Remembering Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop’s Harmonizing Pioneer

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Nate Dogg

REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Nathaniel Dawayne Hale, better known in hip-hop circles as Nate Dogg, was never thought of as a clever lyricist or free flow artist. But his smooth baritone delivery is probably among the most memorable male vocalizing in rap history, and will forever be linked with the unique style that came out of Southern California in the early to mid-90s.

After his death Tuesday at age 41, his longtime friend Snoop Dogg wrote on his Twitter account, in the familiar G-Funk dialect, “All doggs go to heaven yo homie n baby brotha bigg snoopdogg!!”

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These days, hip-hop almost requires someone like Bruno Mars to belt out a hook over a beat between lyrics or to have Akon or T-Pain’s voice transformed over a vocoder to something unrecognizable. But Nate Dogg set down a template for singing harmonious chords over hip-hop beats on his signature effort with rapper Warren G on 1994’s “Regulate,” where the two brought a street flavor over samples of Michael McDonald’s 1982 soul classic “I Keep Forgetting.” The tune earned them a Grammy nomination and peaked at no. 2 on Billboard.

Nate Dogg got his start in 1991 when he formed the group 213 with Warren G and an up-and-coming Snoop Dogg in their hometown of Long Beach, California. His smooth voice caught the ear of NWA’s Dr. Dre and he was brought in to sing on Dre’s 1992 solo benchmark The Chronic. After his collaboration on “Regulate,” Nate Dogg went on to record with Snoop again on a raunchy but well-regarded hip-hop barroom anthem, “Ain’t No Fun.” He also did solo pieces like G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1&2, and Music and Me, as well as more links with artists like Tupac Shakur on 1996’s “All About U.” and Ludicris on 2002’s “Area Codes.”

The Long Beach Press-Telegram, which first carried the news, did not report a cause of death, but noted he had suffered two strokes in 2007 and 2008.

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