Hip-Hop Fridays: Snoop Dogg's Metamorphosis by Nathan Hall
Times change. How else can I explain Snoop Dogg’s resurgence in popularity? Pop culture is fluid and fleeting, and I want to provide a timeline of Snoop’s life in the public eye to illustrate my point.
1992: As a slim teenager with a laid-back style, Snoop is introduced on Dr. Dre’s album "The Chronic."
1993: His first solo album, "Doggystyle," hits the streets. Parents everywhere (including mine) freak out.
1993 to 1996: Murder was the case that they gave him, but Snoop was cleared of the charges after a sustained legal battle.
1997 to 2001: Snoop fades from mainstream culture. He has bit parts in a bunch of crappy movies and releases a popular album, but his impact on society diminishes.
2001 to present: Snoop is now a bankable entity for media trying to attract our age demographic. He was in "Training Day," "Old School" and America Online commercials. He has cameos in tons of rap hits. "Fo’ shizzle my nizzle" is a permanent fixture in our lexicon, and, unofficially, "izzle" has overtaken "n’t" as the most popular postfix in the English language.
I think that Snoop’s metamorphosis from threatening gangster to harmless, family-friendly novelty act is an interesting study in social psychology and a reflection on society.
The fact that his image in pop culture is now diametrically opposed to what it was 13 years ago seems like a miracle. It would be similar to the Sex Pistols being spokesmen for the merits of higher education and respecting authority.
Age has a way of absolving guilt and softening controversy, and this has never been truer than in the last five years.
George Wallace mended his relationship with Martin Luther King Jr.’s family. Strom Thurmond, a fierce opponent of social justice who holds the record for longest filibuster in Senate history (against the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Bill) received a genial retirement party.
A second element of our culture helps to explain Snoop’s popularity is the fact that pop culture has no long-term memory. We have an obsession with the current hot topic or controversy, and then we allow it to fade away as something new comes around.
The media outrage with the gangster tendencies of the now defunct Death Row Records is a distant memory. Television and movies have a way of romanticizing dangerous or illegal lifestyles — did any of you see "The Godfather"?
When Snoop was no longer perceived as a threat, he was able to cash in on his popularity. Part of the reason his notoriety has faded is due to a change in the establishment.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, rock ‘n’ roll bands were accused of everything. They were going to lead to social turmoil, teenage sex and heavy drugs. It was so threatening that Elvis was censored on the Ed Sullivan show. For an entire decade, the Baby Boomers raged against the establishment that seemed to be in control of every facet of their lives.
By the ‘80s, the Baby Boomers had BECOME the establishment, so rock ‘n’ roll couldn’t be dangerous anymore. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Elvis and countless other bands from that time are now remembered as music from the good old days. They are no longer threatening to rend society.
Then rap and heavy metal arrived, which allowed Tipper Gore to spawn the censorship machine known as the Parental Music Resource Center. A new establishment means new threats. The same generation that brought us sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll recoiled from our generation’s "Gin and Juice."
But a funny thing happened: the world changed. The Baby Boomers are retiring, and Generation X is taking over. Did you know that Snoop Dogg is in his thirties? The same people who bought millions of copies of "Doggystyle" are now running companies, and Eminem reminded us in "white America" that rap is no longer limited to the ghetto.
We are seeing hip-hop take an ever-more ubiquitous place in society. It dominates commercials, fashion and youth culture in general. It will be interesting to see what happens to our current societal threats over the next 10 years. In the words of Snoop Dogg himself, we’ll have to wait a minizzle to find out.
Nate Hall is a senior in Purdue University's Schools of Engineering. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article first appeared in The Exponent online under the title, "Acceptance increases as generations grow"
© The Exponent 2004
Friday, February 27, 2004