously unreleased tracks, collecting every musical element from the film for the first time, along with instrumentals for every song, demos and rare outtakes from the cast.
Furthermore, an audio Blu-ray features the full score in hi-res plus a new Dolby Atmos mix of the original soundtrack. And the whole shebang is housed in a 64-page hardbound book with liner notes from film preservationist Mike Matessino.
ABBA - The Visitors (Deluxe Edition)
With their eighth album, 1981's The Visitors, the Swedish masterminds — and five-time GRAMMY nominees — stepped away from lighter fare and examined themselves more deeply than ever.
The result was heralded as their most mature album to date — and has been repackaged before, with a Deluxe Edition in 2012.
This (quite belated) 40th anniversary edition continues its evolution in the marketplace. And better late than never: The Visitors was their final album until their 2021 farewell, Voyage, and on those terms alone, deserves reexamination.
Aretha Franklin - A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974
A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974 compiles her first five albums of the 1970s: This Girl's In Love With You, Spirit in the Dark, Young Gifted and Black, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), and Let Me In Your Life.
Each has been remastered from the analog master tapes. The vinyl version has a bonus disc of session alternates, outtakes & demos. Both CD and vinyl versions are packaged with booklets featuring sleeve notes by Gail Mitchell and David Nathan. Grab it on Dec. 1.
Fela Kuti - Box Set #6
From the great beyond, Fela Kuti has done music journalists a solid in simply numbering his boxes. But this isn't just any Kuti box: it's curated by the one and only Idris Elba, who turned in a monumental performance as Stringer Bell on "The Wire."
The fifth go-round contains the Afrobeat giant's albums Open & Close, Music of Many Colors, Stalemate, I Go Shout Plenty!!!, Live In Amsterdam (2xLP), and Opposite People. It includes a 24 page booklet featuring lyrics, commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May, and never-before-seen photos.
The box is only available in a limited edition of 5,000 worldwide, so act fast: it's also available on Dec. 1.
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (The Baskerville Edition) / Hounds of Love (The Boxes of Lost Sea)
Kate Bush rocketed back into the public consciousness in 2022, via "Stranger Things." The lovefest continues unabated with these two editions of Hounds of Love, which features that signature song: "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God.)
The Rolling Stones - December's Children (And Everybody's), Got Live If You Want It! And The Rolling Stones No. 2 (Vinyl Reissues)
These three '60s Stones albums have slipped between the cracks over the years — but if you love the world-renowned rock legends in its infancy, they're essential listens.
No. 2 is their second album from 1965; the same year's December's Children is the last of their early songs to lean heavily on covers; Got Live If You Want It! is an early live document capturing the early hysteria swarming around the band.
On Dec. 1, they're reissued on 180g vinyl; for more information and to order, visit here.
Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother (Special Edition)
No, it's not half as famous as The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall — but 1970's lumpy Atom Heart Mother certainly has its partisans.
Rediscover a hidden corner of the Floyd catalog — the one between Ummagumma and Meddle — via this special edition, which features newly discovered live footage from more than half a century ago.
The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
After endless fraternal infighting, the Black Crowes are back — can they keep it together?
In the meantime, their second album, 1992's The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, remains a stellar slice of roots rock — as a sprawling, three-disc Super Deluxe Edition bears out. If you're a bird of this feather, don't miss it when it arrives on Dec. 15.
Photo: mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
Snoop Dogg's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Display His Charismatic Style And Range
As the rapper's seminal debut album Doggystyle celebrates its 30th anniversary, dig into some of the best and most popular songs in Snoop Dogg's discography, from "Gin and Juice" to "I'm From 21st Street."
Thirty years ago, a rap music legend began his journey to immortality — and to Martha Stewart.
Most in-the-know music fans were aware of Snoop Doggy Dogg (as he was then known) because of his collaborations with Dr. Dre. First there was "Deep Cover" from the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Then there were his memorable contributions to Dre's The Chronic, which came out in late 1992.
So the world was primed for Snoop's solo debut Doggystyle when it was released into the world on November 23, 1993. The album sold around 800,000 copies in its first week, and set the stage for Snoop to become a superstar, one who would eventually reach a stage of pop-culture ubiquity that mid-90s rap fans — and those people who saw his scowl on the cover of Newsweek as the literal face of the question of whether rap was too violent — could have never imagined.
To celebrate the anniversary of Doggystyle's release, GRAMMY.com is revisiting the D-O-double-G's biggest and best musical moments. A quick note: this list does not include songs that appear on another artist's album (hey, we had to draw the line somewhere!), so there's no "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" or "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted." And we tried to pull from all eras of his career, so it's not all Doggystyle (though you should, of course, listen to that classic in its entirety).
So with all that said, here we are: 15 of Snoop Dogg's most popular and most dynamic songs.
"Deep Cover" with Dr. Dre, Deep Cover soundtrack (1992)
Snoop's very first recorded song — his introduction to the world at large — occurred over a Dre beat so powerful, with a bassline so iconic, that it became the foil for not one, not two, but three classic songs (plus a nasty Biggie freestyle). The duo's lyrical chemistry was undeniable as they traded verses throughout. And, of course, there's the song's chorus, in which Snoop introduced California penal code 187 into the national lexicon.
The track and its video loosely parallel the plot of the movie on whose soundtrack it appears, the absolutely nuts (and surprisingly entertaining) Deep Cover, directed by Bill Duke and starring Laurence Fishburne.
"Who Am I (What's My Name)?" Doggystyle (1993)
This track wasn't just the world's introduction to Doggystyle — it lets fans know that the Dre-and-Snoop chemistry they'd heard on The Chronic was not a fluke. The track's George Clinton and P-Funk interpolations also showed that Dre was still in his bag, and Snoop's vocal performance was one for the ages. Still in his very early 20s, the rapper was adept at mythmaking, showing the audience how he would "step through the fog" and "creep through the smog" to deliver his charismatic raps.
As if that wasn't enough, the song's Fab 5 Freddy-directed video showed Snoop's sense of humor, as it featured the rapper and his compatriots morphing into literal dogs.
"Gin and Juice," Doggystyle (1993)
Any rap fan of a certain age can not only spit this song word for word, but also quote pretty much every line in the video ("Snoop Doggy Dogg! You need to get a jobby-job"). Just say the words "Laid back…" to pretty much anyone who is at the age where they can say complete sentences, and you'll get "With my mind on my money and my money on my mind" in response.
The song and video created an image for Snoop that was fun-loving and comic — one that he rode (sometimes in a Chrysler) all the way to a decades-long career as a pitchman, TV host and overall personality that would at first glance seem incongruous for an avowed Crip from Long Beach. Beyond all the myth-making, though, it's just a fantastic song, one that Rolling Stone included in its 100 best rap songs of all time list.
"Gz and Hustlas," Doggystyle (1993)
This Doggystyle highlight begins with a hilarious skit that ends with a funny and profane punchline from a very young Bow Wow. It just gets better from there.
Snoop has said that this is one of his two personal favorites from his debut album. Not unrelatedly, he's also admitted that the whole thing was improvised while he was just checking a mic. And as we'll see on the "Afro Puffs" remix, freestyling Snoop is the best Snoop. That's certainly the case here. The sample of Bernard Wright's "Haboglabotribin" provides the perfect soundtrack for the ride.
"Murder Was the Case," Doggystyle (1993)
This song is the Faustian tale of a young man who survives a shooting by selling his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal life and a life of riches and success. But, as always with these stories, the protagonist's greed gets the better of him, and the devil gets his due. The narrator ends the story locked up, with only a prison riot to look forward to.
It's a gripping tale that would have eerie real-life resonance when Snoop was actually charged with murder, a charge on which he was famously acquitted. He wrote the song before the incident, a coincidence that affected him so deeply that he decided that "maybe I shouldn't be writing about devilish s— like this."
"Afro Puffs (Extended Remix)" with The Lady of Rage, Above the Rim soundtrack (1994)
Snoop is at his best when he's in the moment — when he's relaxed, freestyling and rapping in his inimitable style about whatever is on his mind. His opening verse on this song is perhaps the quintessential example of that.
He sounds completely at ease, swinging, developing ideas in an unforced way. It's like you're in the studio with Snoop for two solid minutes, watching him warm up and get comfortable. It's a performance style he wouldn't duplicate on any other studio track, even the ones he would also make up on the spot.
"Woof! (feat. Fiend and Mystikal)," Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998)
One of Snoop's first major business and stylistic switches happened in March 1998, when he signed to No Limit Records. What was a Long Beach gangsta rapper doing on a New Orleans label? Well, it turned out to be a pretty great fit, at least on "Woof!"
The track was the second single on Snoop's No Limit debut, and it featured two of the label's stars, Fiend and Mystikal. The Dogg fits perfectly on a track in the label's aggressive, chant-based Southern style (even the track's percussive dog barks manage to add intensity). Snoop adopts a more free rhythmic approach here, perhaps influenced by his all-over-the-beat labelmates. It's fascinating to hear, and it works amazingly well.
"B— Please (feat. Xzibit)," No Limit Top Dogg (1999)
One of the things Snoop is greatest at is, to put it in crass, unavoidable terms, pimp talk. "B— Please" might be his ultimate entry into the genre. This song features a memorable performance by Xzibit and some classic singing from Nate Dogg. And the Dr. Dre beat is instantly memorable. But what really puts the song over the top is the confidence and style with which Snoop orders an unnamed lady to "hem my coat and roll me some dope."
"Lay Low (feat. Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy, and Tha Eastsidaz)," The Last Meal (2000)
Yes, Xzibit wrote Snoop's verse on this classic posse cut featuring rapping contributions from the Eastsidaz and Snoop's then-label boss Master P. But that doesn't make the Doggfather's contribution any less smooth. It doesn't prevent Nate Dogg's hook from being an unstoppable ear worm. It doesn't make Dr. Dre's beat any less of a minimalist masterpiece. It doesn't make the Eastsidaz's appearances less effective. And it certainly doesn't diminish in any way the single best part of the song: Master P rapping, "They call me Jed Clampett for all the bread I got/ But they call me Bill Clinton for all the head I got."
"Beautiful (feat. Pharrell Williams and Charlie Wilson)," Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$ (2002)
Snoop teaming up with Pharrell gave the Dogg a much-needed early aughts career boost. It turned out that Snoop and P made an unbeatable combination, and one that we will see again later in this very list.
"Beautiful" features an instantly memorable beat whose repetitive syncopated rhythms immediately drive into the listener's skull and don't let up until the song is over. Add in Pharrell's so-off-key-they're-somehow-on vocals, and you have a track that stands out even in the era of Neptunes ubiquity. Snoop adds his own style and grace, and, somehow, a (presumably intentionally) charmingly awkward reference to Clueless.
"Drop It Like It's Hot (feat. Pharrell Williams)," R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (2004)
Snoop and Pharrell made a number of great songs, but this is arguably their masterpiece. This No. 1 hit was so popular that even its ringtone version went double platinum. It was also nominated for a GRAMMY. But accolades and numbers are secondary.
What makes this track is the perfect melding of one the Neptunes' greatest non-Clipse minimalist beats with Snoop's laid-back rapping (and a verse from Pharrell in which he bends his approach towards Snoop's to superb effect). Snoop sounds so relaxed that you might miss all the tough talk, which is delivered in his patented stylish way ("Pistol-whip you, dip you, then flip you/ Then dance to this mothaf—in' music we Crip to").
"Think About It," Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)
This is the song Snoop chose to demonstrate to his own son that after nearly 15 years in the rap world, he could still hold his own. He couldn't have made a better choice.
"Think About It" is dense, wordy, even "intellectual" — a word Snoop comes back to a few times in the track. It's also a seemingly incongruous mixture of aggressive rapping, where Snoop sounds like he's really pushing himself; with laid-back music reminiscent of 1970s soul. And yet that combination, which could be off-putting, somehow works to the advantage of both elements of the song, supplying the rapping with needed comfort and style; and the music with energy and drive.
"Sensual Seduction," Ego Trippin' (2007)
Sometimes known by its uncensored title "Sexual Eruption," this Shawty Redd-produced track was one of Snoop's biggest chart hits, making it all the way to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's also a big left turn for him, featuring Auto-Tuned singing throughout, minus a rap verse in the middle.
The incredibly catchy number started its life as a Shawty Redd solo song called "Drifter," which got leaked and hit the radio. "Snoop wanted to buy that song," Shawty told me a few years back. "At the time, Sylvia Rhone was signing me to Universal/Motown as an artist, and I couldn't sell Snoop that song. So I ended up making ['Sensual Seduction']."
"Young, Wild & Free" (Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa feat. Bruno Mars) Mac & Devin Go To High School (2011)
This track brings together Snoop and a younger weed-obsessed rapper, Wiz Khalifa. But what really makes it a winner is the addition of Bruno Mars, who at that time was in the middle of an absolutely unstoppable run with his crew the Smeezingtons as a hitmaker for both himself and others. This was "F— You"/ "Billionaire"/ "Nothin' on You"-era Bruno, and his composition and hook here is right up there with those pop masterpieces. Snoop and Wiz trade rhymes back and forth with a chemistry that, while perhaps plant-induced, can't be faked.
"I'm From 21st Street (feat. DJ Drama and Stressmatic)," Gangsta Grillz: I Still Got It (2022)
Snoop spent much of the past decade doing unusual one-offs (see 2013's reggae album Reincarnated and 7 Days of Funk, a funk project with DāM-FunK, or 2018's gospel compilation Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love, among others). So when he wanted to get back to his rap roots in 2022, he teamed with Gangsta Grillz mastermind DJ Drama to release a mixtape called I Still Got It. The project, and especially this song, more than proves the title correct.
Snoop tears up the Rick Rock-produced beat, sounding more energized and hungry than he has in a while. The subject matter may be somewhat well-trod ground (it's not far removed from his 1994 track "21 Jumpstreet," which could easily have made this list as well), but how he talks about his past, and the intensity he brings to it, shows that Snoop can still produce great music 30 years into his career.
Photo: Courtesy of Kassa Overall
ReImagined: Kassa Overall Transforms Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" With Jazzy Improvisation
Contemporary jazz star Kassa Overall uses his genre-bending of hip-hop and jazz to offer a new perspective on Snoop Dogg's 2004 hit single with Pharrell, "Drop It Like It's Hot."
While Snoop Dogg and Pharrell boast a bevy of chart-toppers across their respective careers, both artists' first No. 1 can be traced back to 2003 thanks to one special single: "Drop It Like It's Hot." The track went on to receive two GRAMMY nominations, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Duo/Group Performance. By the end of the 2000s, Billboard declared it the most popular rap song of the decade.
In this episode of ReImagined, contemporary jazz artist and drummer Kassa Overall delivers a live performance of "Drop It Like It's Hot" from a highway. Overall uses pieces of the song's original iconic production — like its tongue clicks — but ultimately turns it into his own with jazzy improvisation.
Overall's spirited performance is a teaser for what fans can expect on his Ready to Ball World Tour, which kicked off with a sold-out performance in Tokyo on Oct. 19. The trek will see Overall hit 30 cities in the United States and Europe, ending on March 21 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Press play on the video above to hear Kassa Overall's unique rendition of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell's "Drop It Like It's Hot," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of ReImagined.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.