The best things in life are indeed worth waiting for. More than a decade in the making, 213 (the super group of hip-hop icons Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G) is set to release its explosive, long-anticipated debut album, The Hard Way. The charged collection finds the music veterans breathing new life into the G’d up sound and style that they helped define and popularize in the 1990s, when they individually and collectively sold more than 25 million records.
With production from Kanye West (Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Twista), Hi-Tek (Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli) and Battlecat (Snoop Dogg, Tha Eastsidaz), among others, The Hard Way hits hard sonically and lyrically, as Snoop, Nate and Warren reflect on life’s lessons, examine relationship issues and deliver song after song of future hits.
“Groupie Love”, The Hard Way’s first single, is already exploding on radio across the country. Produced by West Coast hip-hop pioneer DJ Pooh (Snoop Dogg, King T, Kam), the funk-drenched track introduces listeners to 213’s player side. “It’s a fun record and everybody likes it,” Snoop says. “When we first made it, all the girls in the studio went crazy for it. That was actually the last record that we made and the one that got the most response so we felt it was the one that we wanted to put out.”
213 takes a grounded approach on the retro-sounding “MLK/Take A Ride”. Here, the three trace their various experiences thirsting for and pursuing money and success. “It kind of describes us coming up and wanting to be able to make some money,” Nate Dogg explains. “The song is about finding a way to make money. It describes a whole lot because that’s how we started and here we are today still doing the same thing. You may have some money but you’re still trying a way to get some more money.”
Elsewhere, 213 delivers the warm, feel-good “Another Summer”. This future anthem was produced by Kanye West and features 213 championing family reunions and a violence free lifestyle. 213 gets serious on “Lonely Girl,” as Snoop Dogg and Warren G lament the negative life choices some women make. But 213 definitely loves women. Case in point is “Mary Jane G Mix,” a love letter to marijuana written as if weed were actually a woman named Mary Jane.
213 also holds the R&B singer Monica in high esteem. In summer 2003, the group took the siren’s “So Gone” and changed it into “So Fly”. Originally featured on a Snoop Dogg mix tape, 213’s song became a No. 1 song at Los Angeles rap radio stations and inspired the long-time friends to focus on finally recording a full-fledged 213 album.
“That’s the song that actually got us the deal and got us started,” Snoop says. “Without that record, we wouldn’t have a 213 record. Nate kicked it off and once we did it, all the labels was calling us like, ‘Ya’ll doing a record? What’s up with 213?’ So we couldn’t do nothing but continue to keep making records. That song was the starting point, so it’s perfect for it to be on the record.”
The success of “So Fly” comes as no surprise to long-time followers of Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G, three of the most significant and influential individuals in hip-hop history. The three friends met as kids the 1980s in their native Long Beach, California. Snoop Dogg was an aspiring rapper, Nate dreamt of being a singer and Warren G had DJ aspirations.
Inspired by Richie Rich’s street-centered 415 rap group, which was named after the Bay Area’s prominent area code, Snoop, Nate and Warren decided to name themselves 213 after the area code that, at the time, represented Los Angeles, Compton, Watts, Carson and, of course, Long Beach.
As the trio started making songs, Warren G stepped into a supervisory role, keeping his friends focused on making music and by promoting his group’s work to his half-brother; iconic producer Dr. Dre.
“Warren G is what I call an assist man because without him, none of us would be in the game,” Nate Dogg explains. “He’s the guy that would knock down Dr. Dre’s door, play him our music. He’s the guy that kept us interested in hip-hop back in the day, making beats and scratching.”
Snoop Dogg would go on to be one of hip-hop’s most successful and influential solo artists who has also introduced such platinum talent as Tha Eastsidaz, while Nate Dogg has emerged as the go-to guy for rappers needing soulful hooks to go with their hard-core sound. Warren G has enjoyed a multi-platinum recording career, which kicked off with his legendary Nate Dogg collaboration “Regulate” and is the father of the popular West Coast production style known as G-Funk.
“Nate brought the gangster melodies to the game,” Warren G says. “Snoop brought the smooth gangster style to the game. They’ve had an incredible impact. I’m the cool type, but on this album, it’s like a reinvention of Warren G. I’m more hard-core on this record. It’s not the same. I went hard on the yard on this one. People are expecting to hear me with the smoothness, so I took it to the streets but it’s real talk.”
With life-long friends, unparalleled talent and an album full of stellar songs, 213 proves that The Hard Way has been well worth the wait. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G are hip-hop icons whose new effort may surprise people who aren’t expecting them to produce such a powerful album.
“I think it’s going to catch people off guard because there isn’t a lot of hype on it,” Snoop Dogg says. “It ain’t really talked about as a big record coming out this year and ain’t nobody really expecting it, but it’s a great record with a lot of good songs on it. It says a lot and it means a lot. I think it’s going to be one of those classic records that sneaks up on you like the first Eastsidaz record.”