(Author’s note: I am stealing an idea from Sean Keane and expanding upon it. I am assuming his mantle as a distinguished scholar in hip hop theory, philosophy, and technique. My first lesson will go to a time before Mr. Keane’s seminal essay and analyze “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre and featuring Snoop Dogg.)
The song in question is a tale of mutual loyalty and general badassery. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg not only illuminate the listener as to their individual and combined strengths, but also pass on individual life lessons that young listeners can apply to their own lives, lest they get burnt.
Snoop Doggy Dogg, in only his second official foray into released recording, begins the proceedings. We are tipped off to the potential lethality of an alliance between Compton and Long Beach. Worse for all aspiring challengers to their throne, Dr. Dre and Snoop are paragons representing the danger and menace emanating from their respective hometown. As a result, they are loc’d out to the point of insanity. This is a good tactic, as it establishes a potential alibi based on insanity for any actions that may injure, maim, or kill their opponents in the future. Snoop, foreshadowing his future role as “The Doggfather” and “King of the Motherfuckin’ West Coast (Baby)”, urges the listener to be wary of engaging in sexual relations with an unchaste woman without proper contraception. Such carelessness can result in the sucka getting burnt, as a bitch who would engage in such risky sexual behaviors will have no qualms infecting her lovers with various STD’s that may weaken an otherwise healthy and strong man. Not to be putting a damper on the entire arena of sexual relations between gangsta and ho, it is acceptable to take a small piece of some that funky stuff if the earlier suggested precautions are in place.
The second verse, as a sign of his elder status, is bestowed upon Dr. Dre. Having recently escaped the villainy and absolute control exercised by Jerry Heller upon Dr. Dre and his NWA cohorts (please listen to Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” for more information), Dre is eager to pass on the lessons that enabled him to earn a doctorate in the rap game. From the beginning of the song, the listener may have experienced an uneasiness, a newness that cannot be explained or described by human speech. Dre explains that this is all a function of his ability to rap and control the maestro, in an understated display of his supreme status in rap. This advanced technique has the ability to make the listener feel as if he or she is under the influence of “The Chronic”, a particularly potent strain of marijuana originating in Dre and Snoop’s home state of California. Any alarm one may encounter should be taken in stride, as an inability to do so will render the lessons Dre and Snoop moot and unintelligible. While this has no effect on Dre and Snoop, as they have already mastered the subject matter, they are showing an uncommonly magnanimous nature in urging the listener to learn and better himself so that he may deign to attempt an approach to their seemingly unreachable skill level.
Not one to become complacent and rest on his laurels, Snoop follows and augments the Doctor’s lessons. Snoop, perhaps feeling that the listener has digested the earlier lessons and is ready to take a further step in her development, describes various things that enable him to approach Dr. Dre’s level without the formal study undertaken by the Doctor. Some necessary ingredients include a hellafied gangsta lean, getting funky on the mic like an old batch of collard greens, showing much flex when it’s time to wreck a mic, and pimping ho’s and possessing weapons like 1970’s blaxploitation icon Dolemite. While the exact nature of combining these elements to become an analog of Snoop is kept secret, their mere revelation may shave decades off the studies the next generation will have to engage in. Unlike the ancient Egyptians and Aztecs, who left no hints as to how they created their architectural marvels, Dre and Snoop leave a record that can be studied by future generations in an attempt to duplicate their accomplishments. At long last, the listener is ready for some muthafuckin’ G shit. Ostensibly feeling the pride a mama bird must feel when her chicks leave the nest and take their first steps into the cold world, Dre and Snoop both agree that the listener is ready to receive a piece of their wisdom, undistilled and raw. This is the only way that their wisdom can be received. Watering it down would be akin to reading a Bible translated into text speak rather than one written in the original Hebrew.
At this point in the proceedings, the listener may be thinking, “It’s not hard, what Dre and Snoop are up to. I can do this too!” Oh, the folly in such thinking. Dr. Dre did not receive his doctorate through an inferior institution like the University of Phoenix. He attended the School of Hard Knox, where only the strongest survive and complete the rigorous curriculum. As a result, Dr. Dre’s mic skills can make challengers crumble in the way a properly made Pecan Sandie or chocolate chip cookie yields to firm pressure. One should be wary of ignoring these entreaties and challenging Dr. Dre, as Snoop will aid him in destroying any fakers, haters, punks and perpetrators. One should take utmost care in not allowing the Doctor to slip. Allowing this slippage may force Dre’s hand in using his cache of firearms to protect his status and honor. Further, Dr. Dre is operating at a level so far above that of the normal person that he can project the illusion that he never rests. To attempt to pierce this illusion will have deadly consequences. It is therefore not advisable to ever challenge Dr. Dre. The listener may increase his skill level, but never far enough to mount a serious challenge to Dr. Dre.
Finally, the customary pledge of allegiance is made to Dre and Snoop’s respective hometowns of Compton and Long Beach. In a twist, however, the duo emphasize the catastrophic consequences this pairing of ferocious California municipalities will have on the rap game. This is a shift from the usual technique of MC’s from different areas engaging in one upmanship when describing the danger and sinister consequences faced by outsiders venturing to their hometown. It ultimately has the desired effect in chilling any potential challenge to the reputation for murder and mayhem possessed by either Compton or Long Beach. This technique also has the additional benefit of discouraging field trips to either locale, as such a decision is likely to result in death and dismemberment for any suckas who dare to attempt it. The economic benefits for this warning cannot be understated, as it prevents a deluge of claims against insurance companies that would threaten a destabilization of this nation’s already fragile economy.
At the time this song was made, one could have dismissed it as mere hubris. After all, Snoop was an eighteen year old, who had somehow already served four years in the county jail with hardened criminals and thrived in that environment. He had no professional accomplishments to speak of at that point. Dr. Dre, having just completed his residency with NWA, was making his initial foray into solo practice. The years have shown that this early song was a harbinger of the colossal accomplishments each man is credited with. Even more impressive, this initial pairing had the desired result of propelling both Snoop and Dr. Dre into the forefront of the hip hop community. They were rewarded for their early hard work and experienced massive success, as a graduate of Harvard may experience in the area of commerce. Few have sustained the high levels of achievement Dr. Dre and Snoop have sustained in the nineteen years since this song was released.
Until next time, keep it real.