dir. Ernest Dickerson
Now playing at various theaters.

The title of Snoop Dogg's new R-rated horror movie, Bones, could also have been the title of his new X-rated porn video, Doggystyle. They descend from the same system of signs and economic order that Snoop Dogg has been refining and expanding ever since he left Death Row Records in 1998. Indeed, Snoop Dogg is no longer a rapper but a corporation, whose structure and operations resemble a Japanese zaibatsu (characterized by diverse investments and ventures) more than traditional American corporations (which tend to focus on one market or product). The trademark for Snoop's tentacular zaibatsu is a dog--in the way Merrill Lynch's is a bull--and the various services and commodities it offers are produced for ghetto consumption.

The very fact that the horror film Bones is being released only in South Seattle (East Valley, SeaTac, Lewis & Clark), demonstrates that Snoop Dogg's zaibatsu always has the ghetto consumer in mind. The film has no crossover or mass-market aspirations, like Denzel Washington's film Training Day, which functions as an inner-city safari for suburbanites. (Admittedly, since September 11, Training Day's success has another profitable source besides the initial ghetto safari--that being nostalgia. The thousands upon thousands of suburban moms, pops, and teens who have paid hard money to watch Training Day were drawn to it because it presents a time, not long ago, when America had such ordinary social problems as policing black ghettos and Chicano barrios.)

Training Day, which also features Snoop Dogg as a handicapped crack dealer, is motivated by concerns like great acting, a sound plot, and competent direction. Snoop Dogg's Bones, on the other hand, is looking not for an Oscar nomination, but for ghetto approval. And what the ghetto wants, according to Snoop Dogg and Bones' black director, Ernest R. Dickerson, is a cheap-looking film, incompetently written, with lots of dope beats, race and pot jokes, and the occasional scary sequence.

Bones makes an effort to be bad. Ernest R. Dickerson is a professional director: He trained at NYU, worked as a cinematographer for Spike Lee during his most creative period, and made the excellent hood-noir film Juice. But in Snoop Dogg's Bones, those skills are abandoned for the sake of the ghetto aesthetic.

Similarly, Snoop Dogg's recent porn video, Doggystyle, is ghetto to the bone. Though filmed at his mansion in evergreen Northern California, his cheap porn film essentially shows how a playa from the streets of L.A. would spend five million bucks if it suddenly fell in a nigga's lap. He wouldn't move up into a higher-class sphere and send his kids to better schools; he'd simply enlarge and intensify his ghetto pleasures.

The world Doggystyle portrays is not exclusive: there are no VIP restrictions, and it's accessible and ghetto-friendly. Snoop Dogg is not saying to the viewer whose means are limited, "Look at what I own, G. I'm your fucking fantasy," but instead, more democratically, "This is what you would do if you were in my place, because you and I are for real, G."

Doggystyle opens with Snoop Dogg welcoming the viewer into his palace, which, of course, is called Snoop's Dogg Pound. He wants his guest to feel at home, to relax; there are lots of pleasant things to do in his pound. You can play Game Boy, feed the guard dogs, watch beautiful black women "doing it doggystyle," smoke the best Buddha on the West Coast, and listen to the latest beats Snoop Dogg has produced in his world-class basement studio. There are no cops in sight. This is a playa's paradise.

Snoop Dogg is a ghetto Martha Stewart. His ultimate commodity is a way of life. Everything he sells and endorses (the Blunt Wrap tobacco tubes for smoking Buddha, the K-Nine clothing for the pimps, playas, and ho's, the "Freak Line" phone sex service, the rap music, the films, and so on) designates, validates, and delineates a specific mode of urban existence. He makes it easier to be ghetto, in the way Martha Stewart makes it easier to be bourgeois. With Snoop Dogg, you don't have to lift a finger; all one has to do is buy whatever he endorses or produces and they will be 100 percent "real." And "keeping it real" is as valuable to Snoop Dogg as claiming "it's a good thing" is to Martha Stewart.

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