It was only a matter of time before we paid the price for the unseasonably spring-like weather that we've been enjoying down here in the snow-proof dome of Nashville. While the rest of the country digs their small children out of snow drifts, we've been kicking back, drinking beers on patios and lording it over our frozen friends to the north. And then, just as we were preparing to catch the Doggfather himself, Snoop D-O-Double-Gizzle, performing at a sold-out Cannery Ballroom, the damn skies parted and down poured a biblical amount of rain. But even hurricane winds couldn't deter us from catching Snoop Dogg on Thursday night.
We arrived on the scene just as tornado warnings expired, leaving a windy downpour pelting a loosely organized line of rap fans stretching all the way back into the parking lot. Ducking for cover under the Cannery complex's metal staircase, we overheard one group of people contemplating giving up entirely on the show, unwilling to stand in the rain for the half hour or more it would take to work their way through the line. And can you really blame them? Typical rap-show security protocol is only a half-step below airport status, and this was no different: Only a slow trickle of people were allowed through the doors as they passed pat-downs and bag-checks.
Which is a long way of saying that we missed a hell of a lot of the opening hype-up, which came courtesy of local DJs Rate, Coach and Wick-It.
By the time we made it through the weather and security gauntlets, Wick-It the Instigator was onstage, bumping a set that leaned into his hip-hop roots, repping the South with Dungeon Family and UGK cuts while nodding at the West Coast by dropping in Dre disciple Kendrick Lamar's “Backseat Freestyle” for good measure. It wasn't the spectacular EDM grinder that we caught in October at Greer Stadium, but Wick-It played to his crowd and did his job of whipping everyone into party mode. We're also pretty sure he broke the brain of one young Snoop Dogg fan, whose jaw dropped to the floor when she realized that she was listening to a trap remix of “Walk the Line.” Nice one, dude.
The peril of going to a rap show on a school night is that there's always a chance that we'll get Raekwon'd, left feigning interest in weed-carrier posse members filling in while the headliner takes his sweet time getting onstage. Not on Thursday. Moments after Wick-It left the stage, Snoop's DJ appeared with a cry of “Who's smoking weed in this motherfucker?!” and instigated a blaze fest that probably gave the entire county a contact high.
Fifteen minutes later, Snoop Dogg appeared in a Steve McNair Titans jersey, back-lit by an LED screen displaying his Snoop Lion logo. There would be no Snoop Lion songs though — thank Jah for that — but instead, a murderers' row of hits, half-covers and guest-verse snippets that make up one of the most iconic rap careers in the history of the genre. Book-ended by recent hits — 2009's “I Wanna Rock” and the Wiz Khalifa collab “Young, Wild and Free” opened and closed the show, respectively — and filled in with just about every single you could name, from “Drop It Likes It's Hot” to “Lodi Dodi,” Snoop Dogg's set came off a bit like listening to an hourlong mixtape of Snoop's greatest moments. Well, his greatest moments and a half-cover of Joan Jett's “I Love Rock 'n' Roll” that nobody saw coming.
While hearing “Gin and Juice” live and in person was exactly what the 1,000-capacity room wanted, it all felt a little perfunctory to us. It's been a long time since Snoop Dogg was the gangsta rapper tried and acquitted of the murder of a rival, but the chance for surprises seemed all but sucked out of the room. Even when the DJ announced, “We got Young Buck in this motherfucker!” and Buck — who hasn't made a public appearance since his 18-month prison stint ended in October — strode onstage from the wings, nothing was made of it. It seemed like all of the elements were there to take this performance beyond a pretty good party and into a truly unique, transcendent experience.
But that isn't to say it wasn't great in its own way. It was the party the crowd wanted, and Snoop Dogg is a hell of a performer. He's mastered the art of telling the crowd to do something and everyone doing it — a demand that Nashvillians are wont to disregard. He hit his greatest verses — though he notably omitted “Murder Was the Case” — without bogging down in every word. Hell, he even rapped along with 2Pac and Biggie singles to keep that beef squashed for life. But what should have felt like a once-in-a-lifetime event came up feeling just a little bit short. Although, if your experience was merely “awesome” and not “fucking awesome,” that's still a hell of a good time.
After almost exactly 60 minutes, Snoop Dogg reintroduced himself as his Rastafarian alter-ego Snoop Lion, blasted Bob Marley's “Jammin'” and peaced out. Yeah, sure, Snoop Dogg performing in a venue the size of Cannery Ballroom could have been a night to rival all other nights that fell short of that goal. Or maybe we're just privileged dicks for wanting that extra jump in production. Either way, we got to hear Snoop Doggy Dogg rap verses from Dr. Dre's “The Next Episode,” and that was pretty fucking great.