Hip-hop legend Nathaniel Hale, a/k/a Nate Dogg, has passed away at the age of 41. The cause of death is still being investigated; he suffered a pair of strokes in recent years, reportedly paralyzing the left side of his body and severely impairing his speaking ability.
Hailing from Long Beach, California, Nate’s work with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G was a major step in the evolution of singing on rap records — his breezily delivered (“tunefully murderous,” as Robert Christgau put it) singsong rhymes were arguably as integral to classic hip-hop as the sax breaks were to Leiber & Stoller records. His greatest and most famous collaboration found him playing Greek chorus to Warren G’s murder tale on the smash “Regulate”; he debuted on Dre’s landmark The Chronic, though he’s equally revered for his work on the far less famous Mista Grimm’s deeply funky 1993 hit “Indo Smoke.” His solo albums (including the strong, playful Music & Me) never achieved the success of his long array of hit collaborations (with 2Pac, Ludacris, Eminem, Fabolous, and countless others), but retained that collaborative spirit — he’d often relegate himself to just the smoothly delivered hooks on his own tracks. The man knew his strengths and played them to the fullest. Translating that hedonism into extraordinarily catchy G-funk fatalism earned the ex-Marine four Grammy nominations through his career, and he enjoyed himself, too, best exemplified by his proud epigram on Dr. Dre hit “The Next Episode”: “Smoke weed everyday.” And “Can’t Deny It” was the fucking jam. Here’s that one, and quite a few others.