AUSTIN, TX: As Snoop Dogg himself admitted this morning, the first thing he thinks about after waking up is smoking weed. So when I heard that he’d be giving the music keynote at SXSW — held at 11 AM in recent years — I wondered what kind of state he’d be in, as he discussed his career and the music industry for an hour. In this regard, the highlight of the conversation was incredibly on-brand: tales of a trip to Amsterdam. With Willie Nelson. On 4/20. To shoot a video for a song called “My Medicine.”
Wait, it gets better.
After toking up and getting his ass whooped in dominoes by Nelson, Snoop and the country legend headed to a KFC drive-thru to pick up a couple buckets of chicken. “That was one of the greatest moments of my life, when Willie Nelson and I grabbed the same piece of chicken at the same damn time,” Snoop said. He dropped the piece and let Willie have it.
As Snoop told it this morning, “it was love at first sight” with Nelson, whose music Snoop loves and knows well. “I don’t know why people think me and Willie have nothing in common,” he said. “We both love animals, good music… and grass.”
Nothing elicits cheers from hungover music types like a good weed joke in the morning, as evidenced by the massive crowds that assembled for Snoop Dogg’s conversation with his longtime manager, Ted Chung. Hundreds were unable to get into the ballroom that typically accommodates the keynotes, so SXSW offered a space where attendees could watch a live-stream of the panel: another large, packed room.
Considering all the attention, it’s a shame Snoop’s keynote wasn’t more inspired. Two factors contributed to this: the fact that his manager did the softball interview instead of a journalist, and that he has a new Pharrell-produced album, Bush (out May 12), to promote. “The mothership is reconnected,” Snoop said of Bush, adding that it’s a “ride through the funkness” and that Pharrell is the Robin to his Batman. I stopped wondering if he was high after those descriptions.
Instead of insight about the state of the industry, much of the sit-down focused on Snoop’s plethora of projects, from his forthcoming HBO family drama set in an early-’80s LA (just announced today) to his youth football league to his eclectic filmography to his newfound love of painting to his YouTube channel GGN. The energy level was an Indica when it should have been a Sativa. At least the ten-piece brass band that served as Snoop’s opening act, called Hypnotic Brass, brought the excitement.
Besides Snoop’s stoner stories, he hit his stride when discussing how his education gave him an advantage in figuring out how to make hip-hop as mainstream as possible. He attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School, a predominantly white high school where he says he learned how to articulate and communicate with those who did not share his background. “My pain is for everyone who’s lived my experience, regardless of color or age,” he said. “I write for the people.”
“The people” was a prominent theme. Speaking of social media, Snoop bordered on New Age: “I believe social media is a bridge between the people and the people. I don’t even call them the fans anymore — they’re my peoples.” The peoples came out indeed, proving that even though Snoop wasn’t one of SXSW’s more industry-focused keynotes, his big personality won out like it always does.