Yesterday the rapper Nate Dogg died at the age of 41. He had suffered a stroke in 2008 . Most people may not be aware of it, but Nate Dogg is one of the few nicknames people have given me that I actually like. What wasn’t to like about Nate Dogg? As far as rappers go, he was a laid back fellow, content to let others get the credit while he sang some of the most memorable hooks of the G-Funk era. I first became familiar with him after he sang the hook for Warren G’s classic hit “Regulate.”
Later on, I enjoyed his hook for Fabulous’ “Can’t Deny It” and Ludacris’ “Area Codes,” which came out while I was in college in the 2-1-3. I remember him as a soulful but relaxed rapper, always happy to help make other rappers’ songs even better, never hogging the mike or hogging the glory. He struck me as a true team player in a world of egomaniacs, the sort of guy who could cut a track with his relative Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre from the West Coast, then with Ludacris in the ATL, and then with 50 Cent on the East Coast. In an age of rivalries, he was a genuinely nice guy who seemed to be able to fit in anywhere where there was a nice jam and people who appreciated his vibe and his skills as the mike.
Given his lengthy and successful career as a second banana, rapping the chorus to hit songs, he only had five singles of his own, two of which hit the top 40 (“Never Leave Me Alone” and “Nobody Does It Better”). He will be remembered as a supporting rapper who was featured on a total of 31 singles as a supporting artist (which has to be close to a record), one of which hit #1 (“21 Questions” from 50 Cent), and another 8 of which were top 40 pop hits, and twelve of which were top 40 hits on the R & B chart. Despite his way too early death, despite the comparative lack of violence within his own life and career (I’ve always heard of him as a likable fellow in the rap world), and despite the relative scarcity of his own music, he has a lasting record as being one of the best hook rappers on record. That’s a legacy that will last as long as rap music is played. Helping other people’s music be even better is a skill that never grows old, and one that never ceases to be appreciated.