The West Coast’s influence and reign of dominance within the rap game has largely been credited to figures like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, and other figures who staked their claim as legends during the ’90s.
However, without the vocal contributions of rap singer Nate Dogg to those artists’ projects, the sound of West Coast rap would be drastically different from what we know it as today. Born August 19, 1969, Nate Dogg got his start in music with the formation of 213, a rap group featuring childhood friends and future stars Snoop Dogg and Warren G, who parlayed Warren G’s relationship with step-brother Dr. Dre into solo careers for each. Following appearances on The Chronic and Doggystyle, Nate Dogg’s popularity spiked in 1994, as he was featured on multiple hit records, setting the stage for the eventual release of his solo album, G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 & 2, in 1998.
Reconnecting with Dr. Dre and Snoop during the latter half of the ’90s, Nate appeared on high-profile releases like 2001 and Tha Last Meal before returning with his sophomore effort, Music & Me, which was well-received by critics and fans alike. The turn of a new decade also saw Nate expand his own artistry, stepping outside of his California comfort zone and collaborating with rap artists from all corners of the country, further cementing himself as the greatest hookman of all-time. Unfortunately, Nate Dogg would pass away at age 41 due to complications of multiple strokes, ending one of the most unique, yet historic runs in rap history prematurely. However, his voice continues to live on due to the breadth of classic material recorded and released prior to his death, introducing him to new generations of fans with each passing year.
With 10 years having passed since Nate Dogg’s untimely passing, Okayplayer took a deep dive into the legendary crooner’s discography and ranked his 15 greatest moments on wax to celebrate his illustrious career and cultural contributions.
15. Jadakiss & Nate. Dogg — “Time’s Up”
Nate Dogg rides shotgun alongside East Coaster Jadakiss on The Raspy One’s single “Time’s Up,” from his sophomore release, Kiss of Death. Sauntering over keys, courtesy of producer Scott Storch, Nate is short on words for those in opposition of his reign, levying threats of bodily harm with various forms of weaponry on this 2004 release.
14. Eminem & Nate Dogg — “‘Till I Collapse”
Nate Dogg ventured into uncharted territory with his appearance alongside Eminem on The Eminem Show deep cut ‘Till I Collapse, a rollicking selection on which Nate provides words of motivation and perseverance in the face of obstacles, danger, or doubt. While never officially released as a single, “‘Till I Collapse” is one of the more popular and recognizable songs on The Eminem Show; the song is the first non-single to surpass 1 billion streams on Spotify.
13. Nate Dogg — “I Got Love”
This isn’t technically a feature but the song is too good to leave off a Nate Dogg list. Following his departure from Death Row Records, Nate Dogg regrouped and bounced back in a big way, signing with Elektra Records and releasing his sophomore album, Music & Me, in 2001. Peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, Music & Me featured appearances from many of the hottest stars in the game at the time, but its lead-single, “I Got Love,” was a rare showcase of Nate’s talents and ability to flourish as a main attraction and soloist.
12. Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, & Nate Dogg — “Oh No”=
For his first bicoastal anthem of the new millennium, Nate Dogg took things underground. He hooked up with indie stalwarts Mos Def and Pharoahe Monch for “Oh No,” a single from the Rawkus Records compilation Lyricist Lounge 2. Alluding to the rough and rugged lifestyle of hustlers in the streets and within the music industry, Nate turns in a strong performance, adding enough of a melodic twist to the proceedings to help elevate “Oh No” into a modest hit and a statement record for all parties involved.
11. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, & Nate Dogg — “Next Episode”
His contribution to Dr. Dre’s 1999 hit “The Next Episode” may have been minimal in comparison to other guest spots throughout his career, however, it remains irreplaceable and is the glue that ties all of its moving parts together. From galvanizing his crew with his velvety vocals, to the climatic pause before urging listeners to “smoke weed everyday,” Nate sprinkles his special sauce all over the track, stamping it as a certified West Coast classic with his presence alone.
10. Ludacris & Nate Dogg — “Area Codes”
A prideful Cali representative, Nate Dogg gave listeners a sense of his geographical pimping with his feature on Ludacris’ 2001 single, “Area Codes,” from the Atlanta rapper’s Word of Mouf album. Produced by Jazze Pha, the track captures Nate crooning about his harem of women across the globe, coining one of the more popular phrases in the urban lexicon of that time that still lives on today.
9. Thug Life & Nate Dogg — “How Long Will They Mourn Me”
The usually upbeat Nate Dogg channels the grief that accompanies death on “How Long Will They Mourn Me,” his first collaborative effort with 2Pac. Released in 1994 as part of Pac’s Thug Life: Volume 1 group album, “How Long Will They Mourn Me” is anchored by a somber and sobering hook by Nate, who contemplates the shelf-life for memories of loved ones lost.
8. Dr. Dre, Daz Dillinger, Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg (Uncredited) — “Lil’ Ghetto Boy”
Despite not officially being credited in the liner notes, Nate Dogg’s foray in the rap game began with his work on The Chronic cut “Lil Ghetto Boy,” on which he channels the spirit of Donny Hathaway while lamenting the trials and tribulations that come with being a young Black man living in the ghetto. Speaking to the sign of the times in the inner-city, this bit of social commentary and the realism surrounding the lyrics makes this appearance one of Nate’s most lauded to date.
7. Fabolous & Nate Dogg — “Can’t Deny It”
Having spent the first decade of his career putting on for the West Coast, Nate Dogg began making his rounds on the eastern seaboard, collaborating with some of the illest pens in the game, such as then-newcomer Fabolous. Costarring on Fab’s debut single from Ghetto Fabolous, “Can’t Deny It,” Nate pairs up with his Brooklyn counterpart seamlessly, taking a page out of late collaborator 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me cut, “Ambitionz Az a Ridah.” Built around his work on the hook and the bridge, “Can’t Deny It” would become a hit, put Fabolous on the map, and add to Nate’s lengthy catalog of classic hits.
6. Snoop Dogg, Tha Eastsidaz, Master P, Butch Cassidy & Nate Dogg — “Lay Low”
In 2000, Nate Dogg linked with Snoop Dogg for Tha Last Meal single, “Lay Low.” Produced by Dr. Dre, with guest spots from Tha Eastsidaz, Master P, and Butch Cassidy, “Lay Low” finds Nate Dogg warning perpetrators, halfway crooks, and other forces working against his team to make themselves sparse in their presence, for the sake of their own health and well-being.
5. Dr. Dre, Hittman, Kurupt, Six-Two, & Nate Dogg — “XXXplosive”
Having appeared on the first installment of The Chronic, it was appropriate that Nate Dogg play a big part in its follow-up, 2001. He turns in a show-stealing performance on “Xxplosive,” one of the more acclaimed salvos on the long player. Extending shout-outs to his bevy of supporters and laying his mack down, Nate’s saccharine vocals are an essential wrinkle in the fabric that makes this jam so timeless and further evidence of his excellence.
4. 50 Cent & Nate Dogg — “21 Questions”
With his legacy as the greatest hook-man in rap history intact at the time of its release, “21 Questions,” 50 Cent’s monstrous Get Rich or Die Tryin’ single on which he appears on, became his most commercially successful record to date. Topping various Billboard charts, Nate’s first song to achieve that feat, “21 Questions” made Nate’s voice virtually inescapable for the duration of 2003 and remains one of the signature moments of his career.
3. 2Pac, Outlawz, & Nate Dogg — “All About U”
When 2Pac aligned himself with Death Row Records following his release from prison in 1995, it was all but destined that his first album with the label would include appearances from all of its star players on its roster — including Nate Dogg. Working with Pac on the All Eyez on Me posse cut “All About U,” Nate lends his syrupy vocals to the Johnny J-produced track, singing of the proliferation of promiscuous women within the rap game, accounting for one of his most beloved appearances on wax.
2. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Kurupt & Warren G — “Ain’t No Fun”
In entertainment, there’s nothing quite like the first time you place your stamp in such a way that the general public takes notice and thrusts you into the spotlight, which was the case for Nate Dogg when Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle-single, “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” was unveiled in 1993. Batting leadoff, Nate comes out on the track swinging, reeling off an unapologetic verse about a tantalizing hottie who’s down to share her “talents” with the rest of Tha Dogg Pound crew. Other songs featuring Nate Dogg may have been bigger radio and Billboard hits, but “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” is near the high end of the shortlist of his most important contributions to the culture.
1. Warren G & Nate Dogg — “Regulate”
Nate Dogg’s legacy as the ultimate rap singer was set in stone from the moment “Regulate,” his 1994 duet with partner Warren G recorded for the Above The Rim soundtrack, hit the airwaves. Trading four-bar couplets over silky production provided by Warren himself, Nate and Warren spin a tale about seeking retribution after the latter was the victim of an armed robbery, with Nate Dogg implementing his melodic sensibilities into the creation of one of the definitive rap releases in music history. And with 25 years having passed since its release — without losing any of its luster or popularity with music fans from various backgrounds and of all ages — “Regulate” is undoubtedly the most indelible and enduring testament to Nate Dogg’s greatness to date and continues to keep his legacy and memory alive every time its spun.
Banner Graphic: @popephoenix for Okayplayer
Preezy Brown is a New York City-based reporter and writer, filling the empty spaces within street and urban culture. A product of the School of Hard Knocks, Magna Cum Laude. The Crooklyn Dodger. Got Blunt?
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