With Snoop Dogg’s latest video, a remixed version of the song “Lavender” by a little known Canadian group called BADBADNOTGOOD, the rapper has people asking did he go a bit too far when he depicted Donald Trump – along with several other characters – in a clown mask, then shot a toy gun at the president’s head. The gun released confetti and a flag with the word “BANG!” when Snoop pulled the trigger. The video is linked below, so a warning to those who dare to watch it, it does include the controversial scene at the 3:07 mark.
The rapper formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg is a well-known critic of the current U.S. president with several references to “clowns” in his scathing critiques of the administration. But did Snoop Dogg go too far in this allusion to the president’s assassination?
The short answer is “yep.”
At least in my opinion…and probably that of many other people who draw a hard line when it comes to glorifying one’s death, even if it’s someone as divisive as this president has been.
However, this issue deserves further analysis and a broader context than the one being touted by conservatives and conservative-run organizations – particularly a certain media outlet that would have you believe that “lunatic liberals” fantasize about Trump’s demise in the worst possible way, or that they’re the only ones capable of such thinking.
Of course, a presidential assassination is no laughing or joking matter, and a mocking depiction of it – even if buried in the form of one’s art – should not be exempted from scorn. So the image of assassinating ANY president, including one as polarizing as the White House’s current occupant, is unacceptable, whether it’s a form of artistic expression, protest, a joke, or any combination of the three.
That said – and this is where I mockingly pull a card from the “blame Obama” deck that I’ve seen shuffled so often in the past two months – this same sort of thing happened during the former president’s time in office, many times.
There may not have been toy guns involved, but there were certainly other methods used in depicting No. 44’s death, including hanging effigies of the former president being burned in front of American churches, along with images of No. 44 and various forms of nooses. There were many reports at various schools and universities of Obama effigies being hung out of protest throughout his presidency.
But an opinion piece by Dan Gainor for foxnews.com on March 14 called the Snoop Dogg video “part of a dangerous trend of the left fantasizing about the death of presidents they oppose — especially Trump.” He then cited as examples a number of celebrities whose public comments spoke in protest of Trump or his policies, including one in which former pop queen Madonna spoke of “blowing up the White House.”
I, for one, don’t give a lot of credence to what Madonna says or does and who knows if she meant it literally or metaphorically. But, it’s probably a surprise to no one that much of Hollywood is either anti-Trump or against his policies. And since movie and music stars usually have a pretty bright spotlight and a very large platform from which to speak, their antics will usually draw the most attention…and the biggest ire.
Snoop Dogg is just the latest example of this, but he’s no better or worse than all those Obama effigy burners who showed equal or more disdain for the sitting president at the time. And if you look at the symbolism surrounding the chosen methods of death for the nation’s first black president, it’s not hard to imagine that the hatred for No. 44 went far beyond his politics or his policies.
Yet if you read the op-ed piece on the Fox News website, you’d think Obama and his supporters never had to endure this type of “fantasizing” by his opponents, and that the “left” are the only ones capable of it, which recent history has shown not to be the case.
To expand the context of this issue even further, the song in Snoop’s latest video is hardly the first rap tune to depict gun violence, whether playfully or not. Countless rap tunes by superstars like Ice-T, Nas, 50 Cent, Rick Ross, even Lil’ Kim along with many others have rapped about brandishing firearms — and using them. In those songs, the targets are presumptively other black men, judging by the lyrical content. Yet these songs continue to fill playlists and airwaves (with very little editing) as this sort of thing has become normalized in the hip-hop community, to the detriment of the black community.
My point is, if we’re going to hold Snoop Dogg accountable (and I’m not even sure what that accountability would look like) for his depiction of Donald Trump in the “Lavender” video, then we ought to hold accountable all rappers and other musicians who’ve glorified violence of this nature over the years.
Is the music industry really willing to do that?
And what about the president’s reaction?
Well, Trump not surprisingly responded with a tweet. In it, he wrote: “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Snoop Dogg, failing career and all, aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!”
Well, Mr. Trump, regarding Obama, one doesn’t have to imagine…it happened many times, as shown above. I wonder if any of those perpetrators are serving jail time for doing it.
And about Trump’s assessment of Snoop Dogg’s “failing career,” I did a fact check on that as well.
Snoop’s professional career as a rapper began a quarter century ago in 1992, when he guested on Dr. Dre’s first solo album, The Chronic. Under his former name, Snoop Doggy Dogg, he released his solo début album, Doggystyle, in 1993 – an album that sold more than 800,000 copies in its first week – the highest début sales week for any rap album up to that point. It was the first of his four consecutive No. 1 albums during the 1990s (including a soundtrack album, Murder Was The Case) that all went double-platinum or better and generated several hit singles in the process. A fifth album during the decade, 1999’s No Limit Top Dogg, peaked at No. 2 and went platinum.
His success continued into the new millennium, with three more albums that sold 1.5 million or more copies each, and another that fell just shy of platinum at 900K (his 2006 release, The Blue Carpet Treatment).
Those numbers would make Snoop Dogg one of the most consistently big-selling artists over a nearly 14-year period that saw the music biz, and more specifically hip-hop, reach astronomical sales numbers before peaking in 2000, then experience sales declines in almost every year since.
To say Snoop’s career is “failing” now is dependent upon how one measures success. In terms of record sales, he’s no longer selling millions of albums like he did in the 1990s and early 2000s, but then hardly anyone is. Snoop’s last six studio albums have all failed to even go gold in the U.S., which alone would lend some credibility to the president’s dire assessment of the rapper’s music career.
However, when one considers that traditional album sales have essentially died for almost everyone in the 15 years since Snoop’s last double-platinum album, the word “failure” becomes a much more relative term. In 2001 during the industry’s heyday, exactly 100 albums were able to sell a million copies or more. That was the year that Snoop’s sixth album “Tha Last Meal” was on its way to a 2-million sales mark.
By stark contrast, only seven albums sold a million copies in 2016. So the bottom line is Snoop is not the only artist to suffer from the music industry’s current album-sales doldrums.
But, despite the fact that Snoop is not alone in his sales slump, has the “Gin and Juice” and “Drop It Like Its Hot” rapper made career and personal missteps along the way? Certainly.
There were the many run-ins with the law, including a murder charge, various charges of drug and weapons possession, airport infractions, and an assault case or two. Then there was the ill-fated Snoop Lion alter-ego that he went by at the beginning of the current decade.
However, Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, Jr., has overcome all of that to remain a successful businessman – including outside of the music industry.
He recently started an online news service that caters to marijuana users, Merry Jane. He also has his own brand of cannabis, Leafs by Snoop, and an app, Snoopify, which allows users to brand their photos with his images and likeness. (And for those who are already passing judgment on his choice of brand investment and marketing, remember – marijuana has been legalized in more than half of the states in the U.S. and the list is growing, not shrinking.)
Snoop Dogg has also been in numerous movies, TV shows and commercials over his career and shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to releasing music…as the remixed “Lavender” – the source of Mr. Trump’s ire – currently attests.
Snoop Dogg has also won many American Music Awards, Billboard, BET, MTV and other awards throughout his 25-year career, including a 2015 MTV Video Award for Best Art Direction in the video for “So Many Pros” off his Bush album. The only major award in the music industry that still eludes him is the Grammys. But even in that case he holds a somewhat dubious distinction of being the recording artist with the most nominations – 17 of ’em – without getting a win.
So for Trump to say that Snoop’s career is failing is more hyperbole than fact, depending upon which measure of success one uses. In terms of record sales, the president may have a point – although, as shown above, context is needed.
In terms of overall relevance, I think it’s safe to say that Snoop is still Tha Doggfather and he’s doing just fine. And a Trump tweet mixed in with a fair amount of news coverage – bad or good – certainly doesn’t hurt his cause.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Lavender” sneak into the Billboard charts next week as a result.
Still, Snoop and BADBADNOTGOOD did go too far when it comes to the depiction of Trump in the video for “Lavender.”
At least in my opinion.