'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Snoop Dogg ('Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party')

Snoop Dogg_AOL_Performance - Publicity - H 2016
Getty Images/Courtesy of AOL

Snoop Dogg_AOL_Performance - Publicity - H 2016

"I'm like a cat, man, I've got nine lives," says Snoop Dogg, one of the most popular and influential music artists of the last quarter-century — a trailblazer in the world of gangsta rap and hip-hop who has received 17 Grammy nominations over the years, thanks to hits like "What’s My Name," "Gin & Juice" and "Drop It Like It's Hot" — as we sit down to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter's 'Awards Chatter' podcast. We're deep inside The Compound, a well-fortified building in Inglewood, Calif., that he owns and that’s filled with recording studios, screening rooms, a basketball court and ample supplies of marijuana, several blunts of which he smokes during our time together. "I'm connected," he continues, explaining his secrets of survival. "I keep my ear to the streets, I never play the role of being too big or too grown or too much. I actually converted myself from big 'Snoop Dogg' to 'Uncle Snoop' — that's the new thing. The rap generation treats me like I'm their uncle because I've always treated them like my nephews and showed 'em love and respected 'em and taught 'em and showed 'em the right way and never tried to get 'em in trouble and helped 'em out and just done that uncle thing that was never done for us in hip-hop."

The rap generation isn't the only one that loves Snoop Dogg. In fact, it's hard to find anyone these days who isn't high — pardon the pun — on the 45-year-old, a cool and colorful character who always looks like he just smoked (he probably did), never raises his voice and constantly finds way to reinvent himself and appeal to new and unexpected groups of people. Case in point? Snoop and Martha Stewart, of all people, are currently not only co-hosts of a VH1 cooking show, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, but also each other's biggest fans — and together are frontrunners to win the Emmy for outstanding host for a reality or reality competition program. "I find ways to make it interesting and still remain me at all times," he says of life itself. "I've been able to be as gangsta as I want to be and be as positive as I want to be because that's all part of me."

(Click above to listen to this episode or here to access all of our 172 episodes via iTunes. Past guests include Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Meryl Streep, Eddie Murphy, Lady Gaga, Robert De Niro, Emma Stone, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Louis C.K., Reese Witherspoon, Harvey Weinstein, Natalie Portman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jane Fonda, Ryan Reynolds, Nicole Kidman, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Taraji P. Henson, Justin Timberlake, Elisabeth Moss, Michael Moore, Kristen Stewart, J.J. Abrams, Helen Mirren, Denzel Washington, Brie Larson, Aziz Ansari, Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Warren Beatty, Jessica Chastain, Samuel L. Jackson, Kate Winslet, Sting, Tyler Perry, Amy Schumer, Jay Leno, Mandy Moore, Ricky Gervais, Kris Jenner & Jimmy Kimmel.

Snoop Dogg, who was born Calvin Broadus, Jr. and raised by a single mother in Long Beach, Calif., first burst onto the scene in 1992 as "Snoop Doggy Dogg." He had been given the first part of the nickname by his mom, who felt that he loved the Peanuts character so much that he started to look like him; the second part was a play on the nickname of his cousin, who went by Tate Doggy Dogg. Snoop grew up singing in church and listening to old-school R&B music, but when gangsta rap first emerged in the 1980s, he fell in love with it and began singing it in the hallways at school, drawing crowds even then. Though he was a peacemaker inside the building, Snoop was drawn to the gang life just outside of it, perhaps seeking a father-figure. And though his activities with the Crips ultimately landed him in jail, he still says, "I'm thankful to have been part of a gang because that taught me leadership, brotherhood, understanding, right from wrong."

While in jail, Snoop began rapping about fellow prisoners, some of whom convinced him to stay on the straight-and-narrow (more or less) so that he could realize the full potential of his gift. Once back on the outside, he teamed with Nate Dogg and Warren G to form the group 213, and audio cassettes of their music soon began selling like hotcakes out of car trunks. One tape made it into the hands of Dr. Dre, who was impressed and took Snoop under his wing; some Snoop-written songs ("Nuthin' But a G Thang") and many Snoop-rapped verses can be heard on Dre's first album apart from NWA, 1992's The Chronic, which proved a hit and led to Snoop himself signing with the same record label that repped Dre, Death Row Records. A year later, Snoop's own debut album, Doggystyle, was released and, on the back of singles such as "What's My Name" and "Gin & Juice," debuted at No. 1, went multi-platinum and made him the face of Death Row — just as he was facing murder charges in connection to an incident that he suggests was a misunderstanding.

Snoop ultimately was found not guilty and emerged back into society just as gangsta rap's East Coast-West Coast rivalry was reaching a boiling point at and after the 1995 Source Awards, catching some of his closest friends in the crosshairs. "None of the rappers were violent, but their homies were," he explains. And by the time he put out his second album, The Doggfather, in 1996, his good friend Tupac Shakur was dead, Death Row chief Suge Knight was headed to jail and, with "everybody gone," Snoop decided, he says, that he "just didn't wanna be gangsta no more." He began turning away from gangsta life and towards "pimp life," with which he "was always infatuated as a kid," and he feels that may actually have saved his life: "Without me having that strength to pull away, I don't think I'd be here today." By 2000, Snoop was projecting a friendlier version of himself, peppering his speech and songs with the idiosyncratic suffix "izzle," starting with 2000's "What's My Name (Part 2)"; creating a youth football league in 2005; and even receiving an invitation to the White House to meet President Barack Obama ("a beautiful person") in 2013.

Through it all, weed remained omnipresent in his life — but then again, that only made him look even more ahead of the curve, as the rest of the country began catching up. Snoop says he first stole a puff at the age of 6 and never turned back, because, in his view, why should he? "Look how good I look! Look how my mind works! Look how I'm on-point and I'm spontaneous in my answers and everything is flowing! Look how smooth my skin is! Look how long my hair is! Look at how I breathe! You understand me? I don't do no alcohol, I don't smoke no cigarettes, I just do this right here, and this is the results of it." He reveals that the only person who ever out-smoked him was Willie Nelson ("He fucked me up ... in Amsterdam on 4/20 about eight years ago. ... It was like the mothafuckin' Olympics") and that his favorite munchie is Funyuns.

So how, you might wonder, does a man with this background wind up working alongside Stewart, the pride of lily-white Westport, Connecticut? "She's been loving and caring towards people in hip-hop since day one," Snoop asserts, noting that he also was "a fan" of hers and twice was a guest on her home living TV show. "She was always 'hood' to us." The two wound up seated next to each other at Comedy Central's 2015 roast of Justin Bieber, meaning Stewart inhaled a lot of second-hand smoke that, she later joked, left her feeling high. Whether or not she actually was, her roasting of Bieber was hilarious and went viral — "She fuckin' stole the show," Snoop recalls — and one of many who noticed was Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, VH1 & Logo, who was looking for a cooking show that might appeal to millennials. He pitched Stewart and Snoop, both said yes and, in tandem with producer SallyAnn Salsano (Jersey Shore), they hit the kitchen — or at least a set with side-by-side kitchens — along with celebrity guests ranging from Seth Rogen to Wiz Khalifa.

Snoop and Stewart look like they're having a blast on the show, which Snoop says he does only because he enjoys hanging with Stewart, not because he needs further fame and fortune. With her, Snoop has a dynamic that shifts between mother/son, brother/sister and boyfriend/girlfriend. "She gets me white-boy wasted and I think it's on purpose," he chuckles, while confessing that he may have introduced Stewart, who doesn't knowingly consume marijuana, to some anyway: "I may have dropped a few seeds here and there, ya dig?" More seriously, he says, "I'm learning from her a few things, and I'm also teaching her a few things," adding, "She's a survivor and she's a beautiful spirit and I just love being around her 'cause she teaches me so much on etiquette and presentation and just how to be a better person. I'm thankful to have her as a friend and have her as a companion on television."

Snoop continues, naughtily, "She's beautiful, too! Did you see her old pictures when she used to rock them bathing suits? She was cold. She had those minks and she was sitting on the hill. She had nothin' but bosses. She didn't date no regular mothafuckas; you had to have at least a billion. 'A hundred thousand? If you don't get outta here! How many boats you got? You own what?'" More importantly, he emphasizes, she's a role model. "Her age is the same age as Donald Trump," he reasons. "You see his racist ways? That has nothing to do with right now. That's the shit that's in him, as far as how he was raised. If you're raised that way, you're raised that way; she wasn't raised that way. She was raised to love people and have a kind spirit. She opens her home up, she feeds kids, she does things — she's just a beautiful spirit. That's attractive to me. It makes me want to be around that, because I want to grow to be her age and to be known for that — for somebody who's not from my culture or not from my background to be able to do something with me and say, 'Man, me and Snoop Dogg, we hit it off, and you would have never thought.'"

Man, me and Snoop Dogg, we hit it off, and you would have never thought!