Rock & Roll Books

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Rock & Roll Books

Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg

by Snoop Dogg with Davin Seay

Morrow, 256 pp., $23

For the handful of folks who made it 263 pages into last year's most talked-about but least-read rock bio, Marilyn Manson's The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, the comedic highlight was a three line entry in Manson's tour diary: "Talked to Snoop Doggy Dogg today. Well, I'm not sure if you could really call it talked, because I could hardly understand a word he was saying. But what I think he was trying to communicate was that he wanted to work with me in some sort of capacity and something involving marijuana."

Anybody who has seen Snoop Dogg speak on television or radio has probably been equally confused: Since Snoop Dogg's 1992 arrival on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, he's been hip-hop's least articulate and most reliably stoned spokesman. Without a rhyme scheme and groove to follow, Snoop's slow blunted drawl is virtually indecipherable. Perhaps that's why it comes as little surprise that Snoop casually admits in his autobiography Tha Doggfather that he and his posse "blow upward of an ounce a day" of sinsemilla. The real surprise is that Tha Doggfather is so remarkably well-written (with help from co-author Davin Seay) and that its story is so fully compelling.

Told with equal parts tenderness and bravado, Snoop's story follows the basic formula of VH1's Behind the Music -- struggle leads to unlikely fame, and fame brings controversy and recklessness, ultimately clearing the way for consciousness and rebirth. As Snoop explains in both the preface and the book's action-packed final chapters, his controversial 1996 acquittal on murder charges left him with three goals: to increase the peace, to spread the music, and to elevate and educate.

To that end, hip-hop notoriety has given Snoop a pulpit and audience few ex-cons, ex-crack dealers, and ex-Crips have access to, and for the most part he uses it prudently. Relatively reasonable discussions on race, drugs, and gang life are punctuated with just enough sex and violence to hold interest and his vivid recollections of both a pre-fame prison stint and the gang-related backlash to his multiplatinum success are genuinely riveting and insightful. Hip-hop fans will be disappointed that music is often more of a plot vehicle than a plot line. Even his explanations of his on-and-off again relationships with Dr. Dre, Death Row records (he calls founder Suge Knight a "mutherfucker"!), and Tupac ultimately pale in comparison to the Doggfather's dramatic centerpiece -- blow-by-blow accounts of the shootout and the resulting murder trial that triggered his "rebirth."

Whether he's dissing Johnny Cochran or recounting convoluted ballistics testimony, Snoop effectively delivers two messages: He was innocent, and this, not O.J., may have been "the trial of the century." Like the bulk of the Doggfather, Snoop's murder charges offer real drama from a narrator who is a surprisingly gifted storyteller. And to that end, whether you buy Snoop's innocence, new religious calling, or family-man lifestyle, Tha Doggfather is not just a fascinating fast read, but also yet more proof that sometimes you can't judge a book by its author.

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Tha Doggfather: The Times, Trials, and Hardcore Truths of Snoop Dogg, Snoop Dogg with Davin Seay

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