Snoop Doggy Dad

Vernall Varnado rides shotgun on his son's celebrity

All things considered, then, Snoop figures that giving away the song to his dad boils down to a good career move. For one thing, it shows that he no longer operates under an oppressive corporate culture. "That's the great thing about No Limit," Snoop says. "Master P knows that's my pop. I can do what I want, as long as it's not going to hurt my career."

It's a good public-relations move, too. "Like Master P says, this kind of thing can only help," says Snoop. "It shows that as big an artist as I am, I haven't forgotten where I came from. I haven't forgotten my family. I'm willing to help. It gets my music out there, and it shows me giving something back."

Tired of waiting, Varnado has picked up the telephone. He's making lots of calls, lots of plans and a big prediction. "Mark my words, Mobstyle Muzik is gonna blow up in 1999," he bellows to someone through the receiver. "I'm already workin' on Papa Snoop's Westside Riderz, Vol. 2, goin' down to Long Beach to get the less fortunate, the ones who coulda made it but haven't had the chance yet." The conversation ends, and Varnado offers a little aside: "See, that's where I have an advantage by stickin' by Snoop. I won't have to make all the mistakes he made. I won't have to go through all that crazy shit."

Varnado is grateful for the favor from his son, but he can be a little abrasive and defensive about it, too. He's heard some people say that moving to Southern California to be with his son in November 1995 was mere opportunism. "I didn't come here broke," he says testily. "I wasn't about to ride his coattails or nobody's coattails."

Actually, Varnado arrived carrying five expensive suits and five conservative silk ties-and he told his son to start wearing them to court. Snoop was on trial for murder at the time, accused of driving the getaway car after his bodyguard shot a gang member during an altercation at a Los Angeles park. "I told my boy that if he was going to be a star, he'd better start dressing like a star," Varnado explains. "No more baggy-ass pants hanging off his butt-at least in front of the judge." Snoop not only followed his father's sartorial instructions in the courtroom, but also after his acquittal, when he incorporated the dressed-up, buttoned-down look into his personal style, even posing in a suit for the cover of his next album, Tha Doggfather. When Varnado moved into Snoop's house, he kicked out many of the hangers-on in his son's entourage, people Snoop felt he couldn't evict without being branded disloyal.

"My father showed me something with all of that," Snoop acknowledges.

More recently, however, Snoop has chafed under the force of his father's strong will and raucous temperament. The connection between them has become increasingly strained-which is not to say it is unusual. Like so many fathers and sons, the interaction between Snoop and Varnado is a complicated mix of love and rivalry. It's about the mutual-and frustratingly muted-search for each other's respect and approval.

"Our personal relationship is kind of difficult," says Snoop. "We got our own opinions, and they are strong opinions. We got our own way of doing things. On top of that, the business has kinda tore us apart."

Varnado acknowledges some conflict betwen them after the trial. "I was kind of pissed-off because he made a few promises to me he didn't keep," he says. "He promised to give me a job, you know, this and that and the other. But when it didn't happen, then I knew it was time to do my own thing."

Snoop and Varnado don't see each other too often these days. They don't talk much, either.

"Snoop gave me that song, but after that, I ain't really heard from him," says Varnado. "Aw, I ain't got time to worry about Snoop. He's grown. I was there for him. Whatever he's mad at, whoever he's mad at, that's on him."

Varnado remembers the earliest days of Snoop's publicity, when his son spoke openly in interviews-and consequently, on TV and radio and in magazines and newspapers-about the difficulty of growing up without his father, about how Varnado's absence influenced many of the poor choices he made and the pain he felt.

"Yeah, I read all that," Varnado says softly. "Even though there were a few things I didn't like, he was telling the truth. I wish I could have done some things differently. But I did sit down with him and have a long conversation. I told him: 'You got to realize your mother was married to somebody else after she had you. So it was beyond my control.'

"And then we talked another time when he and his girlfriend-who's now his wife-were busted up for a while. She had my first grandson, and Snoop told her, 'Well, I'll see my son when I can.' And that's when I checked him and said: 'Now you see what I'm talking about. You and Shante were busted up for 4 to 5 months. Now what if you hadn't gotten back together and Shante woulda gone somewhere? You'd be in the same boat I was.'"

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