Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nate Dogg - A Hip Hop Legend and West Coast Giant

I tried so hard to start this blog with words but I couldn't. I'm literally tearing up listening to this song because it was part of my childhood. Nate Dogg dead at 41? Somehow I always hoped that despite those two strokes, he'd survive and come back to make one more song with Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre's Detox.

For those like me who grew up in Los Angeles, Nate Dogg was just as much a part of the West Coast scene as any rapper. His rough but smooth voice was the icing for the G-funk/gangsta rap era but it was special because nobody sounded like him before or after. He was the first go-to-guy to sing hooks on a record who didn't sound soft but enhanced the rap vibe of the song.

"Regulate" not only kept the West Coast buzz alive in 1994 along with Snoop's Doggystyle album, it saved Def Jam from extinction. The label was nearly broke in the mid-90s before Warren G signed with Violator Records, a subsidiary of Def Jam, and thanks to this song, his debut went triple platinum and kept the label afloat.

Look at Nate Dogg's list of contributions - Tupac, DJ Quik, Pharaoh Monch & Mos Def, Eminem (Til I Collapse is even more ominous with Nate's voice). He helped Fabolous have his first hit, Ludacris his first non-album hit, 50 Cent cross over to the ladies, and gave Westside Connection their last hit where Cube certified his status with "It ain't a single til Nate Dogg sings on it." This man wasn't just a rapper, he was every bit a talented singer who gave songs a gritty, yet golden touch.

I know this album got slept on heavily by folks. 

Here in Cali though, he means more than just a precursor to Akon and T-Pain. We grew up on his solo songs "Never Leave Me Alone" and "I Got Love" and his classic hooks on jams like Tupac's "All About You", Snoop Dogg "Ain't No Fun" and many more, Shade Shiest "Where I Wanna Be", Kurupt's "Girls All Pause", Warren G's "Game Don't Wait", Dr. Dre's "Next Episode" and "Xxxplosive", The Game "Where I'm From" and finally the remix to Snoop's "Boss Life" which I wish was on Blue Carpet Treatment instead of Akon.

We love Dr. Dre, we love Snoop Dogg and we love Tupac. But Nate Dogg is loved just as much because he was part of the innovation and sound of an era. He repped Long Beach with his childhood friends Warren G and Snoop Dogg and knowing their history - the 213 album and songs "Im Fly" and "Groupie Love" meant more than just a supergroup. It was friends coming together, which is exactly what hip hop is about.

I was proud to hear that 93.5 KDAY interrupted program format to play Nate Dogg songs. We know that radio today is more programming and less jocks but for them to interrupt says a lot about this moment. They said that DJ Pooh and others called in to pay respects. At a time where I've hated LA hip hop radio for going too pop, its only fitting that the best hip-hop station left stopped what they were doing and connected with the people.

I know Power 106 did their own tribute, but KDAY needs to be commended for being right there when it happened.

It was even sadder to me because when I saw Snoop Dogg at Rock The Bells last year, he had the old Death Row gang up there with him performing Doggystyle. Dogg Pound, Lady of Rage, RBX, Warren G. The only one not there was Nate and Snoop asked everyone to sing Nate's part on "Aint No Fun" to show him love in the hospital.

I'm not gonna say it's one of the greatest openings ever, but as far as verses that the most folks will know RIGHT AWAY and sing word-for-word, you'd be hard pressed to find many memorable than Nate on that song.

It's a sad day for hip hop but an even sadder one for the West Coast. A childhood memory now gone. Let Nate get the final word with "Never Leave Me Alone" and remember a true original. Rest in peace, Nathaniel Hale.

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