Before Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson became staples at the Staple Center (pun intended #swag), before bright colors and skinny jeans became cliché (jerking is played out), before krumping became accepted as a movement and not a bunch of weirdoes parading around in face point, there was a soulful crooner that gave the West coast a distinctive sound. Nathaniel Dwayne Hale better known as Nate Dogg ushered in a new sound to the rap game in the early 90’s-G funk.
G-funk, or Gangsta-funk, is a sub-genre of hip-hop music that emerged from West Coast gangsta rap in the early 1990s. G-funk (which uses funk music with an artificially lowered tempo) incorporates multi-layered and melodic synthesizers, slow hypnotic grooves, a deep bass, background female vocals, the extensive sampling of P-funk tunes, and a high portamento sine wave keyboard lead. The lyrical content consisted of sex, drugs, violence, and women. There was also a slurred “lazy” way of rapping in order to clarify words and stay in rhythmic cadence. Nate Dogg’s career and claim to fame was mostly predicated on his collaborations with rappers.
Nate Dogg’s smooth baritone voice was a cool addition to Death Row Records during a time when most of their artists were fixated on coastal supremacy and crude nihilistic lyrics. Nate Dogg made his debut on Dr. Dre’s critically acclaimed album The Chronic. Although the subject matter of Dre’s album centered on misogyny and violence, Nate Dogg’s distinctive soulful and funky sound could sometimes take even the most conscious listeners minds off of the creatively offensive tracks.
Nate Dogg’s death struck me in a very odd way. Like most 21st century college students, I receive a lot my news via Twitter and Facebook (sometimes it more credible than Fox News). When I saw that Nate Dogg was a trending topic my heart immediately hit the floor. I usually assume that when people that I haven’t heard about in a long time become trending topics they have become critically injured or have passed away. Unfortunately, my intuition was correct. Interestingly, what surprised me the most was the outpouring of love the rapper received, even from feminist scholars. I grew up listening to Nate Dogg, but I wrongly assumed that because he never had much success as a solo artist, that people didn’t appreciate his sound as much as me. Boy was I wrong.
Many people took to the blogosphere to commemorate his life and career, but also warn against unhealthy living habits that can contribute to strokes. I’m not a physician, and I don’t play one in the blogosphere. Although it has been confirmed that Nate Dogg had serious health problems in recent years (stroke in 2007 and partial paralysis in 2008) I don’t want to stand on my soapbox and preach to anyone about going to the doctor. We don’t know if he was going to receive proper medical treatment or not. Before we talk about folks not going to the doctor, let’s have a conversation about the structural inequalities that keep many Americans from getting proper treatment. But that’s for another blog post. Until the next episode, R.I.P. Nate Dogg!