Snoop Dogg’s 31-year career has seen an array of incarnations including gamechanging Doggystyle gangsta rapper, moral panic instigator, actor, chef, film-maker and anti-gun campaigner. He markets cannabis and coffee, makes food delivery adverts and once underwent a bizarre reggae incarnation as Snoop Lion. Tonight, though, he gets back to the day job of veteran rap showman. The 90-minute, 30-song performance begins with the icon walking out in his trademark braids and puffing on a blunt. With pungent weed smoke hanging over the audience, the Dogg certainly knows his vast, multi-generational crowd. “Does anyone want to get fucked up with the Dogg?” he asks, and 21,500 voices chant that yes, actually, they do.
It’s that type of show: an unreconstructed, unrepentant and slightly pantomime showcase of Snoop’s career and old-school 90s/00s hip-hop, complete with turntables, rap crews, a gun spraying dollar bills and an able support act in Eminem’s old homies, D12. At the centre, though, is what started all this: Dogg’s inimitable, instantly recognisable California flow and iconic if slightly cartoonish stage persona. He’s 51 and looks older, but has never lost his endearing, mischievous grin at the ridiculousness of where life has taken him, whether guesting with Katy Perry (California Gurls) or suggesting a song called Wet for Prince William’s stag do: an unexpected guilty pleasure tonight.
Rather than compete with rap’s social commentators, the dirty Dogg doubles down. Ain’t No Fun (“if the homies can’t have none”) is thoroughly disreputable. Performing Sexual Eruption with scantily-clad pole dancers under half his age walks – or perhaps stumbles – a fine line between pantomime villainy and cringe. At best, the show entertainingly celebrates hip-hop’s second golden age and lifestyle and includes heartfelt tributes to deceased stars 2Pac, the Notorious BIG and Nate Dogg. Perhaps if he had not diversified so much, the Dogg would have made more copper-bottomed classics such as Gin and Juice or Drop It Like It’s Hot. Still, he is a true one-off, and when he asks Manchester Who Am I? there is only one answer: “Snoop Dawwggy Dawwwwg.”