By Rahul Lal
In the ’90s, Death Row Records had one of the most popular—and arguably, the most intimidating—roster in hip-hop, boasting Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur. The label, of course, started out as a partnership between Dre and Suge Knight, and Snoop was one of the first artists signed. And while most of the label featured new talent, Shakur had a few albums under his belt by the time he got signed to Death Row.
As early as 1995, the label showed support for ‘Pac, even before he signed to Death Row. The label’s artists, led by Snoop, performed at the Source Awards that year, as Snoop tells the Play.It Drink Champs podcast and paid tribute to the then-incarcerated emcee.
“We had a cut-out billboard of him inside a cell,” reminisced Snoop. He was joined by label mates Dr. Dre, Tha Dogg Pound, Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, Sam Sneed and DJ Quik to perform a prison-themed set. “His billboard was cut-out in a cell and he wasn’t even on Death Row or talked about of being on Death Row. We just did that as a symbol of representing him and f—ing with him because he was my friend.”
Tupac would eventually sign to Death Row and became an icon for west coast hip-hop as a whole. “I’m the reason why he was on Death Row Records,” Snoop said as he recalled encouraging Knight to sign Shakur. “Pac brought a spirit to the studio—it was different than anyone we ever worked with… Tupac was like, ‘N—-, when we make a song and finish it, we ain’t listening to that s—. Pull another beat up, we doing another mother f—— song. You can release that motherf—– when you mix that motherf—– and when you finish, we’ll listen.’ How you think that n—- made six albums in three months?”
Tupac was pretty famous for his brief relationships with various women. “Tupac had Madonna, man,” he laughs. “Man, he brought the b—- to Saturday Night Live, he was knocking the b—-, man, because he brought me some bud and had the b—- on his arm and he wasn’t even flossin’ [her].”
Suge was able to strongarm much of his competition in the industry by sheer intimidation. When he was put in prison during the late ’90s, he was confronted by hip-hop mogul and owner of No Limit Records, Master P, to make a deal for Snoop Dogg’s contract.
“Master P had to go visit Suge Knight in the penitentiary,” Snoop revealed to Drink Champs, explaining that he Master P was the only person not afraid to confront Suge. “[They] struck a deal because everybody else was scared of that n—- because that’s when Suge Knight was the monster, the boogieman. He went to go see him, struck a deal, paid him, got my publishing rights and gave me three albums.”
“Puffy and them was rocking,” he said, referring to P Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, another powerhouse label of the era. “But they wasn’t getting no money like Master P was. I had been around they camp, I had been around Def Jam, I was around Death Row. I had seen all the n—– that supposedly had the money – Master P had the motherf—– money,” Snoop continued. “No Limit had money. Everybody on No Limit had a house, a car, two guns and a bank account.”
Switching topics, Snoop decided to talk politics after 50 Cent made headlines in a recent episode by expressing his desire to see Kanye West run for president. “I am endorsing Kanye West,” he said. “I mean, Kanye West can’t be no crazier than that motherf—– Donald Trump.”
Snoop was once on good terms with Trump, having even participated in a roast of the strangely coiffed mogul back in March 2011. As has been the case with many hip-hop artists, Snoop said he respected Trump as a businessman, but began to flip his opinions when Trump focused on politics.
“I f—– with him once upon a time,” he revealed. “A lot of the views and perspectives he got, I have a lot of friends that represent those facets in life whether they’re Muslims, Mexicans or whatever they are. It’s f—– up how they’re singling them people out and we don’t do that, we’re multicultural. We f—-s with everybody.”
To listen to more of Snoop’s priceless stories, listen to part two of the Drink Champs podcast below.