Snoop Dogg, South By Southwest keynote speaker. Insert joke here.
Certainly many have since the iconic rapper was announced as the music conference’s featured subject, following in the recent footsteps of Lady Gaga, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen. But Snoop showed up Friday morning (or, for him, perhaps the continuation of Thursday night) at the Austin Convention Center looking sharp in a bowtie, dress shirt, sunglasses and plenty of bling. Guided by questions from his manager, Ted Chung, he spent 45 minutes sharing memories and philosophies with the breezy ease of his best rhymes.
Snoop had some news, too; Chung revealed that the MC is developing a new program with HBO and Menace II Society co-director Allen Hughes about the Long Beach, Calif., area at the time the rapper grew up. “HBO’s the No. 1 network in the world as far as developing and having these types of shows come to life,” Snoop said. “To be able to work with Allen Hughes…this is like a dream come true to be able to tell a story that’s gonna be told the right way, on the right network.”
Hughes also sent a question through Chung asking Snoop about a perspective the director feels bridged the lyric-heavy world of New York rap with the vibe of southern California. “When I was a kid, my mother told me to love people no matter what their color was,” Snoop explained. “So I built up a thing called love. I didn’t have hate in me.” That, he says, was reinforced by going to a predominately white middle school in Lakewood.
“I learned to communicate with people and learned to do things the right way as opposed to the hood, where I was taught to do it one way,” Snoop said. “It taught me to articulate and communicate and write with a purpose FOR people as opposed to just writing for MY people. I feel like everybody is my people. My pen is for everybody who went through the same experiences as me, no matter what color they are. My connection is to the people and I always feel like I write for the people.”
Snoop talked about his new album, Bush — coming May 12 and produced by Pharrell Williams — and showed the video for the new single “Peaches ‘N Cream” with Pharrell and Charlie Wilson. “Pharrell is a genius,” said Snoop, who did not address the recent “Blurred Lines” verdict and took no audience questions after the interview. “The mothership reconnected. (Bush) is a funk ride. It’s a ride through the funkisphere. It feels good. I really enjoy listening to it and playing it for people and seeing the response. You know, it’s hard for me to listen to Snoop Dogg because I’m Snoop Dogg and I’m too busy trying to be different, to get on to the next thing. This record right here is living with me. It’s starting to become part of my everyday life. When I go over to different countries and I play it and sneak it in, I can see the way people dance to it. It’s just a whole nother groove of me.” Snoop added that he also involved Pharrell in the album’s videos.
The keynote conversation also touched on Snoop’s other endeavors, including the Snoop Youth Football League — which has 21 alumni headed to NCAA Division 1 schools this year, including his own son to UCLA — and his Trap Flix streaming channel for aspiring filmmakers. Chung also asked Snoop about his painting, which the rapper says was inspired by his fans. “It was like, ‘Man, you should paint.’ ‘I’m like, ‘For real?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re music is so visual. What do you be going through? What do you be thinking?’ When I’m painting I’m laughing, I’m crying, I’m everywhere. I’m on a whole other galaxy. And this is the crazy part; When I step back I’ll be like, ‘That’s an angel.’ Then someone else comes along and says, ‘That’s a tight bird right there,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, this is a bird.’ It’s never like, ‘That’s a clock. That’s a Hand.’ I’m an abstract artist.” Snoop added that his first painting hangs in the Versace hotel in Australia and includes some marijuana ashes in its materials.
Chung also asked an Austin- and SXSW-appropriate question about Snoop’s relationship with Willie Nelson and their collaboration on the track “My Medicine” — in Amsterdam on 4/20, no less. “I don’t know why people don’t think me and Willie don’t have nothing in common,” Snoop said. “We like animals. We like good music. And we like grass. So it’s a natural, you know? When I met him I said, ‘Willie, I love you. You might not think I do, but I do’ and I started singing ‘On the Road Again.” And he said, ‘Y’know what, Snoop? I’m a bigger fan of yours than you are of mine. My daughter’s a fan. My sister’s a fan’….It was love at first sight. We went in the green room and had a conversation, and from there that conversation sparked — yeah, sparked — up the idea of me and Willie wanting to collaborate.”
Snoop also relayed a story about the two, following a stoned game of dominoes, going “to our favorite spot, Kentucky Fried Chicken. We pull up in the drive through and order chicken…and we open it up and me and Willie stick our hand in at the same time and we grab the same piece of chicken. And I look at Willie and I’m like, ‘That’s you, dawg. My bad’ and I let him go and have it. That was one of the greatest moments in my life, me and Willie Nelson grabbed the same piece of chicken at the same damn time.”