Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Death of Nate Dogg is the End of a Very Dark and Creative Era

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

This morning I woke up to find out that Nathaniel D. Hale, better known as Nate Dogg, died last night (March 15).  The cause of death has not been announced.  But its easy to connect Nate Dogg’s death to the health problems that came from the massive strokes he suffered in 2007 and 2008. 

Nobody sang hooks like Nate Dogg.  Most of us can go back to Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” album in the early 1990s as well as “Regulate” by Warren G to see where this brilliant artist set the game on fire.  I loved Nate Dogg, and I am going to miss him.  Nobody could run the chorus the way he could, for he had a voice that hip-hop will remember for the next 50 years.

On another note, I wonder how Nate Dogg’s early death was related to some of the self-destructive habits

and messages of hip-hop.  If you remember, one of Nate Dogg’s most famous songs, “The Next Episode,” ends with the line, “Smoke Weed Everyday.”  The words were delivered as if they were some kind of public service announcement from the National Federation of Profitable Drug Dealers.  I was disturbed by the line even as a young twenty-something, and I wonder why being a hip-hop artist means you have to engage in a long list of activities (drug abuse, promiscuity, weapons possession) that might lead to an early death.


We can reference another song on Warren G’s album, where Nate sings, “If you smoke like I smoke, then you’re high like every day.”  Getting high every day just doesn’t seem like the way to live a long and prosperous life.   Mix this with all the other crazy things that  hip-hop culture promotes, and you’ve got a recipe for self-destruction.

Mind you, weed doesn’t usually kill anyone, at least not right away.  But one can’t help but wonder what other vices might lie beneath the surface of a man who suffered two strokes in his late thirties.  Hip-hop has been the home of quite a few early deaths, and the culture that is marketed within the genre of gangster rap is almost never positive, educational, empowered, politically active or otherwise productive.   Perhaps one day, black males can realize our full potential and understand that the lines “smoke weed every day,” should not even be in our vocabularies.  We are truly better than that.

With the early deaths of Tupac Shakur (homicide), Eazy-E (AIDS), and a few other gangster rappers who’ve either ended up dead or in jail, it now becomes time for our community to reflect on exactly what gangster rap has done to black people over the past 20 years.  Somehow, I feel that Nate Dogg’s death is part of the slow death of gangster rap itself, and I can’t feel bad that this corporate cash cow is nearly deceased.  I will certainly miss Nate Dogg, and I must confess that I wonder how much longer his life would have lasted were it not for the culture that kills us.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

No comments: