Sylvester “Duke” Givens and Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. —a k a Snoop Dogg—were 14-year-olds when they met playing Pop Warner football in 1985. The skinny teens tried to dodge the lure of the streets in their Long Beach, Calif., community where, even then, Snoop stood out for his “unique way of putting words together,” Givens recalls. A photographer and filmmaker, he’s documented a lifelong friendship in the exhibit, “SNOOP the Early Years,” running at MADE in Long Beach through March 20.
The pair continued to be “best of buddies” at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, which helped launch classmates Cameron Diaz into acting, Willie McGinest into the NFL, and Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. into his enduring career the entertainer Snoop Dog, with his string of multi-platinum selling albums, as well as such mega hits as “Gin and Juice,” “Beautiful,” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,”
With the end of high school approaching in the late 80’s, the friends took the test for the Air Force. Givens passed and served in Desert Storm, while Snoop “caught a case” and served time on a drug-related conviction. “Even in jail, shot-caller dudes told Snoop, ‘You need to knock it off and pursue your music,’ because it was so evident that he was a force,” Givens recalls. He adds that Snoop wrote a lot of raps, but grew discouraged and “threw about 100 of them in the trash.”
Another childhood friend, fellow rapper “Warren G jumped in the dumpster and pulled them out,” Givens says. Later, Warren debuted a Snoop mixtape at a party and the crowd went wild. After that Dr. Dre got wind of Snoop’s skills, signed him, and featured him on the album The Chronic.
When they’re around one another, Givens and Snoop reminisce about the innocence of their early years, and about how they’re committed to stopping gang violence in coming generations. Snoop gets kids to redirect their energies through his athletic leagues, while Givens, who always carries a camera, seeks to be a Pied Piper for the arts. In that vein, he’s directed one documentary: The Game Don't Change (Just the Players), and is at work on a second: Emerald in the Rough: A Film About Fatherhood. Here’s a video featuring Snoop being interviewed by Givens.
Both fathers, Givens and Snoop take some of their parenting cues from Givens’ Dad: “Our community was the neighborhood home, and my father was a community dad,” the photographer recalls. “He told everybody to pull their pants up. He commanded and demanded respect.” That’s how Givens, Snoop and their circle began to look out for one another other, like Warren G. doing a dumpster dive to rescue Snoop’s raps, and the late rapper Nate Dogg renting a car so Snoop could drive to the prom.