Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop Collaborator, Dies at 41
Rest In Peace
Nate Dogg, a singer with a silky, burly voice who helped shape the sound of West Coast hip-hop, died on Tuesday in Long Beach, Calif., the city where he was born and that he helped memorialize in song. He was 41.
The cause was complications of a stroke, said his manager, Rod McGrew.
Nate Dogg was the first male singer whose fame was predicated almost completely on his appearances on the songs of rappers. At the beginning of his career such collaborations were rare, and often ham-handed. But he incorporated hip-hop posturing into his vocals, and his blend of cocksureness and haunted melancholy became a genre staple.
Born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale on Aug. 19, 1969, Nate Dogg spent much of his childhood in Clarksdale, Miss., where he sang in the choir of the church where his father was the pastor, before moving back to Long Beach. There, following a stint in the Marines, he formed the group 213, after the local area code, with his high school friends the rappers Snoop Doggy Dogg and Warren G
The group’s demo was heard by the superstar producer Dr. Dre, who eventually got Nate Dogg signed to the emerging hip-hop powerhouse Death Row Records. He made his recording debut in 1992 on Dr. Dre’s multiplatinum album “The Chronic” (Death Row/Interscope), which became the foundational document of G-funk, the smooth, lethargic style pioneered by Dr. Dre that was a central element in hip-hop’s crossover to the pop mainstream.
Nate Dogg remained in the orbit of Death Row Records for a few years, appearing on Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Doggystyle” and 2Pac’s “All Eyez on Me” among other albums. His 1994 duet with Warren G, the platinum single “Regulate” (Def Jam), was one of the most popular hip-hop songs of the era.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, as hip-hop began to experiment more with melody and as the lines between rap and R&B became more porous, Nate Dogg remained an in-demand collaborator, working with 50 Cent, Fabolous, E-40, Mos Def and dozens more. A chorus by Nate Dogg, in his signature voice that spanned tenor and baritone ranges, became an imprimatur of a certain brand of hip-hop: tough yet accessible, menacing yet alluring. He also served as a template for later generations of male singers who gained notice primarily as collaborators on rap songs — Akon, T-Pain and Bruno Mars, among others — though none had his stoic force.
Nate Dogg was never as in demand as a frontman as he was as a collaborator, but he released a handful of solo albums, including “G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2” (Dogg Foundation/Breakaway) in 1998, an underappreciated document of the G-funk era, and “Music & Me” (Elektra) in 2001, his most commercially successful release.
Over his career he was nominated for four Grammys: for “Regulate” and Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode,” as well as for collaborations with Ludacris and Eminem. Late in his career he founded a gospel choir, InNate Praise, and also played himself on an episode of the animated series “The Boondocks,” singing one of his trademark hooks. His group 213 eventually released an album in 2004, after its members had gone on to solo fame.
Nate Dogg suffered a stroke in 2007. He had almost completely recovered before being felled by another one the following year, which left him partly paralyzed and breathing through a tracheotomy tube, unable to speak.
He is survived by his parents, Daniel Lee Hale and Ruth Holmes; five siblings, Daniel Hale Jr., Samuel Hale, Manuel Hale, Pamela Hale-Burns and La Tonia Hale-Watkins; and six children, Debra, Whitney, Aundrane, Nathaniel Jr., Niajel and Milana.
By JON CARAMANICA
Published: March 17, 2011