The melodic voice of the G-Funk era, Nate Dogg, alias Nathaniel D. Hale, died on Tuesday. He had been suffering from strokes, apparently, but I haven’t seen any report on the cause of death.
Nate Dogg, best known for his classic duet with Warren G “Regulate” (1994), on which the two of them put words on what was becoming known as G-Funk: “It’s the G-Funk eeera, funked up with a gangsta twist!” He had, however, already been given his big break by Warren’s stepbrother and gangsta rap mastermind Dr. Dre. Featured on the groundbreaking and legacy-making Chronic album (1992), he sang the hook to the street banger “Deeez Nuuuts”, which had his Long Beach homie Snoop Dogg and his cousin Daz Dillinger on the mic with Dre: “IIIII can’t be faded, I’m a nigga from the muthafuckin’ streets!”
Nate Dogg would go on to lay his signature on many West Coast joints with such luminaries as Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Master P, and many more — there was a period in the late 90s where he seemed to be everywhere — kinda like T-Pain a few years ago, but with actual talent. His range wasn’t particularly impressive, but he brought to the tracks a polish, lending their street-level roughness a glamorous edge of audacity. I particularly dig his stylings on the outrageously misogynistic “Ain’t no fun” from Snoop’s solo debut Doggy Style (1993) — he seems genuinely inspired by the material, presenting it with the brio of a broadway singer.
He also went out East to record with 50 Cent, amongst others, though my favorite New York cut of his is clearly the Rockwilder-produced “Oh No” (2000), on which Mos Def and Pharoahe Monche split atoms around an anthem-style hook gleamingly celebrating the griminess of roots hip hop — “Oh, no! Look at who they let in the back door!”
His moment, perhaps, didn’t last that long, but it was a vital one. It was a time when hip hop was indeed being let in the back door of the global mainstream. And Nate Dogg helped define it. The G-Funk era isn’t over, it’s in the DNA of contemporary pop, for better or worse.