Nuthin' But a "G" Thang
In a Nutshell
Freshly departed from N.W.A., in 1992 Dr. Dre was looking to establish himself as a solo artist who could rise above the controversy often courted by his former group. An obsessive perfectionist at the soundboard, Dre sealed himself off in the studio and went to work amidst piles and piles of records and grueling recording sessions with his musicians.
Mining the work of 1970s soul and funk acts – especially George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic – Dre brought to mainstream audiences what became known as the G-Funk (gangsta funk) sound, a new strain of rap that distinguished itself from hardcore gangsta rap with smooth, mellow samples augmented by a synthesizer and beefed up with heavy bass. It was funky rap music intended to hypnotize and tranquilize the listener, all while addressing the same content as Dre's hardcore counterparts.
The fact that "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" is the classic G-Funk anthem has nothing to do with the lyrics. The rhymes that Snoop and Dre deliver are pure stock rhymes from the gangsta rap playbook, and seem close to being altogether nonsensical. This anthem is important because of the fusion of the lyrics and music: its moody, infectious, head-bobbing grooves hooked mainstream audiences in a way that Public Enemy, Ice-T, and N.W.A. never did, maintaining a hardcore posture while developing a radio- and video-friendly sound. At the same time, through his sampling Dre introduced a new generation of listeners to the best of the 1970s funk genre and its underlying tradition of proud, African-American music.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Dr. Dre (vocals), Snoop Doggy Dog (vocals), with sample from Leon Haywood's "I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You" o Tabs: None
|Label||Death Row Records|
|Writer(s)||Dr. Dre (Andre Young), Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus)|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
If groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A. started a revolution, "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" sat out the struggle and settled into the comfortable place carved out by its radical predecessors.
Not that Dr. Dre didn't have a hand in creating rap history—he was largely responsible for manufacturing the early West Coast gangsta rap sound, which contained the germ of G-Funk. But "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" and Death Row Records represented a stark departure from previous West Coast rap efforts. Death Row came to represent a G-Funk Weltanschauung
, a fancy German word literally meaning "World-outlook." The term is used to describe the worldview of an individual or community, and how it's informed by the perception of reality, values, culture, and basically everything that makes a human being a human being.
Standing on the shoulders of the Parliament Funkadelic giants, Dre and company adopted the musical ambiance and sentiment of 1970s funk music and fused it with the urban realities of life in 1990s Los Angeles. The G-Funk Weltanschauung
is a hybrid animal: it's a synthesis of culture (P-Funk), language (think Snoop's "izzles"), and a ghetto ideology (G-ness).
Snapshots of cultural expression are nothing new, and you might already be familiar with some examples. Sandra Cisneros' The House On Mango Street
follows Esperanza, a young Latina growing up and enduring the hardships of her Chicago neighborhood, and captures the cultural ties one develops with regard to race and location. In James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
, the story's hero, Stephen, also experiences the influence of culture and class, but his development is traced through the use of language—at first though a child's monosyllabic expression, and later through the power of poetry. In the case of Dre's music, culture, language, and ideology together created an closed system, the G-Funk Worldview that embraced its funky musical roots and communicated with the masses in new terms while holding steadfast to a code of pure, unadulterated gangstaism.
On the Charts
"Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" was Dr. Dre's best performing single from his solo debut, The Chronic
. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 and #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles Chart in March 1993.
Dr. Dre eventually won the Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy for another Chronic
song, "Let Me Ride," in 1994, but it was "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" that solidified the Gangsta Funk (G-Funk) sound that dominated the 1990s rap landscape and launched Snoop Dogg's massively successful career.