Tha Dogg Pound’s influence is often overlooked by those who aren’t familiar with the culture of West Coast gangsta rap, but as Pusha T says: if you know, you know. Eminem and Kendrick Lamar both cite Kurupt as one of their favorite rappers, and Daz Dillinger makes nearly $1 million a year from the back-end of his production catalog.
We revisit the cult classic “Dogg Food” to explore the legacy of Tha Dogg Pound’s debut album.
Origins of Tha Dogg Pound
At Death Row Records‘ peak, before imploding in a whirlwind of lawsuits, violence, and controversy, the record label made over $100 million a year and housed a roster of bonafide superstars: Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and the late Tupac Shakur. But two baby-faced Crips from Los Angeles, although lesser-known than their labelmates, were integral to the label’s success. Delmar “Daz” Arnaud and Ricardo “Kurupt” Brown showcased their remarkable chemistry as tag-team rhymers, and Daz contributed to the production on the following Death Row projects:
- Dr. Dre, The Chronic in 1992 (3x Platinum)
- Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle in 1993 (4x Platinum)
- Murder Was the Case & Above the Rim soundtracks in 1994 (2x Platinum)
The Chronic and Doggystyle popularized a subgenre of hip-hop called G-Funk, a sound inspired by the Parliament-Funkadelic era, which would usher in a new era of West Coast gangsta rap. Samples and break beats took a backseat to live instrumentation, and narratives of street life in South Central were paired with slow, melodic grooves, piercing synthesizers, and funky basslines.
Before Dr. Dre and all of them, all I did was straight destroy MCs. Behead them one by one by one. Snoop and Dr. Dre taught me how to make songs, they taught me how to make records. Before them, I just wanted body counts. More mics for my mantle.” – Kurupt (The Hundreds)
Daz is Snoop’s cousin, and he grew up on the North side of Long Beach as a Rollin’ 20s Crip. Kurupt was born in Philadelphia, and he honed his battle rap skills on the East Coast before moving to California at 16 years old. He settled down in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles and became a Rollin’ 60s Crip — on an episode of GGN, Snoop fondly recalled the first time that they met:
Tha Dogg Pound’s Debut: Dogg Food
The dynamic duo dropped their debut album Dogg Food in 1995, and it was the first release from Death Row Records that wasn’t produced by Dr. Dre, although he lent his ear by mixing it. The lead single, “New York, New York,” sampled Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five‘s song with the same title, and the beat had a distinctly East Coast bounce. Upon first listen, it sounds like Snoop is mocking New York slang in the intro: “Yo B, Turn your speakers up money! Yo God! Yo, I got mad skills — isn’t that money?”
However, Kurupt revealed in a 2013 interview that the song actually began as an homage to the birthplace of hip-hop:
“It wasn’t even going after New York. It wasn’t a diss record. It really wasn’t. ‘New York, New York’ was a record that we made in dedication to New York. We really felt that New York created hip-hop. New York created battle rap and the whole ball of wax, so what I did was a battle rap on this beat DJ Pooh did.”
According to an interview with Rap Radar, Snoop went to Funkmaster Flex‘s radio station with the intention of inviting prominent East Coast rappers to come out and be a part of their music video, but he was shut down by Flex. As they were listening to Hot 97 later in the day, Biggie called in and revealed the location of the music video, followed by a “Brooklyn, stand up!” While they initially thought this was simply a sign of endearment, encouraging natives to show love and support, their trailer was fired upon the next day — Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound decided to reshoot the video with some additional scenes as a means of retaliation.
The music video opens with a shot of some ’64 Impalas gleaming on the runway of the John F. Kennedy airport. Kurupt and Daz are in standard LA attire: navy plaid flannels, Dickies, and Chuck Taylors. After Kurupt kicks his flawless New York-esque verse, Snoop comes through in a silky-smooth perm and Sparta-kicks entire skyscrapers down in Times Square, and this bold gesture became one of the most infamous moments during the coastal rivalry that defined this era. East Coast duos Mobb Deep and Capone-N-Noreaga responded with a diss called “L.A., L.A.”
It’s like New York’s been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings” – Jay-Z, “Money, Cash, Hoes” off Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (5x Platinum)
Borrowing from the traditional English nursery rhyme “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” the melody creates an interesting dynamic as Daz and Kurupt glide over the beat – there’s a playfulness that urges you to sing along without ever batting an eye at the sexually explicit lyrics. The scenes seamlessly alternate between the young dynamic duo donning dapper three-piece suits in a smoked-filled club, and wearing blue striped Polo’s at a pool party surrounded by scantily clad women — all while looking barely old enough to drink.
Daz: “I’m in the shack ’bout to blaze up a sack
Yeah we grown, all alone, posted up in the back
There’s no mistakin’, I can have the whole house shakin’
Young Daz in that ass, baby doll, no fakin’
Don’t get me wrong, tell me what’s the flavor of the song
You know it’s Daz in your drawers when ya momma ain’t home
Ring the alarm, I got ya buzzed, lovin’ me
Physically and mentally, I knew that it was never meant to be”
Kurupt: “I know you know this girl by the name of Danielle
Body of a goddess, face from hell
But oh shhh… this wasn’t the average trick
(She got the bomb) and she like gobblin’ and swallowin’
A whole nine-and-a-half on that black ass
Groupie, now all the hoochies wanna do me from the past
To the present (Say what?) let me rep and present
(Who?) the biggest nigga hittin’ all the hoes in your clique
Fast as lightnin’, runnin’ through like the breeze
In the summertime, out on the corners makin’ G’s
It’s the thirst, but I can show ya somethin’ much worse
Than the thirst, if worse came to worse, but first thing’s first
Brenda, I can remember, how hot y’all be gettin’
Eighty-seven, eighty-six, and yeah, the year a young man grows
Some women become ladies, some turn into hoes
Young hoes grown, find a way to stay with me
In the cut with Kurupt, come and play with me”
Death Row Records was distributed by Interscope, which was half-owned by Time Warner, and the album was delayed for three months after U.S. Senate Majority leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole (and other critics) condemned Time Warner for promoting violent and sexually degrading music — they eventually severed ties with Interscope. Regardless, Dogg Food was critically acclaimed and peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200, selling more than 3 million copies.
Same bloody t-shirt, same address
Same Dogg Food album bangin’ in my tape deck” – The Game, “Start from Scratch” off The Documentary (5x Platinum)
On tracks like “Smooth,” Kurupt talks slick and bends syllables to his will in dazzling displays of verbal acrobatics. His battle rap roots may sometimes compromise his ability to create more structured and cohesive songs, but his razor-sharp lyricism and relentless flows are why Kurupt is often applauded as a rapper’s rapper:
Now I’m a bonafide microphone technician with styles
I came to storm on these emcees like electrical clouds
Hear me now, a raw killer like Mick n’ Mall’
Down to trip and empty clips and permanently exile
The oppositions, competition, discreetly dismantled
Light ‘em up like candlesticks with the instinct of a vandal
Vandalize, how I reprimand emcees to freeze
Moving guarantees the temperature decrease degrees
Frozen stiff, cause what I’m holdin’ lifts the soul
This metal automatic weapon keeps me in control”
“Reality” is one of the more serious cuts, and Daz laments about the perilous lifestyle of a gangbanger. Although production is his strong suit, Daz consistently holds his own rapping alongside Kurupt:
Eye to eye, the colors that I wear is do or die
When I walk down the street, will I meet evil in disguise?
What I represent, God only knows what lies for myself
Jealousy and hatred, niggas is out for my wealth
Will I perish, livin’ selfish for the rest of my life?
‘Cause those who live wrong is bound to live a short life
Will money be the root of my destruction?
Without the money I can’t even seem to function”
The appeal of Dogg Food is far more subtle than its revered predecessors at Death Row Records, but it’s a masterful celebration of West Coast gangsta rap nonetheless. Daz proved himself to be a student-turned-master of the G-funk sound under the tutelage of Dr. Dre, and Tha Dogg Pound as a duo rapped effortlessly about life in the streets of South Central.
The Legacy of Tha Dogg Pound
Tha Dogg Pound contributed to Tupac Shakur’s magnum opus All Eyez on Me in 1996, which sold more than 10 million copies as of 2014. Kurupt featured on “Got My Mind Made Up” with Redman and Method Man, as well as “Check Out Time” with Big Syke of the Outlawz. Daz produced three of 2Pac’s greatest tracks of all time: “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” “Ambitionz Az A Ridah,” and “I Ain’t Mad At Cha.” He became the main in-house producer at Death Row Records after Dr. Dre’s departure, and beyond his tenure with Suge Knight, Daz went on to have a prolific production discography — he makes nearly $1 million a year strictly from the back-end of his publishing and $80k a year from “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” alone.
Kurupt featured on “Xxplosive,” “Let’s Get High,” and “Housewife” on Dr. Dre’s masterpiece 2001. He also penned two of the most memorable lines in a seminal West Coast anthem — equally vulgar and poetic — that succinctly capture the core and spirit of gangsta rap culture in Los Angeles:
Well if Kurupt gave a fuck about a bitch, I’d always be broke
I’d never have no motherfucking indo’ to smoke” – Kurupt, “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” on Doggystyle (11x Platinum)
In an interview with The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, Kendrick Lamar stated that he saw himself as a mixture of Kurupt, 2Pac, and Ice Cube. He released a song titled “Kurupted” on an old 2009 mixtape as a tribute to the Dogg Pound rapper, and name-drops Kurupt during his infamous “Control” verse:
I’m uncoachable, I’m unsociable, fuck y’all clubs!
Fuck y’all pictures! Your Instagram can gobble these nuts!
Gobble dick up ’til you hiccup, my big homie Kurupt
This the same flow that put the rap game on a crutch”
Kurupt has also been immortalized in Eminem’s infamous list on “Till I Collapse“:
It goes Reggie, Jay-Z, 2Pac and Biggie, André from OutKast, Jada, Kurupt, Nas, and then me”
Albeit on a smaller scale, Dogg Food is a staple of West Coast hip-hop much in the same way that The Infamous is on the other side of the map. The influence and legacy of the latter may be far more celebrated, but both are quintessential examples of the stars aligning for a one-two punch. It’s an incredibly ambitious pursuit to capture the distinct sound of a city or borough, but Dogg Food was practically handcrafted to be thumping in a low-rider as you cruise through the concrete jungles of South Central, just as Prodigy and Havoc curated a body of work that was a striking reflection of the stifling, brooding atmosphere of the Queensbridge projects.
Dogg Food is an indisputable cult classic that belongs in the pantheon of West Coast gangsta rap.