We are gathered on the roof of the Kress in Hollywood, four floors of elaborate clubby terrain beneath our feet, and above us, menacing gray clouds. It’s cold and Snoop Dogg is late by almost an hour. Down on the sidewalk, the doormen screen and wave through a slow line of elaborate women and men, while throughout the guts of the former Frederick’s of Hollywood building, MTV people bark at each other and drag thick cables from room to room. On the roof, we wait for Snoop, now more than an hour late, and though a canopy deflects the rain, it does nothing for the chill.
We’re all here for Dogg After Dark. MTV’s latest show may seem destined for the network’s vast graveyard, but it’s not without its charm. The series is part late-night talk show, part swanky evening club with Snoop Dogg as the venerable host. Dogg’s third episode, which aired last week, showcased a typical evening: Fall Out Boy lazes on a leather couch and jaw-jacks about cartoons; in a booth full of eye candy, blue-eyed soulster Robin Thicke heaps slangy praise on the host; Ice Cube drops in, big-ups Obama, then gives an “impromptu” performance of “Straight Outta Compton.” In an earlier episode, Paris Hilton freestyles while serving Snoop a cocktail. There are comedy skits too, and the inimitable Uncle Reo, who tonight cooks up delicious barbecue for the Kress patrons.
More important, the show is part of a near-360 deal that Snoop cut with the network. Later this year, MTV will release the gangsta legend’s 10th album, Malice In Wonderland, and the company also promises to add an unspecified number of his career hits to Rock Band. The contract, which includes worldwide distribution for Snoop’s music, is further example of evolution in a changing music industry, and it’s also somewhat terrifying. We roof-dwellers are gathered for a press conference with the Doggfather, and among the 15 or so media outlets represented is MTV’s radio wing. It crosses my mind that even the most intrepid reporter stands to get instantly scooped by the very megacorp that brought us here. Not that there’s bound to be much worth scooping — surely our subject has been schooled.
Or not. At 6:05 p.m. and 49 degrees Fahrenheit, an elevator opens to our right and unloads an impossible number of people, especially considering one of them is 6 feet 4 and wearing a sharp, slim tux that adds about three more feet to that. Snoop drifts out onto the roof and kinda mumbles: “Damn. I thought I was showing up for the TV show. What the fuck is this I’m walking into?”
The questions are predictably light. Who are you looking forward to having on the show? “Clint Eastwood, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and … most of my friends,” Snoop jokes. “My show is open to everybody. It’s me letting people have a comfort zone to do what they feel, because that’s what Dogg After Dark is all about. Anytime you get down with me, you gonna have a good time at all times.”
Is the show modeled on Playboy After Dark? “I wouldn’t say [that]. You know, Hugh Hefner, he had ’em jumping out of swimming pools. I got ’em jumping out of Cadillacs, you understand me? But in all due respect, Hugh Hefner was the first to play it the way I’m playing it.”
Would you have Rihanna or Chris on the show? “Definitely.” Any advice for them? “I would have Dr. Phil on the show too. I’d bring in someone more experienced. Maybe Dr. Drew … or Dr. Dre.”
Snoop is funny and indefatigably cool. He tells us composer Lalo Schifrin gave him the name for his new album (along with a song he has yet to rap over). He says he’s currently listening to “Willie Hutch, Curtis Mayfield … records of that nature,” and seems to revel in breaking new talent on his show — specifically, local electro-rap duo LMFAO. But in the 13 minutes we have with him, he mostly emphasizes this: “It’s not just a host sitting behind a desk interviewing a guest all night. It’s flowin’, it’s floor-to-floor, it’s action, it’s moving, it’s pretty girls, it’s great interviews. It’s a great time.”
Afterward we’re given the chance to witness the action. We march down the Kress’ stairwell, passing floors that look like sets, and that currently serve as sets. The basement level hosts two bars, a dance floor and several lounging nooks. Inside one of these purple-padded side-rooms, Snoop chats with singer/producer The-Dream (a co-writer of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”). Crew and crowd hover in the outskirts of the bright, focused film light, and every possible free space within the camera’s view is covered with girls and their legs. There are even women walking through the scene intermittently, to give the hushed set the look of a bustling club. The cell phone of one of the ladies goes off and the flow grinds to a halt. Snoop looks over his sunglasses at The-Dream: “Welcome to Hollywood.” Outside, it’s pouring rain.