Snoop Dogg says his Huggy role is a natural fit

The flash- and-trash guy in the new `Starsky'

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

March 04, 2004|By Ian Spelling | Ian Spelling,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SYNDICATE

They call me `Ross Perot,'" Snoop Dogg boasts. "You know why? You know why they call me `Ross Perot?' Because I got a whole lot of money."

Dogg doesn't laugh at his own joke, but then he can afford not to. A gangsta renaissance man, the rapper/producer/actor/porn purveyor may stoke the flames of controversy, but everything he touches seems to turn to gold, and he's laughing all the way to the bank.

His latest project, however, is downright benign: He plays Huggy Bear, the ultra-hip informant to detectives David Starsky (Ben Stiller) and Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson), in Starsky & Hutch, opening tomorrow. The film is a big-screen version of the 1970s television series of the same name.

Casting Dogg in the part, originally played by Antonio Fargas, was a no-brainer, given how boisterous and flashy Huggy is. Or so Dogg says, talking on cell phone during a break from recording his new album at a Los Angeles studio.

"They wanted to see if I could handle the role," he says, "and I knew I could handle it. It's me. It's my nature, it's what I do.

"I just want to let people know about him, people who never saw Huggy or who only heard about him," Dogg adds. "So I wanted to bring him across in the right way, the way I perceived him when I was a kid. He was a cool cat on television -- he was somebody we admired, and we wanted to be like him. I wanted him to be that again.

"I didn't get a chance to meet [Fargas], but hopefully he'll be pleased with the way I've done the role."

Throughout the film Huggy sports a series of loud, pimp-style ensembles and, much to Dogg's delight, wields a different silver-plated or gold-plated cane to match each outfit.

"That was the most," the rapper says. "That made me feel real good. It threw me back. That was how my momma and her friends used to do it as I was growing up, when I was a kid. I liked the look."

Less welcome was a garish suit of golf clothes that Huggy dons to go undercover, but Dogg insists that he was a good sport about it.

"I wasn't a fan of the golf get-up," he admits, "but they decided that it would be cool, and I went with it. Huggy would do it if he had to."

Dogg is the first to admit that he'll do anything he has to -- and, for that matter, anything he wants to. That's the way it's always been for the former Calvin Broadus, who was born in 1971 in Long Beach, Calif., grew up in a broken home, joined the Crips street gang and, shortly after graduating from high school, was busted for selling drugs.

A rapper by his teens, the re-christened Snoop Doggy Dogg hooked up with Dr. Dre, appearing on Dre's album The Chronic (1992). Dre then produced Dogg's seminal Doggystyle (1993), just as hardcore rap emerged as an unstoppable musical force. Dogg's criminal past and his 1995 arrest and indictment as an accessory to murder only heightened his street credibility.

Eventually Dogg, who in 1996 was acquitted of the murder charges, followed in the footsteps of the rappers before him: He produced records for other rappers, started his own record label, sniped at the game's biggest players -- most notably rap impresario Suge Knight -- and tried his hand at acting. His film credits include Baby Boy (2001), Bones (2001) and The Wash (2001).

"A lot of it is me," he says, "because I like to dig within myself and pull out a character. So there's always a little bit of me within my characters. I don't worry about people thinking I'm just playing me -- I think my performances are going to come off, I think people will respect them and appreciate them."

Dogg shows no sign of being caught off guard when asked if he's surprised to still be alive. After all, he's survived the East Coast vs. West Coast rap wars and outlived Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

"When it's my time, I'm gone," Dogg says without emotion. "I don't have no control over that. But in the meantime I'm doing what I've got to do to make people enjoy me and what I bring to the table."

As usual, Dogg is juggling numerous projects at the moment. He's continuing his MTV variety/comedy show, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, a showcase for his unique brand of doublespeak. He's also wrapped production on the film Soul Plane, a re-envisioning of Airplane! (1980) involving a black-owned airline.

Foremost in his mind right now is his coming album. The Dr. Dre-produced sessions are coming along fine, Dogg reports, and the record will be finished in a few months.

His timing is impeccable. Rap is the only bright spot on the music landscape these days, with sales of pop, rock and even country albums flagging. Big things are expected of Dogg's disc, which is nothing if not hardcore rap.

"It's the best form of expression and communication," Dogg says. "People love it because of the hip-shake -- you've got to move to rap. It's a great sound. There are great words. There's a story behind every rapper's song. It's a piece of art that people treasure.

"And it's made for people," he adds. "It ain't just made for black people, it's made for people in general."

For film events, see Page 36.

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