If there was one moment in hip-hop that changed the direction of the genre forever it would have to be in late '92 when the advance promo single from Dr Dre's first major post-NWA project, The Chronic, surfaced. Just weeks in advance of the December 1992 release of that classic rap album, which went on to sell over four million copies and fully cross over gangsta rap into pop music territory, white label copies of "Nuthin But A 'G' Thang" featuring the then little known young Long Beach City (LBC) rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg (heard only before this on the Dre produced Deep Cover soundtrack/single) got serviced to DJ's across the country. I was one of them and I will never forget the reaction the record got both on the radio and in clubs at the time. One night back then I was DJing at the Kennel Club (now the Independent on Divisidaro in SF) and people who normally didn't care for rap were banging on the DJ booth window demanding to know "Who/what the fuck was that?" Music fans went crazy for that addictive combo of Dre's dope production (fully utilizing the Leon Haywood "I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You" sample) and of course Snoop's hypnotic, laidback rap drawl (check out how young he looks in the video above!) that suddenly made street/gangsta themes digestible to all.
Of course, the album that spawned "G Thang" and which took its name from some sticky icky Cali weed, The Chronic would truly crystallize this turning point in hip-hop -- taking both West Coast and gangsta hip-hop to commercial heights undreamed of before this point. To many, this point represented the downfall of hip-hop since we have never fully recovered from its influence on popular rap. To me, as a fan of both "gangsta" and "conscious," or of both "rap" and "hip-hop," its success is bittersweet. I love good music no matter what its lyrical content might be, but I long for variety within popular hip-hop and I especailly miss the popularity of more positive hip-hop groups like Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr.
But what I find kinda funny now as I look back at the video above and listen to its music is that -- in comparison with so much of the popular, thugged out rap today in 2007 -- "Ain't Nuthin But A G Thang" and the rest of The Chronic actually comes off as somewhat innocent and relatively tame. But I also realize that hip-hop, like all popular music, will continue to evolve and change as we just chill to the next episode.