20 Years Of Doggystyle: Cashmere Agency’s Ryan Ford On Snoop’s Legacy

News

/ November 23, 2013

November 23, 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the most anticipated debut album from a solo rapper to ever hit shelves: Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, released on Death Row Records. From the iconic album cover to the perennial hits and the bathtub intro, Snoop’s first LP is a vivid walk through the life of a Westside gangster in 1993.

Two decades later, and Snoop is an even bigger star than he was back then. He’s got TV shows, acting roles, apps, commercials. You name it, Snoop’s done it, and part of the credit for his relevance goes to the people that handle his marketing and branding at Cashmere Agency. Cashmere is a full service lifestyle marketing agency in Los Angeles, and they handle all of Snoop’s partnerships, digital activity, and PR as well.

We got to talk with Ryan Ford, the vice president of Cashmere Agency, about how Snoop is keeping the spirit of his debut album alive today, how Snoop has stayed popular, and what we can expect from the Doggfather in the near future.

Are you Snoop’s manager?
No, I’m the Vice President of Cashmere Agency, and Cashmere Agency is Snoop’s branding and marketing team of record. Our sister company, Stampede Management, manages Snoop and a bunch of other artists like YG, Far East Movement, RiFF Raff and Macy Gray. Cashmere Agency and Stampede Management operate independently, but was founded by the same group of people.

I’ve been doing this for five years, but we’re the reason that you see Snoop pop up in various commercials, whether it’s for pistachios or Adidas or Overstock.com. Those branding deals come through us. We also head up Snoop’s digital footprint. He has over 50 million followers across his social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook, over 500,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. We produce and come up with the creative and distribute his weekly GGN webisode series here as well.

You started handling his branding about five years ago, you said?

Cashmere started handling all of his branding about five years ago. I came to Cashmere Agency from The Source. I was the executive editor there and I left The Source to come here. I worked at The Source for about eight years from like 2000 to ’08, and during that time I got to know Snoop because I was based in L.A. at the time and I wrote a couple cover stories on Snoop and various articles on him, so I’ve known him well throughout the years.

So you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what fans want to see from Snoop?

Well, times change. VIBE and XXL and The Source used to occupy a different place in culture because there was no Internet, so what I realized at a certain point is that artists like Snoop don’t have to rely solely on media outlets to tell their stories. They can begin using social media and different digital hubs like a website to interact directly with fans. So, it’s still telling stories and communicating from one place to another, it just kinda cuts out the middleman. I saw that happening about five years ago with Snoop and other artists, and decided to continue telling these stories and crafting these stories through the artists themselves.

Brands were getting more interested not just in hip-hop, because Sprite and Nike have been doing stuff for years, but brand are coming up with unique types of activations that happen in the digital space, utilizing different influences of celebrities as part of that. So that seems kind of old hat now, but when you really take a step back and think about it, it’s a relatively new concept where you’ll have a webisode series about some artist sponsored by some brand.

It seems to me like people really care about what Snoop is doing all the time. He’s got a magnetic personality.

I think it just speaks to his personality. It’s really the reason why he became a star in the first place. He’s a really cool person that everybody loves, and he just happens to rap on top of that. For many of us, if you’re of a certain age, your entry point to Snoop was definitely through his music, but Snoop wasn’t always a technically rappity- rap rapper. He was telling you about his lifestyle and his outlook on life and his perspective, and although it was a younger and crazy perspective in terms of the violence and the craziness, it still gave you a picture of him and the way he saw the world.

Snoop at his core is a creative spirit, and that really comes through in his music and the various projects he’s done throughout the years. As his career has evolved, so has his range. He definitely has different influences, whether it’s just basic hip-hop, 70’s funk era stuff, or pimp culture, or reggae and rastafari. They have different influences on him just like they have different influences on you, so Snoop is at this point in his career where he’s exploring all these different outlets in various ways, just like he explored his life as a father on the E Channel’s fatherhood show, which sort of started this whole celebrity reality show fascination that we all have now. He was one of the first big, relevant celebrities to do that. Like Ozzy Osbourne had one but he hasn’t been relevant for years.

So Snoop’s got all these sides that he’s been able to explore and share with his fanbase over the years, and if you look at Snoop Lion and his trip to Jamaica, I encourage you to see Reincarnated if you haven’t seen it. He appeals to so many different people at so many different levels. My mom is 60 plus years old, she doesn’t care for the gangster rap shit because it’s crazy but she loves the Snoop Lion stuff because she likes Snoop but the hip-hop stuff wasn’t speaking to her and what she wanted to get out of the music. He’s the kind of artist who can host the BET awards and then appear on Larry King or Bill Maher or be on The View or something like that. He’s able to occupy all these different stages at the same time.

I’m a big fan of the GGN show. Whose idea was that?

Snoop’s a little older than me and he comes from a time when variety shows on TV were huge. Flip Wilson, Bob Hope, people like that. Snoop always told us he wanted a TV show, and he had a couple other shows before like the fatherhood show on E, Dogg after Dark, he had Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, so he showed his ability to do different things at different times, and the internet and Youtube offered the perfect avenue for him to really have his own show. So while Cashmere produces and distributes the show and gets sponsorships for it, it’s all Snoops’ vision. We just help him bring it to life.

Now it works so well on the internet because the show is so irreverent, it’s kind of like a new version of Howard Stern. They curse, they smoke, they talk about everything. But it’s becoming a place where people want to make their couch stop when they’re promoting their project. RZA came before Man With The Iron Fist came out, he wanted to be on GGN. Sons of Anarchy want to be on GGN, we just filmed Russell Simmons the other day. It’s a viable media outlet for anyone that wants to promote what they’re doing in a really cool, organic way. Snoop always wanted to do a hood news show, and it started with people talking about current events. We had a camera, a green screen, a full digital production team, so we put it together and made it work.

Doggystyle always seemed like such a quintessential spring break record, even with it’s dark moments. It’s a very fun record.

That’s what Snoop brought to the table. If you rewind to ’92 or ’93 when that came out, gangster music was still there but it was very nefarious and rebellious and pretty scary, whether it was N.W.A. or Dr. Dre or other artists. Snoop was able to show the lifestyle from more of a 360 perspective. A gangsta ain’t a gangsta all day. He goes home, he hangs out with his homies, smokes some weed, plays some video games, kicks it with girls, stuff like that. So he shows the whole lifestyle behind it, and then that became the template for what popular culture would end up being fascinated with, even to this day.

How do you think he’s been able to stay relevant for 20 years since the debut of Doggystyle?

Well first, and I love to say this, but he doesn’t give a fuck, right? DGAF. He does what he wants and what he thinks his fans want to hear from him and he doesn’t care, so he’s uncompromising in that. He’s also extremely self-confident, so he’s like, “I want to make a reggae album, some people are gonna make fun of it but I don’t care. It’s gonna be dope.” He has this connection with his fans that started well before I started working with him. Doggystyle came out when I was in high school. He’s just stayed on his path and he knows that people respect that from him and will take that journey with him.

The way that he’s been able to maintain relevance is because we’ve always had these anti-heroes and early on he was an anti-hero when he was on the cover of Newsweek and it said, “When Is Rap Too Violent?” He’s continued to maintain this anti-hero persona but in a more lovable fashion as he’s gotten older and become a father. Even now, when he hosted the BET awards he hosted it as Uncle Snoop, because you know you’ve got your parents and they’ll tell you, “Come home by 12. Get straight A’s.” Then you got your cool ass uncle who’s like, “Come here and hit this weed.” He’s still gonna point you in the right direction, he’s not gonna tell you to go out there and rob a bank and go to jail, but at the same time he’s a little cooler so he’s gonna give you the mentorship from a peer level and understand what you’re going through.

How has Snoop kept the feeling and spirit of Doggystyle alive throughout his career and through today?

That was really a 360 view of what that lifestyle was. It was so far ahead of it’s time, unless you were from that lifestyle of growing up in a Southern California hood, it was so far ahead of it’s time that it took years for people to understand. When you go back and listen to it, it’s not the hardest shit ever. It’s fun, it’s like a party, it’s funny, it’s conscious, it’s got some throwback moments with the video for “Doggy Dogg World” when the video paid homage to stars from the Blaxploitation era. So hindsight is 20/20 so today we can look back and say, “He showed us all these pieces 20 years ago.” For the last 20 years he’s been expanding on different pieces that he showed here and there.

If you remember on Doggystyle, there’s times when he’s rapping in patois. He’s rapping about weed, about bitches, about having fun. The skits, which are sort of a lost art in hip-hop and music in general now because of the different mediums that we listen to music from, he was showing us all of this. Now 20 years later when you look back it’s no surprise that he’s doing a funk album with Dam-Funk, he was doing G-Funk back then. It’s no surprise that he’s doing a reggae album with Diplo, he was doing reggae patois back then. It’s no surprise he’s doing comedy sessions now, he was doing comedy skits back then. It’s no surprise that he’s aligned himself with brands like G-Pen, the weed vaporizer, because he was wearing a weed hat in the first video with Dr. Dre, “Ain’t Nuthin’ But A G Thang”. Snoop’s never done anything where it’s like, “That’s not Snoop. What the fuck is that?” because it always makes sense.

How does he want to continue growing in terms of music, engaging with fans, and digital media?

Dam-Funk is a cool side project, that’s Snoopzilla so it’s not really a Snoop Dogg album. It’s funk, so it comes from a different motivation. He’s gonna continue expanding his brand, and one of the ways he’s doing that now is through content. He’s got GGN on YouTube, he’s also got a show called Underground Heat, which is basically a countdown of the hottest indie music.

Snoop is also making films. He executive produced Reincarnated and it came out through a partnership between his movie company and Vice media. He also put out Mac and Devin with Wiz Khalifa, which is sort of a new take on the whole Cheech and Chong thing, and he produced that movie. Mac and Devin 2 is coming out in the next year or so.

Everybody loves Snoop and now everyone can actually be Snoop through this Snoopify app. It’s a photo sticker app so I can actually take a picture of something, whether it’s myself or my dog, and I can Snoopify it. I can put a LBC stocking cap on it, put a blunt in it’s mouth, put him in a low rider. So he’s continuing to expand his brand in new areas. Snoop is always up on new technology, too. When Instagram sold to Facebook for a billion dollars, Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, said that he knew Instagram had arrived when Snoop joined the platform. So he’s an early adopter and now people from Silicon Valley are coming to Snoop to get his ideas on how to best engage with their audiences through their platforms. He was one of the first celebrities on Twitter too., he’s top 10 on Google +. His whole thing is wherever you’re at, he;s gonna show up and Snoopify that whole thing. When he comes on The View with Barbara Walters, he’s gonna show up and Snoopify that, so now everyone’s talking about weed and laughing and having fun. He’s gonna show up at your house during Thanksgiving and Snoopify that whole environment.

How did the Dam-Funk 7 Days of Funk project come about?

Yeah I was there when they met. About two years ago when the NBA All Star Game was in L.A., Cashmere put together a party for Snoop and Adidas at the time, and we got Dam-Funk to DJ at the party. When Dam DJ’s, he’ll DJ for a while and then whip out the keytar and start grooving, so when Snoop heard that he just grabbed the mic and started to freestyle and ended up doing an hour and a half freestyle session in front of the whole crowd. Next thing we know Snoop invited Dam to be a part of his SXSW performance with Mayer Hawthorne for Pepsi, and they’ve just been building their rapport ever since. Snoop’s been a fan of Dam-Funk for awhile so he also just wanted to shed light on some of the dope stuff that he’s been doing.

Snoop is a pretty well-known actor too. Any more acting roles on deck?

There’s definitely some things that are brewing and being finalized. I can’t let the cat out of the bag yet, but you’ll continue seeing him on the big screen, the small screen, and on your computer and phone screen as well, that’s for certain.

Does Snoop have any plans to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Doggystyle?

Yeah, there’s a couple things we’re doing. Right now we’re putting the final touches on the big 20th anniversary Doggystyle event which will be after the first of the year. Can’t give you more details than that right now, but it’s definitely something you’re gonna hear about.

What’s the best part of working with Snoop?

Just the openness and the creative spirit. He’ll come up with different ideas at different times. It’s just in the flow of things. We’ve been able to build a team with him as our flagship client here, and the team can bring his ideas to life.