April 9 1992, the bomb dropped and hip-hop was enveloped in the mushroom cloud. On this day 25 years ago, the song “Deep Cover” was officially released as a single, launching the career of one of the greatest, most beloved MCs to ever bless the mic, and beginning the wave that would solidify one of the genre’s premier boardsmen as the best producer of all time.
As the lead cut and premier record off the “Deep Cover” soundtrack, Dr. Dre’s record was his first sonic masterpiece post-N.W.A. and introduced a new protégé he was cultivating: Snoop Doggy Dogg. Dre and his former partner Suge Knight were still trying to get Death Row records off the ground, and they didn’t have distribution yet. “Deep Cover” struck with such impact that it literally skyrocketed the label, setting the stage for Dre to come with his music shifting classic The Chronic. Ironically, Dre who had gained so much notoriety as part of N.W.A. with “Fuck The Police,” kicked off the next phase of his career with a record based on a film about an undercover cop being sucked into the underworld while trying to thwart corruption.
“That record was on some spontaneous shit because Suge had the movie people on the phone one day,” Snoop, sitting in Electric Lady studio on Friday, recollected as he thought about the silver anniversary of his breakthrough moment.
“Dre was leaving the studio one day and he was like ‘Suge is going to call.’”
The Doc told Snoop to have a verse ready, but The Dogg didn’t quite grasp the urgency.
“When Suge called me, he explained it to me,” Snoop said. “I didn’t understand what Dre was saying. Suge called me and he explained it to me. He was like ‘nigga I’m gonna call you back in 10 minutes. He called back, ‘You finished with the verse?’ I was like ‘I ain’t finished with the verse.’ He was like ‘well nigga, I need you to freestyle the verse nigga. We gonna get to a certain point and we gonna turn it off and you gonna stop rappin and we gonna get a deal.’ I was like ‘All right cool.’
“He called back with the nigga on the phone, I started freestyling,” Snoop continued telling. “’All right, turn that off Dogg.’ I stopped. He called me back, ‘we got the deal.’”
Suge got very specific creative direction from the film company. They wanted a song to go along with the plot of the movie. Laurence Fishburne starred in the drama as Russell Stevens Jr., a cop recruited by the DEA to go undercover on a narcotics trafficking case. While posing a drug dealer, Stevens discovered corruption on the law enforcement side as well. Dre and Snoop went into the studio soon after to build their timeless record.
For Snoop, the subject matter wasn’t just a Tinseltown tale, it was real life.
“I said ‘damn, I went to jail for selling dope to an undercover police officer,” he recalled. The lyrics came to him easily. Dr. Dre had the first verse where he talked from the perspective of Fishburne’s character.
“I asked Dre, I said ‘what you want your first line to be?” Snoop told. “He said ‘tonight’s the night I get in some shit, deep cover on the incognito tip.’ I said ‘all right I got you.’”
The quotables came nonstop as Snoop penned the bars. “Tonight's the night I get in some shit./ Deep cover on the incognito tip./ Killin' motherfuckers if I have to./ Peelin' caps too, cause you niggas know I'm comin' at you./ I guess that's part of the game./ But I feel for the nigga who thinks he just gonna come and change thangs./ With the swiftness, so get it right with the quickness./ And let me handle my business yo.”
“I was on hip-hop,” Snoop explained. “I was. .. ‘Yo!’ that wasn’t west coast. That sounded like a nigga from the East was with this nigga Dr. Dre. I was engulfed in hip-hop. I did that verse for him and when I was finished, he was like ‘now write you a verse.’”
Snoop’s rhymes on the song are arguably the greatest career-commencing verses of any rapper, ever. He came from the perspective of a dealer who the police were trying to manipulate. “Creep with me as I crawl through the hood./ Maniac, lunatic, call 'em Snoop Eastwood./ Kickin' dust as I bust, fuck peace./ And, the muthafuckin' punk police./ You already know I gives a fuck about a cop./ So why in the fuck would you think that it would stop?/ Plot, yeah, that's what we's about to do./ Take your ass on a mission with the boys in blue.”
For the last verse, Snoop and Dre did an “in-and-out” delivery, interlocking rhymes and playing off each other. While the duo may have sounded like the next evolution of N.W.A., The Dogg says the Kings of Rap inspired the style.
“I was a fan of Run-DMC,” Snoop described. “To me, me and Dre was the gangsta version of Run-DMC. Even if [‘G-Thang’s’ lines ] ‘it’s like this and like that and like this…” That’s [Run DMC’s] ‘it’s like that. And that’s the way it is.”