The loss of Nate Dogg was felt so deeply in the hip-hop community that you knew that some rapper was going to surface with a tribute song—you just hoped that the thing was worth a damn. Kudos upon kudos, then, to next-gen West Coast rapper The Game, for digging deep and coming up with “All Doggs Go to Heaven,” an ode to Nate that the G-Funk legend would have been proud to lend his voice to. (Or, in this case, proud to know that his voice was used posthumously.)
Always one of hip-hop’s great students of genre history, The Game is an ideal choice to pay proper tribute to Nate Dogg’s legacy. Over a majestic, heavy-hearted-sounding trumpet-and-string backing track, Game relates the story of hanging with Nate and his Chronic-era friends in the studio in 2005 (“One of my favorite memories / Them niggas like kin to me / When they move, I move / We like a centipede”) and expresses disbelief over his premature death (“Damn, he was only 41 / So I’ma get high and just drink till this .40 done”). On the chorus, The Game expresses his sorrows in screwed-down voice, interrupted occasionally by samples of the late great Nate’s classic “HOLD-up!” and “Smoke weed every day!” exhortations from “The Next Episode”: “Tryin’ to smoke the pain away / Hand on the Desert / All doggs go to heaven.” A tear-jerker, no doubt.
“Now when I need a hook, who I’m gon call for?” Game wonders aloud on the second verse. It’s the question that’s gotta be on every rapper worth a damn’s mind this week, and one which might not have a proper answer for some time still to come.