Nathaniel “Nate Dogg” Hale
On March 15, 2011 Nathaniel D. Hale, professionally known as Nate Dogg, transitioned from a world upon which he left an indelible mark.
Before Ja Rule, before 50 Cent, and long before T-Pain, Akon, or Drake were dabbling in the hook game, there was Tha Homie Nate, co-founding member of 213.
The East Coast and Midwest probably know his crossover hits best: obviously the monster smash “Regulate” performed with Warren G, huge songs from Snoop Dogg’s debut Doggystyle like “It Ain’t No Fun” and classic album cuts like “Lil Ghetto Boy” from The Chronic that Nate Dogg blessed. In 2001, Whitney Houston brought his banger with Tha Eastsidaz into the national consciousness on the BET Awards by singing, “you betta Lay Low” to her detractors from the podium.
We on the West heard much more of his repertoire on a daily basis throughout the mid ‘90s. We rode hard to tracks like “It’s All About U” from 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me, “Bitch Please” from Snoop Dogg with Xzibit, and “Big Pimpin’”, his outing with Tha Dogg Pound from the Above The Rim Soundtrack (that predated the song of shared title by Jay-Z) and of course—“The Next Episode” from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001.
Never one to discriminate based on region, the songs Nate did with emcees from the East and the South are also memorable: “Oh No” with Most Def and Pharoahe Monch; “Running Your Mouth”, the cut he did with Biggie, Fab and Busta Rhymes on B.I.G’s posthumous Greatest Hits CD; “Have A Party” with Mobb Deep, “Time’s Up” with Jadakiss, “Area Codes” with Ludacris, and his two most radio friendly collaborations of them all, I Can’t Deny It with Fabolous and “21 Questions” with 50 Cent.
That’s part of what made Nate so great; his versatility; his velvety, confident delivery on the mic; his ability to shape hip-hop’s sound and in so doing, remove boundaries. The result is a catalog so diverse within the genre, it will take quite some time for any other vocalist to eclipse it. Nate Dogg is truly an architect of contemporary hip-hop. He elevated the collaboration, and was nominated for four Grammy® Awards over the course of his career.
For some perspective, when gangsta rap ramped up and started receiving more than the “shock value” airplay given to N.W.A., Domino was Nate’s only contemporary on the West Coast, singing hooks as he half-rapped. When Death Row kicked down a new door in gangsta rap, Nate went into warp speed with a barrage of hits, leaving Domino and his gold-selling “Geto Jam” at the starting line. Nate never tried to rap, but he didn’t need to. Nate Dogg kicked game everlasting through his vocals, often anchoring the young, hurried voices of the emcees with measured grown-man sensibility. He made the most misogynist, testosterone-laden, and most triflin’ ‘hood phrases sound like quiet storm dedications, only you almost snapped your neck nodding to them. Nate Dogg was a master of melody, Suge’s heavy-hitter of hooks. And with Jewell and Danny Boy rounding out Suge’s vocal arsenal, Death Row became the arbiter of what Snoop Dogg would later call R&G, Rhythm & Gangsta.
Nate Dogg was so prolific, he had G-Funk Classics Vol 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation come out before his own solo debut dropped. While not well received upon its release, Music & Me (2001) had a jam I kept on repeat as its opening song called “I Got Love” for that melody and those horns beneath Nate’s signature vocal styling. And he had love, from every corner of the hip-hop map, boasting Snoop, Fabo, Pharoahe, Lil’ Mo, Xzibit, and JD on the project. He had certainly given more than his share as a bonafide hitmaker for other artists, to the tune of over 100 million albums sold with him featured.
I got to meet him over the phone on a Tech.nitions DJ conference call—he and I were the featured guests that week. I gave him his props and called him Captain Hook; he laughed long and strong at that moniker. Me personally, I would have loved to have gotten “One More Day” to thank and acknowledge Nate for crafting a significant part of my life’s hip-hop soundtrack. This post will have to suffice.
Rest in Power, Nate Dogg.