In a gangsta rap world that can be misogynist, “the First Lady of Death Row” Jewell, who recently passed away, brought some much needed feminine energy to the scene. Here are her most memorable appearances.
The recent passing of Jewell Caples, more famously known as Jewell, sent shockwaves throughout the hip-hop community. The “First Lady of Death Row” contributed significantly to the growth and sound of West Coast hip-hop that would go on to impact the world. The death was announced on May 6th but a cause of death has not been revealed. In one of her last interviews — an October 2021 conversation with Mighty Bolton from The Art of Dialogue — Jewell revealed doctors only gave her six months to live.
In a gangsta rap world that can be misogynist, Jewell brought some much needed feminine energy to the scene. Boasting a one-of-a-kind resume, Jewell appeared on albums from N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, 2Pac, The Dogg Pound, and more.
As a solo artist, Jewell scored a minor hit with a cover of Shirley Brown‘s song “Woman to Woman,” which appeared on the Murder Was the Case soundtrack. The song peaked at no. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 16 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Although she was often overshadowed by the artists she worked with — not even receiving credit a lot of the times — Jewel’s soulful vocals helped to create some of the greatest hip-hop of the ’90s. She curated a template that would be followed by fellow Death Row labelmate Nate Dogg and others who helped expand the synergy of hip-hop and R&B with catchy hooks and unforgettable ad-libs.
Daz Dillinger, who was a frequent collaborator, honored Jewell on his Instagram, noting the classic songs they made together.
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To pay tribute to her legacy in music, here are 12 classic hooks sung by Jewell.
N.W.A. — “I’d Rather Fuck You” (1991)
Making her debut on NWA’s classic album Niggaz4Life, Jewell proved that she could hang with one of the most formidable and controversial groups in the history of rap. Sampling Bootsy Collin’s “I’d Rather Be You” and featuring Eazy-E in all of his vulgar glory, the song leaves nothing to the imagination. Despite the subject matter, Jewell gives an incredible performance and kills the vamp as the song fades out, which, over the years, would become her signature style.
Dr. Dre Feat. Snoop Dogg — “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” (1992)
In one of the most vicious diss songs of all time, Dr.Dre, accompanied by Snoop Doggy Dogg, put the world on notice about the new Death Row era. The dynamic duo targets Eazy-E, Tim Dog, and Luke Campbell over a knocking G-Funk track. Although the song is incredible on its own, Jewell’s gospel-influenced vocals on the vamp take it to another level. It’s Jewell at her very best.
Dr. Dre — “Let Me Ride” (1992)
As the third single from The Chronic, “Let Me Ride” just may be the best cut on the LP. From beginning to end, the track is a masterclass on production and engineering that booms through your headphones or your car speakers. Sampling the live version of the Parliament’s “Mothership Connection,” Jewell connects with the spirit of the ancestors by singing the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” over some of the best G-Funk ever created.
The Dogg Pound — “What Would You Do?” (1994)
One of the most underrated groups of the ’90s, the Dogg Pound dropped a hot one with their debut single “What Would You Do?” Released from the Murder Was the Case soundtrack and on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, Daz Dillinger and Kurupt bring all the heat you can stand. Death Row is clicking on all cylinders on this one, of course, with Jewell blessing the track with another classic hook.
Snoop Doggy Dogg — “Murder Was the Case (Remix)”
Art was imitating life as Snoop was on trial for murder by the time that “Murder Was the Case” was released. Initially, it was included on Doggystyle, but it was remixed and became one of the most iconic songs of the Death Row era. With Jewell providing the sultry vocals, “Murder Was the Case (Remix)” is one of the essential Death Row songs.
Snoop Doggy Dogg — “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” (1994)
After making a name for himself by writing and performing on a majority of The Chronic, Snoop was prepared to launch into becoming a global icon. His debut song as a solo artist, “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?),” perfectly embodies the importance of Jewell as a collaborator. Because of her contributions, the song goes from good to great.
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony Feat. Eazy-E — “Foe tha Love of $” (1994)
Although she primarily worked with Death Row artists, Jewell’s signature vocals found their way on Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Foe the Love of $.” In an interview, Jewell recalled that she recorded the song during an NWA session and her vocals were kept on the track when Bone Thugs put their spin on it a few years later. Produced by DJ Yella, the song is one of the last appearances of Eazy-E. It peaked at no. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100.
2Pac Feat. Jewell, Dramacydal and Storm — “Thug Passion” (1996)
Arguably the greatest song dedicated to a cocktail, “Thug Passion” is a hardcore reworking of Roger Troutuman’s “Computer Love.” When 2Pac aligned himself with Death Row Records, he went right to work on All Eyez On Me and he collaborated with Jewell on several tracks. Of all of their collaborations, “Thug Passion” is the most memorable and captures the essence of life on the West Coast in 1996.
Snoop Dogg Feat. Dr. Dre & Jewell — “Just Dippin'”(1999)
After leaving Death Row in 1998, Snoop reemerged on Master P’s No Limit Records for the next phase of his career. Although he was based in New Orleans, Uncle Snoop made sure to bring the band back together on No Limit Top Dogg, his second project under the label. Produced by Dr, Dre and featuring Jewell, “Just Dippin ” proved that they still had the chemistry. Jewell was in rare form on the track and proved that they could still create magic together.
Redman Feat. Missy Elliott — “Dat Bitch” (2001)
An overlooked gem in Funk Doc’s expansive discography, Redman enlisted Jewell and Missy Elliott on “Dat Bitch.” Sampling a loop of CJ and CO’s “Devil’s Gun,” Redman brings his usual vivid lyricism laced with humor that he dedicates to his favorite girl who’s down for whatever. Jewell brings the track home with her silking adlibs and vocals.
Rashad Grove is a writer from NJ whose work has appeared on BET, Billboard, MTV News, Okayplayer, High Snobiety, Medium, Revolt TV, The Source Magazine, and others. You can follow him at @thegroveness for all of his greatness.