Snoop Dogg, hip-hop’s weediest renaissance man, added to his wide-ranging accomplishments recently when he recorded with D.C.’s top go-go bands, Backyard Band and Rare Essence.
For serious go-go fans, this development was exciting but not unexpected. Late last summer, Snoop posted an Instagram video of himself seated in a car, blunt blazing, as he cranked to RE’s go-go classic, “Hey Buddy Buddy.” That clip resulted in much conjecture about possible collaborations with go-go artists, and when Snoop brought his stage play, Redemption of a Dogg, for a weekend of performances earlier this month, speculation intensified.
Then a video circulated of him grooving to The Huck-a-Bucks‘ classic “The Bud” with WHUR radio deejay Triscina Grey. And there was no doubt about it: Uncle Snoop is most definitely a go-go fan.
A couple weekends ago, the first collaboration was confirmed on social media. Snoop posted a selfie he shot with Rare Essence bandleader and guitarist Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson. RE quickly posted the photo with the following: “RE Snoop collab? Shout out to Snoop Dogg for coming through and BLAZIN the track!”
According to Whiteboy, Rare Essence had reached out to Snoop in August shortly after his “Hey Buddy Buddy” Instagram post. “We went into the studio and put together a song to send him, and he liked it,” says Whiteboy. But for weeks he heard nothing from Snoop’s camp until Friday afternoon, when Snoop’s assistant called to ask whether they could get a studio for that night. Essence had a scheduled performance at Fast Eddies, so Whiteboy called in some substitute players to sit in at the club, and waited.
“Snoop called me at about 11:15 p.m. and said, ‘Hey, this is Snoop Dogg. I’m on my way to the studio. Where are you?” says Whiteboy. “So I said I’m on my way to the studio, and he said ‘Ok, I’ll see you there in 20 minutes.”
Working with Whiteboy and RE keyboardist, engineer, and frequent co-producer Roy Battle, Snoop finished his part in the still-unnamed track (RE will add additional vocals later). “He was just real cool,” says Whiteboy. “He wrote his rap, went in and laid it down, then he asked, ‘How you like that? What do you think?’ He’s Snoop Dogg! Of course we loved it.”
They finished recording within a few hours, but Snoop’s go-go adventure had just begun. Backyard Band’s Anwan “Big G” Glover had also connected with Snoop, through comedian Red Grant, a D.C. native now in LA.
Snoop invited Big G and BYB vocalist Leroy “Weensey” Brandon Jr. to Redemption of a Dogg on Saturday evening, and the two performed two Backyard hits, “Pretty Girls” and “Skillet,” on stage before the show.
After the play, Snoop headed to Starmakers studio in Prince George’s County, where he met the rest of Backyard. “It was dope, man, with him telling us he loved the sound of our music and he loved what we do,” says Big G. “Snoop, he’s a household name—anywhere in the world everybody knows him. To have him right here in the studio, just to sit with him, let alone make a song with him, you don’t get that every day, to be amongst a person of his magnitude and to see how really cool and laid-back he is.”
They started around midnight and finished around 5 a.m. Snoop had jokes—“tha Dogg is in the Backyard with no leash.” He traded nursery rhymes with Weensey. And they all recorded two tracks, “Welcome to My City,” a remix of an older song Big G did with BYB rapper Carlos “Los” Chavels, and “We Are Backyard,” a new song.
“At first we were kind of like vibing, playing a couple of things just to get warmed up,” says Backyard congas and timbales player Keith “Sauce” Robinson. “We had some West Coast-sounding songs, but he say he wanted go-go.”
As with Rare Essence, details about the release of BYB’s Snoop records still need to be ironed out. But for now, the possibilities seem endless.
“This can represent a lot for Backyard,” says Big G. “Maybe we might go on tour with him, you know? For him to be following us and putting us on his Instagram, doing the videos, I think that will take us to another level as far as people getting to know our music outside of D.C.”
Big G praises Snoop’s collaboration with RE as “dope”—RE and BYB teamed up for a “blend” show earlier this month—and notes that Snoop’s go-go love is important not just for the genre’s current stars, but also for its next generation. “This spark will fire up,” says Big G. “Chocolate City, we got all this talent right here…People will be able to say, this is a dream come true, and hey, if they can do it, we can do it.”
Unlike record labels that have come shopping for go-go bands and then messed up their sound, Snoop gets go-go. In the past, the rapper has praised the Unsung episode on Chuck Brown and expressed support for EU in particular for that band’s struggle with Virgin Records. By now it is clear that Snoop, who continues to identify with his hometown of Long Beach, CA, recognizes go-go’s validity, importance and symbolism.
“Snoop understands go-go 100 percent,” says Big G.
Go-go historian Kevin “Kato” Hammond points out that that Snoop’s go-go recordings will have disparate styles. “They’ll be totally different because the bands are totally different,” he explains. “Backyard has a real funkiness about them, a real raw soul. They kind of fit Snoop’s mold, or I should say Snoop fits their mold. Even the hooks that Weensy sings are basically hooks from old-school soul, and Backyard’s rhythm section has a lot of soul, just like a lot of Snoop’s hits—a real funky soul ’70’s feel, that sit-back-and-groove gangster lean type of vibe.
“Essence on the other hand, would give you that party, party. So it’s almost like the difference between Snoop rapping on ‘Nuthin’ but a G Thang,’ which was that raw funky soul, and Snoop rapping on “Drop it Like It’s Hot,’ which was a party anthem type of joint,” says Hammond.
Either style can have tremendous potential, adds Hammond. “Snoop got the Midas touch,” he says. “Whatever he decides to mess with, it turns to gold and definitely generates attention … So this signifies that go-go is still here, and we’re thriving like I don’t know what.”
It remains to be seen whether Snoop’s go-go love will result in meaningful change for the DMV musicians who deserve so much more. “We can’t wait to finish this song and see where this goes,” says Whiteboy. “Best case scenario is that we do a really good record and get exposure for the genre that we haven’t gotten in decades. And with somebody like Snoop Dogg, there’s no telling what can come from this.”