photos by Timothy Norris

Snoop Dogg gigged with an 18-piece backing band in a Fox Studio sound room last night for the Nissan Live series shown on Yahoo! Music, and now that I’ve pimped the corporate affiliates that made this evening of taping possible, let’s just say right off the bat: I have seen the future of Snoop, and it is good.

He played (I think) five new songs from his upcoming Ego Trippin’, did a little bit of “Nothin' But a G Thang,” and threw down a scorching, unbelievably tight version of “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (imagine that percussive track writ large, with a dozen and a half live players!). Snoop goes electric.

And, in retrospect, the move makes perfect sense.

Over the course of his illustrious and impeccably imagined career, Snoop has moved through gangsta rap and g-funk, made a lot of money with Death Row Records until that leaky boat started sinking, followed gangsta New Orleans, where they called it southern bounce, to team up with Masta P’s No Limit Records, where The Lanky One made even more money. He then headed east to Virginia, signed with the Neptunes’ Star Trak Entertainment, went all minimal on us – and a made a lot of money. He’s never won a Grammy, but he’s the only musician ever to snag an AVN Awards for his porno debut, which earned him more cold, hard cash. Apparently, Snoop knows what’s up, can sniff the perfect career path like the Dogg he is. That, after 25 years, he’s never been wrong (well, at least when it comes to getting paid), is a testament to his intuition.

Teddy Riley, hitmaker

So last night he busts out this 18-piece band featuring Teddy Riley on keys, DJ Quik on effects, samples and bongo, Kurupt backing Snoop up, and fifteen men and women, all dressed in their Sunday best (them in black, Snoop in a jumbo white blazer), playing brass, percussion, keyboards, turntables (DJ Battle Cat), bass and guitar. Charlie Wilson, former lead singer for the Gap Band (and Snoop’s uncle), helped him out on some tracks, including a country stomper entitled “My Medicine.”

That’s right, dear reader, you heard that correctly: Ego Trippin’ has a country song on it, and it features Whitey Ford, aka Everlast, on guitar (though he wasn’t on hand). I’m going to reserve judgment on the notion of Snoop Goes Country, but the song has a great chorus that features the line, “I’m gonna love you as long as I’m high,” which on the surface sounds like a blow-off until you remember that, well, this is Snoop we’re talking about, and he’s always high. So he will always love you. Isn’t that sweet?

Snoop and Sadiiq

Raphael Sadiiq showed up to guest on a sturdy R&B/rap combo called “Waste of Time, and he looked fantastic. I want that suit he was wearing, and I want those glasses (Snoop correctly compared his look to David Ruffin of the Temptations). During a break in the taping, while they were just playing around, Snoop and the band busted into this hard, funky Time thing. I don’t know what song it was – though maybe I should – but it was the best performance of the night: an uptempo Prince-like jam with horns and keys and the band doing a little step-dance left and right. All the while, Snoop was front and center, doing The Bird like Morris Day, a little touch of robot here and there. Mr. Entertainment, he was, cool and happy, the perfect front man, growing into a new Snoop Doggy Dog outfit: Las Vegas funk impresario. He could take this shit on the road and make a mint if he plays his cards right. And knowing Snoop, he most certainly will.

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