Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23: Snoop Dogg, "Gin And Juice"

Artist: Snoop Dogg
Song: "Gin And Juice"
Album: Doggystyle
Year: 1993

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While it is an exceptionally rare occurrence, every once in awhile, music fans are able to watch an artist develop from a very early stage.  The fact of the matter is, in nearly every case, by the time a performer "hits it big," they have already honed their skills and are already in the spotlight.  When this is not the case, one can then look at the early recordings of an artist and clearly see how they got to the sound and persona that made them famous.  Though it is now almost a footnote in his career, this was exactly the situation that happened with hip-hop legend, Snoop Dogg.  Playing the part of "sidekick" to Dr. Dre on his earliest widely released recordings, by the time Dr. Dre dropped his iconic Chronic album, it was clear that Snoop Dogg was a phenomenal talent in his own right.  It was due to his performance on that record that makes it a bit less surprising that just over a year later, Snoop Dogg released his own solo debut, and 1993's Doggystyle remains an absolute icon of both hip-hop music, as well as the entire decade in music.  Filled with some of Dr. Dre's most impressive musical arrangements, as well as Snoop's unique, yet diverse delivery styles, the album was without question the most heavily anticipated release of the year.  Doggystyle contains Snoop's biggest hits, and few are more memorable, more iconic, and more defining of who he is as a performer than Snoop Dogg's 1993 classic, "Gin And Juice."

Though there were many great songs of the 1990's, one can make the case that no other has as instantly recognizable an opening hook as one finds on "Gin And Juice."  The smooth, grooving bassline, which is quickly joined by the unmistakable keyboard riff has been sampled and covered so many times since its first release that it is almost impossible to remember a time when the song did not exist.  This sound in many ways defines the so called "G Funk" style of music, and it is without question Dr. Dre's finest moment as a producer.  The way in which he mixes in samples from George McRae's, "I Get Lifted" and Slave's, "Watchin' You" adds the perfect balance to the song, and "Gin And Juice" brings a sense of movement that is rarely heard in hip-hop music.  Though the bass is enough to get any car "bumpin," there is also a softness to the programmed beats that give it a far more relaxed feel than the other songs found on Doggystyle.  Yet even with this more mellow mood, the intensity is never lost, and the song pulls the listener into a late night ride from party to party, and the song remains just as enjoyable and mesmerizing even after countless listenings.  Dr. Dre mixes in other fills and a bit more keyboard as the song progresses, but he clearly understood just what a powerful musical arrangement he had created, and was smart enough to just leave it as is, looping it to create an absolutely unforgettable backing track to "Gin And Juice."

The voice of Snoop Dogg stands today as instantly recognizable, and his rhymes on "Gin And Juice" are without question some of the most memorable in all of hip-hop history.  Much like the music, Snoop takes a bit more of a laid back approach to the vocals here, and the relaxed feel shows the depth he has as an emcee.  Unlike many of his peers, Snoop's delivery sounds completely unforced and organic, and it is the way in which his voice blends seamlessly with the backing track that makes "Gin And Juice" such an extraordinary musical achievement.  Furthermore, anyone who was "of age" when the song was released can attest to the fact that the lyrics are nothing short of fantastic, and one cannot help themselves and NOT sing along.  Both from the clarity of his delivery, as well as the almost jovial nature of the words, the lyrics to "Gin And Juice" have become nearly as iconic as the music, and the chorus of, "...rollin' down the street smokin' indo, sippin' on gin and juice...laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind..." may very well be the most memorable lines of the entire decade.  The overall atmosphere of a party continues throughout the song, and as the song comes to a close, Snoop drops another line that stands as nothing short of iconic when he says almost as an aside, "...I don't love you hoes, I'm out the door..."  This line has been lifted and altered countless times since, and the other lines, as well as the way in which Snoop delivers them is what makes the song an absolute classic.

In retrospect, few songs have crossed into as many other genres as "Gin And Juice," and it remains a heavily covered song nearly two decades after its first release.  Everyone from Paul Simon to Hot Rod Circuit to Ben Folds have covered the song outright, and lines from "Gin And Juice" have made their way into countless other songs.  While the internet heavily circulates a bluegrass cover of the song that is often attributed to the band Phish, it is in fact a group called The Gourds that are responsible for this version of the song.  The line "...laid back..." has become an icon of popular cultre onto itself, and few adolescents of the 1990's can hear those words without following it with the rest of the chorus.  This in itself proves just what a significant part of music history that "Gin And Juice" represents, and it is also the song that permanently cemented Snoop Dogg as one of the greatest emcees in hip-hop history.  Whether it is his smooth, clear delivery, or the bounce and mood that he brings to the track, the song is without question one of his finest lyrical moments, and it sounds just as fresh and powerful today as it did in 1993.  Adding in the brilliant musical arrangement from Dr. Dre, and there was simply no way that the song was going to be anything less than a classic.  One can see this combination as the perfect sound at the perfect time, and there is no song that defines the hip-hop movement of the early 1990's better than Snoop Dogg's monumental 1993 single, "Gin And Juice."

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