In general, Portland is a pretty patient town. Ask our citizens to stand in line for hours for shitty doughnuts and foie gras ice cream and they’ll do so gladly, with a smile on their face. Waiting is part of the culture here.
Ask them to wait nearly two hours to see Snoop Lion, though, and things start to get tense.
Tuesday night at the Roseland, the rapper formerly known (and, let’s face it, still known) as Snoop Dogg was scheduled to take the stage at 10:05 pm. I arrived at about five-’til. Twenty minutes later, DJ OG One announced Snoop would be out soon, after a “smoke break.” “You’ll let Snoop take a smoke break, right?” he asked the crowd. At that point in time, the audience made up of bros, dudes, frat boys, college girls, teenage stoners and a few older African-Americans was more than willing to oblige him a few extra minutes of backstage puff’n’stuff. The DJ kept people occupied by spinning new and old West Coast classics, including “Still D.R.E.” and “Gz and Hustlaz.”
As it became more and more apparent that “smoke break” was a euphemism for “sitting around playing Xbox or some shit,” though, the crowd began to turn. Every new track brought a smattering of boos. Closing in on 11 pm, OG One announced that Snoop would be out in “five minutes.” Ten minutes later, the boos turned to chants of “bullshit.” Trash began to fly. OG One eventually gathered up his turntables and exited stage right, leaving a laptop and some keyboards on an otherwise empty stage, as Kendrick Lamar played over the house speakers. By 11:45, the crowd had thinned roughly by half. And then, right around the time the chants of “bullshit” changed to chants of “fuck Snoop,” the man himself finally appeared, as if from a cloud of smoke. (Actually, he literally did appear from a cloud of smoke.)
To some, this waiting game should’ve been expected. When I told my ’90s gangsta-rap loving editor that Snoop was almost two hours late, his response was: “Oh, so he was an hour early in rapper time.” On Twitter, Portland Mercury contributor Ryan Feigh noticed the flack in his timeline and tweeted, “Deal with it. This is Snoop, not your roommates’ band at Doug Fir.” It also wasn’t Big Boi, who tore up the Roseland a few months ago and hit the stage on time. Or Prince, who played two consecutive sets at the venue in April and missed his late show start time by only 15 minutes and then scorched the place for the next hour and a half. Yes, I’ve been to enough hip-hop shows to know that, generally speaking, rappers aren’t the most punctual bunch. (Back in California, I once waited on Kool Keith for close to three hours.) But I expected better of Snoop, a guy whose career is more than two decades deep, who regularly headlines festivals and is one of the better performers in the game. And even if none of that was true, at what point does making your audience sit on its hands (and joints) cross over from something you’ve just got to deal with as a rap fan to a blatant affront? How long is too long, particularly when people have paid upward of $50 for a show?
Snoop, naturally, didn’t apologize or at all acknowledge his tardiness once he actually appeared. Rocking his signature heavy shades, football jersey and giant hand jewelry and nothing alluding to his alleged reggae conversion—in fact, his only nods to his recent Jamaican pilgrimage were the dancehall-ish intro and having his DJ play “Jammin'” as the house lights went up—he ran through a greatest hits set that probably would’ve thrilled the audience if it happened two hours earlier. Snoop is still one of hip-hop’s best live performers, and remains effortlessly charismatic, but the long wait totally deflated what was left of the crowd. Even “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” was met only with customary hand-waving. It didn’t help that the stage was crammed with members of his posse—including Dogg Pound’s Dazz Dillinger and someone who may have been Kurupt, Snoop’s 70-something-year-old Uncle Junebug and someone in a cartoon dog costume brandishing a three-foot fake blunt—and neither did the Roseland’s typically muddled sound system. After leading a sing-along of his Wiz Khalifa duet “Young, Wild and Free,” Snoop shouted out Reo’s Ribs, his other uncle’s Portland BBQ joint, and bounced. His set lasted about 30 minutes. Nobody stuck around for an encore.
Does Snoop care about burning a bridge in Portland? Of course not. He’s made enough money that he never needs to do a show anywhere again, let alone worry about people showing up. And who’s to say that bridge is even burned? After all, someone is still funding Axl Rose’s career. And it’s not like he hasn’t done this before. But legacy is a slippery thing. As local producer Trox McCloud tweeted, “y’all are still gonna be playing Doggystyle tomorrow.” That’s true. Remember, though: That album is 20 years old, and there were a lot of young people in that audience who now feel burned—and not in the way you normally associate with Snoop. I just hope he’s cool with the casino circuit, because at age 41, he’s already got one foot planted near the slot machine.