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Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Music: I got Prose, I got Prose in different Area Codes: A Nate Dogg Appreciation

The radio edit of Nate Dogg's hook on Ludacris's"Area Codes" goes "I got prose/I got prose/In different area codes," which I can relate to.

It's rare that I remember the first time I heard an artist, but hearing Nate Dogg's voice for the first time is burned into my memory. I was a ninth grader and Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle had just come out. I wasn't sure how I felt about Doggy Dogg. He was the boogieman of the moment, the rack eveybody hung black folks problems on. I pretended to turn up my nose, but Snoop's songs were jamming.

I borrowed Doggystyle from a friend, put the cassette into the tapedeck in my bedroom and sat back. Man, this cali boy could rap even if what he was saying was at times, horrible. And the music! Then it got to the song, Ain't No Fun. It begins with a ludicrious  radio skit that takes swipes at rival rapper, Eazy-E. Then it segues into some smooth R&B singing, but it was the inverse of just about every R&B song I had ever heard. The singer mocked love, fidelity and monogamy. It sounded like a parody, but the singing was too good for a parody. I didn't know how to take it.

Over the years, Nate proved that what he did was no joke. Artists of all types called on him to sing their hooks and he delivered. His role was unique, clever and represented something new in R&B and hip-hop. Later, folks such as Akon and T-Pain filled the void when he became sick and left the scene, but they were never as interesting or original as Nate Dogg.

I laughed at the ridiculous narrative of Regulate.  Jammed to his singing on The Next Episode. Bobbed my head to the horrible ideas of Xplosive.

Nate Dogg definitely had a theme: women can't be trusted, don't waste your time on love, protect your money from gold diggers. Sometimes it was repetitive and hard to listen to; the music the only counterpoint or redemptive value. The rapper Immortal Technique once rapped: "Most people are only players because you've been played and ain't let go of that shit since the seventh grade." Nate's music illustrated this at times. Behind the great singing and vulgar boasts always seemed to be sadness. This is most evident on his first solo album, G-Funk Classics. On the song "Scared of Love," with a voice dripping with pain and regret, he sings: "I'm just a man, scared of love." He lets down the guarded bravado of "Ain't No Fun" and exposes a human vulnerability that's often missing in the gangsta genre.

He sings:

When they asked me
why I dont like love
or why I dont have a lady
maybe its because I know
as soon as I tell her
how I feel about her
as soon as I act like
I love her she's gone

I'm just a man (scared of love)
I'm just a man (is why I dont have a lady)
I'm just a man
I'm just a man in love

I really was so into you
but you dont know what I'm going through
you say you really care for me
but in love there's no guarantee
so, I think I outta take my time
cuz love aint no friend of mine you see

Dont let me get you too confused
you're the friend I dont want to lose
if I made a choice its you I choose
but my heart's a tad bit through
so, I try to get you off my mind
but a remedy I cannot find for you
Ever since he went away there's been a real void in hip hop and R&B. Rest in Peace homie.


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