Snoop Dogg arrives appropriately dressed with his ‘doggie’ gold chain around his neck. Perennially cool and softly spoken, Snoop is determined to be taken more seriously as a major Hollywood player, yet doesn’t insist on playing the Hollywood PR game. The press junket’s tardiness for Soul Plane, in which he plays a stoned airline pilot in the ensemble farce, is blamed on Snoop’s overly laid back attitude.
But once he goes, there’s no stopping the rapper and ex-criminal resolutely interested in changing whatever perception the public may have of him. There is Snoop Dogg the father, who concedes that he recognises something of himself in his son. “Whenever he takes a picture, he always looks to the side and he’s like funny like I am, rappin’ and telling jokes,” Snoop says, smilingly. “My daughter is smart like I am and understands things. ‘Dad, why you be in the movies playing a pimp? What’s a pimp do right there, daddy? Why you get killed?’ I mean, it’s like questions like that. ‘Why are you asking me that? How do you know this?’ So I see a little bit of me in all of my kids. At the same time, I can’t hide anything from them because I’m out there. I can’t say, ‘Don’t watch this. Don’t do this or that.’ I’d rather them see it with me so that they can ask me the questions and I can give them the understanding. That’s the America that I understand. You have to parent your kids. It ain’t my job to parent your kids. Now I am a role model and I’m going to give them positive things to look up to, but I can’t parent your kids. That’s your job.”
And Snoop insists that he has never attempted to hide his drug-filled past from his children. “My kids know everything about me, ins and outs, fronts and tops and bottoms. It ain’t no puzzle. It ain’t no secret. My oldest son, when he was born, was like my right hand and in the studio everyday with me. He still remembers Tupac. It was like things like that, and when I was in the studio with Death Row, I smoked weed everyday, everyday, not sometimes, but everyday and my son was right there with me. He’d always say, ‘Superfly. Daddy, don’t smoke.’ We’d take him out of the room. After a while, when I did stop smoking, I said, ‘You remember when you used to tell me not to smoke?’ It really hit me in my heart to see that my influence is really detrimental to my kids. So I focus on my house first, and if I’m doing right by my house I don’t worry about the outside”, insists the actor.
But Snoop is equally determined to show what he can muster on screen, from the recent Starsky and Hutch to the farcical Soul Plane, where he plays a character resembling the real Dogg, a fact that he doesn’t dispute. “I think that Captain Mac [in Soul Plane] is more like Snoop Dogg’s twin brother, so he’s close to me as far as my fans being able to relate to me in a Snoop Dogg manner. So I think that my fans want to see me playing a role where I’m cool.” Snoop says that the approaches in playing Huggy Bear in Starsky and Hutch, was very different to thew way he approached Soul Plane. “‘Starsky and Hutch’ took a little more studying and figuring out who Huggy was, going back to the ’70’s and trying to figure out the lingo and the look. Soul Plane is more like today. So it’s whatever I say and however I want Captain Mac to be, because he’s today and a fictional character in ’04.”
One may not expect a film like Soul Plane to be controversial, but there are some here in the Black community concerned at the way the film portrays African-Americans, reinforcing stereotypes. Snoop is both unconcerned and unapologetic. “I’m taking my kids to the premiere of the show to show you how I’m concerned with it,” Dogg says laughingly. “I’m not concerned with it and I don’t think that people should be concerned with the imagery. What they should be concerned with is the fact that a lot of Black people have jobs from this movie and this is a comedy, not reality. It’s not trying to make you go out there and start your own airline and do this or do that, but to make people laugh and to bring people up. We’re poking fun at a lot of things that make you sad, make you cry, make you nervous and make you weary, but we’re having fun with it. It’s like when Black America does it, all the old Black folks have something to say and that shit gets on my nerves. When white boys make movies like this with an all white cast and they’re cracking jokes and doing their thing, no one ever says nothing, but soon as you get six or seven niggers together in a movie and we’re talking about each other and having fun, it’s a problem. Stand-up comedians do it their whole life. Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx did it. We’re only doing what we were taught and what we know. In the Black community, it’s cool to bag on each other and talk about each other; that’s what the fuck we do. We call it bagging on each other, and my whole life that’s how I learned to be comedic and how I got my humour and my timing. So, how are you going to take our culture away from us and say that we’re bringing down the imagery? We’re bringing up the imagery, by giving kids something to look up to. Me, Snoop Dogg, an ex-gang member, ex-drug dealer, was on trial for murder and now I’m doing movies, being positive, coaching kids, doing what’s right and that’s what the fuck matters.”
Snoop is putting his money where his mouth is, by helping to start a football league catering for minorities living in specific urban areas. “Right now, it costs three hundred dollars for one kid to play. So imagine if you have a single parent with three kids in the house at $300 a kid and the rent costs $700.
What do you think is going to happen? One might play. Three might not play. Now if they don’t play, guess how much it costs to join a gang? Nothing. Guess how much it costs to sell drugs? Nothing. So all of that is right there. They have accessibility. So what I’m trying to do is erase that and give them something that’s for free. It’s not for free though because to play on my football team, you have to have good grades. You have to have at least a 2.0 GPA. So that’s what makes you take the money away. If your grade point average is 2.0, you don’t have to pay. The league will support you and pay for you to play because it’s educational and it’s fun at the same time.”
When Snoop is not going out of his way to help his community, he is establishing himself on the silver screen, far from the tumultuous past he has comes to terms with. Dogg, who made his film debut in 1998’s Half Baked, says that acting has come easy to him over the years, and is a natural parallel to his music. It’s complimentary. Even when I was a kid in church, my momma used to make me do plays. Which I used to hate. I’d get up there and be like, ‘I’m Benjamin Baniker.’ Then do Easter plays and Christmas plays. ‘Get up there and sing. You better sing.’ I’m up there singing scared, nervous with a little tight suit on, but it brought out who I am. It showed me how to have charisma and presence, how to work the crowd, how to look people in the eyes and how to be who I am right now,” Snoop says emphatically.
Snoop says that his dream role is that of serial killer “because of Hannibal Lector. I just love him. There’s just something about the serial killer that you love, just something about those characters where you see me transform into someone that I’m not. That’s so far away from me. You wouldn’t think of Snoop Dogg as raping girls and killing them. So that’s a character to me that’s unbelievable for me to play, but it’s like if I could really pull that off it could really show that I’m doing what I’m doing.” And he is still determined to work with Halle Berry, who is developing Foxxy Brown for MGM as we speak. “Really? The same people doing this movie? Ain’t that a bitch?!”