The predominant discourse surrounding Snoop Dogg now boils down pretty easily: The former gangsta-rap icon has softened and aged, and is no longer the G who wrote his “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” verse. Hell, last week’s Metroland preview of Saturday’s show alluded to it. The young, charismatic rapper is now an older, charismatic rapper, actor, Pop Warner coach and malt-beverage spokesman. The Snoop of old is supposedly not the Snoop of new; while that may be true for his more recent studio output—this year’s Doggumentary is middling at best—it isn’t the case for his current live show, which he fills with classic tracks, trademark stagecraft and swagger.
After nearly two and a half hours of opening sets from local acts (Eli McFly, Dem White Boys, P. Muna) and an unannounced Doggy Style Records signee (whose name I honestly didn’t catch and was undoubtedly the best technical rapper of the list), the stage sat empty for nearly an hour. During this time, the flashlight-wielding Northern Lights security team played a veritable game of Whac-A-Mole that involved pointing a flashlight at the next 16-year-old trying to light up a joint and bursting through the crowd of hundreds packed inside the unseasonably hot venue to carry the kid out the main entrance.
Now for the weed talk. This isn’t an attempt to liven up a review with referenece to drug use or to perpetuate the same mythology that surrounds Snoop’s unbelievable pot consumption; it’s a genuine, necessary-to-mention part of the night. Snoop, his “hype men” (a term I use loosely to describe two accomplished rappers in their own right) that included Daz Dillinger and Kurupt, and his DJ all played into the aura surrounding the night’s drug of choice. They all carried their own blunts on stage and they all smoked those blunts on stage. In the epic lead-up to Snoop’s arrival, his DJ told the crowd, in short, to smoke your weed now to bring Snoop out.
Once Snoop actually took the stage, the club transformed: louder, hotter, harder to breathe—a combination of humidity and weed smoke. Snoop tore through his most famed tracks and also stopped to pay homage to a few late greats: Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Nate Dogg all had tracks played in their honor, sung in unison by Snoop and the crowd. Eternal rap classics like “Gin and Juice” and the set’s penultimate “What’s My Name?” ignited the packed Northern Lights floor.
A full band, consisting of a live drummer, percussion player, keyboardist and bassist, backed Snoop’s roughly 75-minute sonic tour through his quintessential West Coast, G-Funk sound. While rap shows (unfairly) carry plenty of preconceived notions—bad sound, short, truncated sets, artist indifference—Snoop’s set was plagued by none of these things. Between the full band, Snoop’s showmanship, his still-sharp lyrical prowess, and an incredibly energized, receptive Northern Lights crowd, the show shook those forced stereotypes with ease.
A few more blunts, a few more fan favorites: the sexual deviance of “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” and the Neptunes-helmed minimalism of “Drop It Like It’s Hot” helped bring the night to a close. Snoop left attendees with very specific instructions: Smoke weed on your drive home, with “the car pulled over on the highway,” with “the windows rolled up,” with the air conditioner set to a precise “71 degrees.” Smoke weed in a hot shower after the night’s show; smoke weed in the morning after you wake up, before you do anything else. In the man’s own words, weed lets “Calvin turn into Snoop Dogg,” which lets us enjoy the artist he becomes.