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March 9, 2004

Snoop Doggy Dogg: He fought the law and won

The infamous king of gangsta rap, Snoop Doggy Dogg, has abandoned his deviant lifestyle. He's shifted his focus from drugs and booze to his role of Huggy Bear in the comedy Starsky and Hutch. The film, which opened on March 5, is an adaptation of the popular '70s TV series, in which two streetwise cops bust Bay City criminals in a white and red Ford Torino.

The show—one of Aaron Spelling's first TV productions—was an icon of the disco era, featuring full-throttle car chases, offbeat humor, and colorful characters. The 2004 film version stars Ben Stiller as Starsky and Owen Wilson as Hutch, with Snoop Dogg playing the role of their street-savvy informant. The film is directed by Todd Phillips, of Old School and Road Trip fame.

During a conference call Tuesday morning—in which several college publications interviewed the rapper—Snoop responded to questions about the movie, his rap career, the Bush administration, and even gay marriage (which he supports).

Snoop described his rap career as "impeccable." Or, more specifically, "It's been very impeccable in many different ways," Snoop said. "It's exciting all the time and beautiful and just fun to watch."

Although Snoop Dogg is much better known as one of the West Coast's most talented and controversial rappers, he has been gradually moving away from music to pursue more opportunities in film. Snoop has appeared in Half-Baked, The Wash, Bones and the Oscar-winning Training Day. In the interview, Snoop Dogg admitted that the role of Huggy Bear was more challenging than his previous roles. "I really had to research, watch old clips, and refresh my memory in order to make the character different," Snoop said. In previous films, the rapper has either played himself or characters very similar to him.

Snoop's latest album, Paid Tha Cost to be Da Boss, was released in 2002, shortly after the rapper announced that he had quit smoking marijuana and drinking for good. While coaching his son's football team, Snoop decided that his destructive habits were setting a bad example for his kids. Many of Snoop's songs, including the legendary "Gin and Juice," deal with drugs and alcohol. However, Snoop emphasized that his decision to quit smoking wouldn't change his music. "I'm always going to be Snoop Dogg, whether I'm smoking weed or not. That really had nothing to do with nothing. I wanted to try to better my body and to better my health, so I wanted to stop smoking," Snoop said.

Snoop Dogg has also had many run-ins with the police. As a member of the Crips street gang in California, he was arrested for cocaine possession and spent some time in jail as a teenager. He has also been arrested for marijuana possession and was accused of being an accomplice to a drive-by shooting (although he was later acquitted of the murder charges).

During the filming of Starsky and Hutch, Snoop received support and advice from a wealth of talented actors, including Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, and Juliette Lewis. "They made me feel real comfortable, and I really appreciated that," Snoop Dogg said. The role presented many challenges for the rapper-cum-actor. To play the comic role, Snoop received inspiration from Richard Pryor, his favorite comedian. "Man, I'd like to be able to do it just like him," Snoop claimed.

Since Snoop enjoyed his filming experience so much, there's a good chance the public will be seeing more of Huggy Bear. "I do think Huggy needs to spin off and have his own thing, but we'll eventually wait for it grow and see what it does in the box office. We'll take it from there."

The rapper indicated that he is interested in pursuing more roles in a variety of films. "I'm just trying to do everything. I just want to show the world that I can do drama as well as comedy now. I'm ready to just get one of those roles that's going to take me to the next level, where I really have to dig in myself and just find the right pieces to bring this character to life." When asked who the funniest actor on set was, Snoop replied that Ben Stiller was definitely much funnier than Owen Wilson.

For Snoop, the most difficult part of filming Starsky and Hutch was withholding a response to a slap by Vince Vaughn's villainous character. "I'm just not used to getting hit without a quick reaction!" Snoop remarked. Good thing he provided many quick reactions during this interview.