[5 December 2004]
The Puff Puff Pass Tour DVD is a documentary that tells you just how awesome it is to be on tour with or, more dreamingly, as Snoop Dogg. From the behind-the-scenes looks of this DVD documentary, it is capital Fu-un to be Snoop Dogg. Not that any morally upright music reviewer would ever want to promote to young, impressionable, near-delinquent follower-types that Snoop’s lifestyle of craven indecency, moral laxity, and blue state values concerning drug use is a good thing. But it doesn’t look like the Dogg’s complaining, that’s for sure. Watching Snoop’s constant refreshment of 17-year-old fans, just as the L.A. rap artist formerly known as a young man rocks giant parties all across America for a decade and more, I can understand why it does Snoop’s career no good if we see him mature on screen into responsible middle age. The greatness of Snoop’s music puts him at arm’s length from normalcy, and he was born to that fate. Still, even though I didn’t see how the two were in conflict, I was touched to hear recently that Snoop gave up the chronic to coach his son’s little league team.
The film begins in San Antonio where the audience is in rap ecstasy at the sight of Snoop in the haze of purple smoke. The skeezers are immediately in full effect. I can see how music allows for certain talented people a good opportunity to stall growing up. It’s a Peter Pan world, you land in a world of teenagers and then disappear again. Five years later you return and everyone is the same age. The girls from the audience who are offered a chance to visit backstage are, to say the least, easy pickings. Once backstage, they are on constant audition for MTV, shaking some ass and going ballistic with the navel-wiggling. Snoop sings karaoke over his own songs. A member of his entourage says to the camera at one point: “You get back to the room, whatever go, whatever go. Some people were making babies. Babies on the the road, you know what I’m saying?” By the end of the movie you know exactly what he’s saying. He’s saying: Become a rap star.
Or, if not rap star, at least one should dream to become entourage. Entourage is good. Daz, Soopa Fly, the Eastsidaz, Bishop Don “Magic” Juan—these are friends, allies, and colleagues who thrive on Snoop’s generosity and businesses. Juan, for instance, is the resident mack pimp. His purpose should be underscored. He is the mack daddy and his wardrobe is off the hook. I don’t know who he is, but he’s from Dick Tracy, soaked in jewelry. And when it comes to the ladies backstage, his motto is: “You catch the overflow.”
There’s a break from the stage-hopping where we visit a NORML conference to discuss the issue of legalizing medicinal marijuana. One of Snoop’s recurring lyrical subjects is this plant. As a user, he is shaming. The amount of pot is near-incomprehensible, almost miraculous. “I don’t know I just like to do it,” says Snoop at one point. “Motherfuckers like to smoke, drink, fuck bitches, you know, and I like to smoke weed. It’s my preference, you know what I’m saying?” But the reason for a serious interlude about his favorite drug isn’t just to praise Snoop’s habit. The darker issue, which the DVD touches on here, is that Snoop’s music is a result of Reagan and the first Bush’s administrations and their so-called Drug War. At first it seems ridiculous for this measly pop culture DVD to mock the last six American presidents for their tough stance on marijuana. But the filmmakers start to draw out a larger message: The Drug War was a second American Civil War, led by a racist Southern family named Bush, to re-imprison blacks and other minorities. It’s an alarmingly clear message. The dark reality of the Drug War, with cities increasingly segregated between rich and poor, minorities and immigrants lose out to long-standing prejudice, and a steady inflow of drugs makes it easy for a young black American to get caught with an ounce of harmless weed and get sent to prison, the iron vacation: slave camp. Never allowed to vote again. Scarred for life by the criminal record, the impoverished ghettos of black America are being pushed to the brink. And Snoop, if you look at his origins and his audience, he is speaking to the brink.
Because there’s full-on Crips in the crowd, raising blue to the stage. The DVD cuts back and forth to Snoop in the studio saying: “Entertainers and athletes really ain’t a voice, because they never really connect with the people. They Hollywood.” And then there’s shots of crips at a show in Texas. I mean, I’m guessing at their crip-ness, but the camera is literally picking out serious scary dudes in the crowd who look like either really lousy fake-ass narcotics agents, or really fucking scary gangster dudes. And the blue bandanas… no lousy narc is going to wear crip colours to a Snoop Dogg show. Snoop: “You only got a few [athletes] that connect, and when they do, like Iverson or a couple of actors that connect, they get talked bad about because they hang with real niggaz.” Back at the concert, Snoop points out the gangsters in the crowd and gives them the what’s up, and kicks in with an early gangsta anthem from Doggystyle. It’s scary and exhilarating to watch on DVD, and gives you a sense of the real risk Snoop runs just by appearing in public anywhere in the Unites States.
A few final thoughts: The only appearance that Dr. Dre makes on this DVD is a phone message to us all. He said: “Suck my dick.”
A girl in Connecticut warns a member of Snoop’s entourage to hide his money. She’s sitting on a couch while he films her. “I got money in my pussy,” she said. After a bit of convincing, she does indeed pull out a $50 bill. Then she goes back under her skirt and finds a $5 bill. Then a dollar. Then, finally, she pulls out another crinkled (frankly, wet-looking) $50 bill. And then two more dollars.
Snoop’s advice to young aspiring rappers: “You gotta go through shit. Look at what other rappers have done well, and done wrong, and try to do more right than wrong.”
On stage, Snoop seems complete. He looks born for it, an orator and writer, an unconditional rapper. The concert scenes are inspiring. Interviews and celebrity wing-dings seem to make Snoop feel like an outsider, and we’ve all seen how he slouches onto red carpets and photo ops looking cool and wonky at the same time. He doesn’t look like that on stage, even doing the crip-walk. He doesn’t look like that at home on his basketball court. This is a guy who likes to have all the attention. And if not all the attention, he wants to be left alone. Who could blame him? He works hard for his art. On stage, he’s brave. In front of the Hollywood camera, he’s just doing business. He looks like: “Get this over with and get me back to the party where I can rock it.”