When it comes to Long Beach, its residents and people from all over the world associate the name of the city with rap icon Snoop Dogg. It’s also very common to hear Snoop’s smooth cadence over g-funk beats while you’re in the Eastside part of town.
Before all of Snoop’s success, Snoop met Duke Givens during their time playing Pop Warner football in middle school.
The decades-long bond that ensued was captured in Givens’ photos, now on display at downtown’s MADE in Long Beach in an exhibit that premiered Saturday.
At the opening reception, Snoop made a surprise call-in by phone and Givens recounted personal tales of his life with the famed rapper.
The two formed a strong bond during the mid-1980s that proved to be important as the city dealt with gang violence. However, they would go on different paths after their time at Poly High School.
Givens went on to join The United States Air Force and Snoop was frequently in and out of prison.
“So I left a gang war to go to war,” said Givens, recalling being sent off to fight in Operation Desert Storm right after basic training.
When Givens came back to Long Beach, many of his friends were no longer alive, victims to the gang life. He eventually found a new purpose in photography when his parents surprised him with a Canon AE-1 camera.
“Whatever your gift mix is in this room, whatever it is, allow it to manifest so that you do the good work for everyone,” Givens told onlookers at his exhibit.
After improving his photography craft at Long Beach City College, Givens began to photograph Snoop, his cousin Nate Dogg, and his friend Warren G, otherwise known as the 213, during the early ‘90s.
Snoop Dogg was hip-hop’s hottest star at the time after having memorable appearances on Dr. Dre’s 1992 masterpiece, The Chronic, and with the success of his very own album, Doggystyle, released the following year.
Givens’ photos offer a rare peek into this time, and were up for all to view and purchase, ranging from 4 x 6 photo prints to framed photos at the event.
“I really like how these photos capture the beginnings of how his career started,” said Giulia Triassi, an onlooker at the exhibit.
Although she wanted to see if Snoop would possibly make an appearance, the rapper wasn’t available but did answer a phone call from Givens.
Snoop told attendees how much he appreciated Givens’ support while growing up together and acknowledged the importance of the role Givens’ father played in his adolescence and music career.
“Sylvester Givens Sr. is one of the most instrumental men in my life,” said Snoop. “He raised Duke the right way. My father wasn’t present as a kid so I really leaned on him. I would be nothing without him.”
Snoop also shared his experiences as an artist on the canvas.
“One day I just decided to start painting,” said Snoop. “It did me some good for my spirit and it was good for my well-being. I’m not just an artist with making music but an artist for painting pictures as well.”
Along with Snoop’s call, attendees enjoyed a hip-hop dance performance and VIP Records owner Kelvin Anderson was present as well.
The free exhibit, “SNOOP: The Early Years,” will be up until the end of March.