Looking back at the Dogg Pound's debut album 20 years later.
If there has been one consistent story in hip hop this year, it’s been consistency from the west coast. The year has seen a ton of releases from the game’s biggest names, but the albums that continue to make headlines seem to be from California.
Kendrick Lamar obviously is the biggest story from the left coast, and while his album had little to do with the gangster funk sound that put Death Row on, his sophomore studio release kicked things off with a bang. His fellow Black Hippy Jay Rock released a very good album this year too, which was a little more familiar with those who still bump The Chronic on a regular basis.
The Game’s Documentary 2 was highly anticipated, and seemed to be worth the wait according to reviews around the web. The album boasted styles similar to his previous work along with retro G-funk beats mostly found on the first handful of the album’s tracks. YG, who released one of the west coast’s most heralded records of 2014, released a fresh single “Twist My Fingaz” that had a similar style as well.
Elsewhere, the likes of Vince Staples, Thundercat, and Dam-Funk have proven that the range of sounds California is creating is far more than those of nostalgia. The west coast is alive and well, releasing interesting music regularly in 2015.
Whether the aforementioned artists have expanded upon the classic G-funk sound, abandoned it completely, or jacked it shamelessly, they owe something to it. You don’t come up making music that stems from hip hop culture without owing something to The Chronic or Doggystyle or All Eyez on Me. And if that’s the case, then you also owe a little something to The Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food.
Dogg Food is somewhat of a cult classic, especially in comparison to its counterparts. The record was released on Halloween day in 1995, marking its twentieth birthday today. As a part of our Classic Rotation series, we’re going to take a look at how it helped to shape the west coast, a fitting examination given the all-star year California has had.
Daz Dillinger and Kurupt are a couple hip hop household names due to their work in the Dogg Pound and beyond. They each have prolific discographies with dozens of titles to their names, whether solo or collaborative. Even though the two did more work apart than they did together, the beginning for both of them stems back to Dogg Food, their Death Row and global debut. The record didn’t do the numbers of Dre and Snoop’s preceding albums, but it still went triple platinum and hit number one overall. Not bad for a couple of gangsters…
The record features seventeen songs produced mostly by Dat Nigga Daz, Dillinger’s production alias. He crafted a funky vibe that is similar to the work Dre put in on The Chronic. Dre, despite not producing any instrumentals, mixed the album and is listed as executive producer. The sound on Dogg Food is a blend of hip hop and futuristic funk that surely influenced Dam-Funk with banging bass and slappin’ snares. The beats hit so hard that you can’t help but to understand how Daz became one of Death Row’s go-to dudes until the label began to disband.
The record, like most golden era hip hop LPs, had a fair share of notable samples. Daz lifted a body-shaking bassline from Lionel Richie’s “Love Will Find a Way” for “I Don’t Like to Dream About Getting Paid.” "You're a Customer" by EPMD was used on “New York, New York,” which also borrows from the Grandmaster Flash track of the same name for its chorus. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper G-funk release without a little Parliament Funkadelic usage, and “Respect” has the “la-da-da-dee” melodies from Parliament’s “Flash Light,” while “Cyco-Lic-No (Bitch Azz Niggas)” borrows the alien growl from the 1978 track “Aqua Boogie.”
Lyrically, the album is about as gangster as it gets. The D.P.G.C., as they refer to themselves and their crew, stands for Dogg Pound Gangsta Crips, and it’s a very present vibe throughout the course of the record. Some of the rhymes play out like a confession to murder, like these bits from "Respect":
“Now as a child I was raised in the church
Now what ever possessed me to do the shit that I do to put you in the dirt
I gives a fuck about a nigga on the street
I'm runnin ninety-fo' and I done ran ninety-three, don't like no hurdle
For the murders I committed in my Omni Fo' convertable
And not a soul saw who did it
As I lean to the side in my Omni G-Ride
On a mission, fo' deep, Dogg Pound do or die”
And other rhymes are just on the pimpin’ tip:
“Now tell the homies what's happenin ho, for real
Show me some sex and affection and lick me down slow ya know
That's what I want, that's what I need
Now I'd only satisfy you to fulfill my needs
The ho get to suckin, five minutes later be get to fuckin
Now the ho shocked, me just slipped off the rubber”
Overall, this is the NSFW hip hop you want to be very careful about your company when bumping.
Dogg Food dabbled in the east coast / west coast beef that was happening at the time as well. On “Dogg Pound Gangstaz,” Kurupt says, “Ain't no harmin me, ain't got no love for no hoes in harmony,” which is a shot at Bone Thugs and their guru Eazy-E, who Dre was beefin’ with at the time due to their rocky post-N.W.A. relationship. While Bone Thugs, who are from Ohio, didn’t get too involved in the rivalry of the 90s, the track “New York, New York” provoked some of the major players of the beef.
The music video showed the duo alongside collaborator Snoop Dogg mobbin’ in New York while chanting lines like, “New York New York big city of dreams and everything in New York ain't always what it seems.” While Kurupt has claimed that the track wasn’t meant to be a diss, some east coast titans didn’t see it that way. Capone-N-Noreaga, Mobb Deep, and Tragedy Khadefi made a response track over the same beat along with an accompanying video. Titled “L.A., L.A.,” the low-budget video saw someone being thrown off the Queensboro Bridge. Many believe it to be symbolism for The Dogg Pound members themselves.
Overall, this funky masterpiece is another notch in Death Row’s belt of bangin’ rap records. It doesn’t have the same weight as the top-tier records released during the course of the label’s heyday, but if you’re looking to dig a little deeper than The Chronic, you’ll probably be pretty stoked you did so. Kurupt and Daz Dillinger, together as The Dogg Pound, kicked off prolific careers in hip hop with this G-funk classic.