Snoop Dogg Rolls Over

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His Playa Days Behind Him, The Rapper-Turned-Actor Says He's More Soccer Dad Than Mack Daddy

LOS ANGELES--If you mention rap icon Snoop Dogg to the average person, a slew of stereotypes inevitably follows. "Isn't he that gangsta rapper who invented the hizzle-shizzle slang?" most will ask. Or: "Isn't he that hip-hop dude that's obsessed with smoking weed?" Many will remember his high-profile murder trial in the mid-'90s (he was acquitted), and his controversial, multiplatinum 1993 debut album Doggystyle. Others will recall his affiliation with the notorious underworld record label Death Row, his friendship with the late Tupac Shakur, and his battle over censorship with anti-rap activist C. Delores Tucker. Some folks may be aware of the megastar's short-lived MTV show Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, or his involvement in the porn series Girls Gone Wild.

But if you raise the subject of Snoop Dogg, you are virtually guaranteed to hear this comment: "Oh yeah, he's the pimp guy." Snoop's entertainment empire--which now includes a pintsize action figure--nurtures his cartoonish image as a mack daddy who struts about, clad in outlandish threads, toting a diamond-encrusted goblet (aka pimp cup) and smooth-talking everyone around him. This persona makes frequent on-screen appearances, such as his recent guest spot in 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." video. Now, in the motion-picture remake of the '70s TV show Starsky & Hutch--which opens Friday (March 5) in Vancouver--the rapper-turned-actor plays pimp/police informant Huggy Bear.

However, in an interview room at a Los Angles hotel, the Doggfather downplays his bona fide player status, instead emphasizing his desire to be taken seriously as an actor, a family man, and a leader in the black community.

"I think I was closed in by my image," the West Coast wordsmith admits. "But now, people are starting to open up to me and give me more opportunities to show that I'm not just a hard-core rapper but I can play any character that you allow me to play. So that opportunity is arising for me to become more of who I want to be."

Clearly, it will be a challenge to overcome the typecasting that results from his thuggish rep, given the colossal amount of media coverage dedicated to it over the years. "Yeah, I think it's going to be hard to get over that," Snoop allows. "But it's going to come with the roles.

"With the right roles and the right cast and the right directors and the right movies, we'll take me out of that Snoop Dogg persona," insists the man born Calvin Broadus. "You'll look at me as an actor."

It's obvious that this soft-spoken, sleepy-eyed celebrity is in the throes of some serious growing pains. Where he once flaunted his drug- and violence-filled lifestyle, Snoop now paints an entirely different portrait of himself. For instance, his current passion is for volunteering as a football coach.

"I fell in love with it two years ago, coaching my older son," the stick-thin L.A. native explains. "I'm going on my third year this year. It's just something about being out there coaching the kids. You know, they all pay attention. After they get past the fact that I'm Snoop Dogg the rapper--that now I'm Coach Snoop--they realize that I really understand football and I'm trying to teach them something about football."

"It's a love and it's bond," he adds. "It's hard to explain. As a kid, my mom was always there for me. So it's like now I'm a father figure to a lot of these kids on the football field, and that was missing in my life on the football field when I was a kid. My father wasn't there to see me play football. He and my mom weren't together. So I was missing that element. And I see how good it is to have that, how I can push the kids to the next level. Whether it's with academics or with sports."

If this new, more benevolent role is an unexpected one for Snoop D-O-double-G fans, apparently it's perfectly in keeping with the way the 32-year-old father of three perceives himself. "I seen a numerologist one time and he said if I was in the days of Jesus...I would have been a king," Snoop shares. "Because I have leader qualities and I'm a peaceful person. If we had a military [back then], I would be the peace negotiator."

"That's cool," the cornrowed entertainer continues. "Being able to walk on all sides of the world and communicate with everybody--especially when it comes to the rap world. I'm able to say I'm cool with everybody in the rap community. Everybody can't say that."

Still, some are bound to read Snoop's efforts to cultivate a new image as contradictory. If he wants to be taken seriously, why does he still parade around in polyester pantsuits and feathered fedoras? Where outsiders to urban culture see the pimp figure as a malevolent con man who fetishizes a profession based on sexual slavery, many in hip-hop see him as a young, stylish hero who makes something out of nothing, creating wealth and opportunity through his wits alone. For Snoop, playing a pimp on the big screen and acting as a leader in life aren't necessarily antithetical.

"You know, Huggy is fun," he says of his character in Starsky & Hutch. "He's not a square. He's the people's people. He can talk to the police and he can talk to the neighbourhood. Sort of like me."

Snoop is asked to recall if, when he was growing up, the pimp on his block at all resembled the amiable Huggy Bear. "He was a gangsta; he was violent," he concedes. "And you could see his work. You know, at the same time, people loved him because he gave the community something to look forward to, something to reach for.

"When you see a Michael Jordan or a big-name actor on the movie screen or the TV screen, you can't touch them," he continues. "But for a star that's in the 'hood, you can touch him. You don't need his autograph; you can shake his hand, you can ask him something. He's living just as good as they living, but he's more personal with you. You can relate to him. You can't really relate to them, because they moved up. He still there, and he loves being there."

As an exí‚ ­Crips gang member who rose from the underbelly of South Central L.A. to a successful career in mainstream music and movies, Snoop probably plays a similar role for young hopefuls. But does he have any regrets? "I wouldn't redo nothing," he responds. "I mean, I'm thankful for my life. I've been through a lot--a lot of bad, a lot of good, a lot of ups and downs.

"But at the same time, it made me who I am," he reflects. "If I didn't have all of these things that I went through--going to jail, getting shot at, seeing people die, you know, being in terrible situations--I wouldn't be the person that I am now, as far as being able to be calm and to be thankful and to be helpful. And to be a leader when I know I'm a leader. I have to lead now. So it's not me just being selfish and looking out for Snoop Dogg; I look out for my people. And everybody who down with me is my people; it's not just black people, it's people in general."