When Nate Dogg (real name: Nathaniel Hale) died March 15 from stroke complications, the hip-hop world mourned on Twitter and Facebook. As one of the architects of the West Coast rap sound, Hale, 41, was famous for collaborating with Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Dr. Dre and other members of Tha Dogg Pound. On the days leading up to his funeral, various reports of a life celebration featuring all of Hale's collaborators floated on the Internet. Finally, on Friday, March 25, the city of Long Beach released 1,000 tickets for fans to attend Hale's funeral the following day. The event, originally open to the public, became a semiprivate affair because of security reasons.
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Still, thousands were bused from the Long Beach City College parking lot to the Queen Mary dome to pay their respects at 10 a.m. Saturday. Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Xzibit, Dr. Dre, Tha Dogg Pound, DJ Quik and The Game attended the funeral.
The emotional program emphasized Hale's life beyond his contribution to popular music. Known to his family as Buddy, Hale, the funeral officiant said, did not get his melodic chops at Poly High School, where he met Snoop Dogg and Warren G and where the trio formed the pioneering West Coast rap group 213. Hale's father was a pastor in Mississippi, and as a child, Hale sang in choirs with his five siblings before he became known as the "King of Hooks." In 2007, he went back to his gospel roots and formed InNate Praise, a group of handpicked singers who performed gospel songs he'd written. They performed Saturday between remembrances by family, collaborators and friends.
At the service, Warren G was so overcome by emotion he could hardly speak when he came onstage. His voice broke as he said: "I never thought I'd be at a funeral for one of my dogs. Me and Snoop and Nate . . . we were balls-to-the-wall in everything we did. I'm gonna miss him and love him forever." Snoop Dogg eulogized: "What a friend I had in Nate. . . . Music brought us together. He was a loving, caring individual, a God-fearing individual. He took church melodies and flipped it with hip-hop. It was still God's work, and it was a testimony of how he was brought up. I was blessed to know Nate Dogg, hang with Nate Dogg, roll with Nate Dogg." From a March 26 Heard Mentality blog post.
This column appeared in print as "All Doggs Go to Heaven."