Joe Cool – Doggystyle [Snoop Dogg]
Perfectly capturing the gritty party loving vibes of early 90s Gangsta Rap, Beatdust caught up with Los Angeles visual artist Darryl ‘Joecool’ Daniel to dissect his work on Snoop Doggy Dogg’s 1993 classic debut Doggystyle.
Classic song after classic song, Doggystyle will forever be used as one of the benchmark albums that all of West Coast hip hop is measured up to. Improving on his work on The Chronic, Dre’s (and whilst uncredited Dat Nigga Daz) production is faultless – providing impeccable blueprints for Snoop to architect his effortless, catchy flow. With a potent product bagged and ready for consumption, Snoop commissioned his cousin, Darryl ‘Joecool’ Daniel to lace Doggystyle with a cover artwork that would become as iconic and controversial as the music within.
“Snoop Dogg is my first cousin” notes Joecool. “I had just gotten out of prison and I was introduced to Dr. Dre by Snoop. Dre gave the go-ahead for me to draw the album [art]. I have always been a fan of NWA”. In terms of the artworks concept, Joecool says “[It was] Dre’s idea, Snoop wanted me to bring that concept to life. He wanted a cartoon on the inside so I obliged after smoking a few fat chronic joints.
Juxtaposing the childlike innocence of Charles Schulz’ iconic cartoon character ‘Snoopy’ from Peanuts with the mature, explicit contents of George Clinton’s Atomic Dog, Joecool’s artwork sublimely complements the lyrical nature of the Doggystyle release.
Not only littered with phrases from the song itself, the artistic vision of the artwork is also a homage to the animated characters featured within the Atomic Dog promo video. “For the Doggystyle cover, I used a combination of number 2 pencils and ink pens, on [a sheet of] blank art paper” reflects Joecool. While broad outlines and strong use of primary colors are the focal point of Joecool’s comic book style approach, he also sprinkles elements graffiti and airbrush art across the piece.
Due to the success of the album (debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chat and selling over 4 million copies within months of its release) and the sexually suggestive behaviour of Joecool’s artwork, Doggystyle would be one of the catalysts for the moral panic and censorship debate that would plague hip hop in the 90s. Led by C. Delores Tucker, chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women, the album’s inner sleeve artwork was introduced as evidence at a 1994 hearing on Commerce, Competitiveness, and Consumer Protection in Washington D.C. – viewed as detrimental to both females and black communities.
As a rebuttal to Tucker’s concerns, it could be argued that Joecool (and Snoop) is a product of his environment and his art is merely a reflection of that. Furthermore – art, by its very nature, is meant to provoke discussion, if an individual is compelled to react to it (whether good or bad) then the artist has succeeded.
Unfortunately, another repercussion growing up in an environment marred by violence and drugs would take shape in the gang activity surrounding Joecool, Snoop and the Deathrow Records label. When asked whether gang affiliation (Snoop being a renowned Rolling 20 Crip member on a record label affiliated with The Mob Piru Bloods) had an impact on his working environment, Joecool reflects “yes, with Snoop’s murder trial and us being Cripping Cousins we constantly had to stay alert. Deathrow was a Blood Gang ran outfit. They didn’t like us – but they couldn’t fuck with us, because Snoop was the goose with the golden eggs. We didn’t like nor trust them muthafuckas either.”
Nearly a quarter of a century since he left the pen to pick up the pen, Joecool concludes “I feel good about having drawn Snoop’s cover, it has helped me get a ‘lil fame and some dope opportunities. But I feel like I should have been getting a percentage of the merchandise that was sold and bootlegged.”
“Hall of Fame, Supreme, Neff and many others such as The Game [Joecool drew the cover art for The Game’s ‘1992’ album] showed me love. For Snoop, I am forever grateful, I need work to do from people who are willing to pay me what i’m worth! I do paintings now. But I still do freelance art work. Im not exclusive to no one.”
The pinnacle of West Coast G-funk hip-hop, Doggystyle will forever go down as one of the greatest debut releases in music history. Mirroring the work of his cousin Snoop, Joecool’s unforgettable introduction into the world of visual arts has help him establish a healthy career that shows no signs of slowing down nearly 25 years later.