The Tragic Truth About Snoop Dogg

The following article includes references to violence, suicide, mental health issues, and sexual abuse allegations.

Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., aka Snoop Dogg, has earned a reputation as a laidback performer who often has his money on his mind. Case in point: fans were concerned that some terrible tragedy had befallen the "Gin & Juice" rapper when he released an Instagram statement saying that he was "giving up smoke," but his November 2023 announcement turned out to be a creative marketing ploy to promote a smokeless firepit brand. While the savvy businessman makes hustling for that next dollar seem like fun, the road to becoming the Doggfather wasn't as smooth as his delivery of those hypnotic flows.

From a young age, Snoop possessed the mentality of a winner, which had its downsides. "I hate losing. I'm a sore loser," he admitted to Esquire in 2008. "When I was a kid, I used to cry when I lost. I cried like a baby — for real. N***as used to pick on me behind that." His rapping ability earned him a ticket out of the hood, but he later told Complex that it wasn't easy for him to conquer Hollywood. "They didn't want rappers to get opportunity, so I had to figure out a way to make Hollywood come calling for me," he said. 

Snoop Dogg has also had to defy expectations by proving that he has staying power while enduring an onslaught of tragedies. The music artist's struggles started early, and he summed up his life after becoming successful by telling Esquire, "It might look easy, but it ain't."

Snoop Dogg became homeless as a teen

While growing up in Long Beach, California, Snoop Dogg shouldered a great deal of financial responsibility at a young age. According to the Los Angeles Times, his family's financial situation was far from ideal, so he helped pay the bills by working as a grocery bagger and getting a paper route. He also tried selling candy, but soon discovered that he could make more money peddling different products. "I started selling every kind of narcotic you could think of," he told Vibe in 1993. "... I was like, f*** it, a regular job ain't paying this much."

The rapper was close with his mom, Beverly Tate, who deserves credit for Snoop's stage name; she thought he resembled Charlie Brown's pet canine, Snoopy. Snoop was a choir member who happily went to church with his mother, but when he started running with a crowd that included members of the notorious Crips gang, this put a strain on their relationship. 

On "The Howard Stern Show," Snoop said that Tate grew so upset over the company he was keeping that she kicked him out of the house when he was 17. He traded crack for a place to stay for a while but ultimately ended up living in his car. "Then one night, probably six months after my mama kicked me out, my car was parked on the wrong side of the street with all my clothes and all my dope, and it got towed away," the rapper recalled.

He had little contact with his dad growing up

Snoop Dogg is the second-oldest of his mother's three sons, all of whom have different fathers. His own dad, Vernell Varnado, left the family when Snoop was just a baby, and the rapper gives his mother sole credit for raising him. Of his father, Snoop told Spin back in 1993, "I'd see him like six or seven times a year."

Varnado is a Vietnam veteran who once tried to find success as a gospel singer before settling for a career as a postal worker. He admitted to OC Weekly that he rarely saw Snoop until the future superstar was a tween; he'd started a new life in Detroit and mainly stayed in contact with his son via phone. "It was hard for me, too," Varnado said. Still, when Snoop found success, he could have gotten payback for Varnado's limited involvement in his upbringing by barring his father from enjoying the fruits of his labor. Instead, Snoop helped his dad get involved in the music biz; Varnado became the co-owner of a small record label, and Snoop gave him some songs to include on a compilation album.

Perhaps Snoop was so forgiving of Varnado's absence because it inspired him to be a better father to his children. "Just to break the chain was the key, to be able to say, 'OK, just because I didn't have my father in my life doesn't mean I'm not going to be in my kids' life,'" he told The Guardian in 2011.

Being surrounded by senseless violence was scary

On "The Howard Stern Show" in 2018, Snoop Dogg revealed that he began hanging around gang members as a young kid. In his world, they were the older heroes that he looked up to. At age 15 or 16, he graduated from being an adoring tag-along to becoming a bonafide gangsta when he was given his first gun. This meant that he now had to worry about finding himself on the wrong end of one of the weapons. 

"I was always scared," said Snoop. When he was inevitably fired upon, he opted against drawing his own weapon. "I was too scared to shoot back because I was so concerned with my life," he said, explaining that it's usually safer to flee than to get involved in a gunfight. Based on how much death he was surrounded by, the future rap star was lucky to make it out of the hood unscathed. "A dozen people I know have been smoked for no reason at all," he previously told the Los Angeles Times. "I wish the violence would stop."

Long after his music career took off, Snoop saw a different end result of the dangerous lifestyle he'd once adopted. In 2005, Crips co-founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed by lethal injection for murdering four people. Snoop was such good friends with Williams that he spoke to him before his execution. "I cried my heart out," he recalled to Rolling Stone. "What the f*** could I say to him?"

Snoop Dogg's murder arrest made him rethink his music

Snoop Dogg's drug dealing earned him three trips to jail after he graduated from high school. "It wasn't no substitute for college," he noted to Spin. One important thing he learned during his time behind bars was that other prisoners appreciated his rapping ability, he told the Los Angeles Times — and he got dangerously close to only getting the opportunity to perform for inmates when he was charged with being an accomplice to murder in 1993. He was working on his debut album "Doggystyle" while preparing for his trial.

In 1996, Snoop was ultimately acquitted of the charges, which stemmed from an altercation with a gang member that ended with Snoop's bodyguard, Mckinley "Malik" Lee, shooting and killing the man. At issue was whether Lee — who would also be acquitted — was acting in self-defense when he pulled the trigger. Snoop, who had penned a song titled "Murder Was the Case," decided to stop venerating violence in his music after his trial. "I was like, 'Somebody's life was lost. My life was changed. This is a real situation,'" he told Fatman Scoop during a 2021 Instagram Live interview.

Snoop also credits the birth of his first child, son Corde Broadus, in 1994 for his decision to start writing songs that celebrate life. "Once he was born, I had to reflect back on what I wrote. I want to live, not I want to die," he said in his 2021 Audible Original "Words + Music" episode "From the Streets to the Suites."

He passed out upon seeing Tupac in the hospital

According to Snoop Dogg, he and Tupac Shakur became friends before they became labelmates. On "All the Smoke," the "Drop It Like It's Hot" hitmaker revealed that he even convinced Death Row Records founder Suge Knight to sign Tupac to the label. "We were like brothers," Snoop told Vibe after Tupac was shot and killed in 1996. "... I ask myself all the time, I'm like, 'Damn, why did he have to go? Or, why couldn't he have just got shot and lived through it?'"

The loss was especially hard for Snoop because he and Tupac had a falling out not long before the "California Love" rapper's death. On "Untold Stories of Hip-Hop," he explained that Tupac felt betrayed by Snoop saying during an interview that he admired Diddy and Biggie Smalls; Tupac's unshakeable allegiance to the West Coast wouldn't allow him to see the East Coast rappers as anything but rivals.

Snoop's last interaction with his friend came during a harrowing flight. Tupac and Knight refused to speak to him and were both so angry that Snoop feared for his life. The next time Snoop saw Tupac, he was in a hospital bed clinging to life. "He got tubes in him," Snoop recalled on the "Impaulsive" podcast in 2022. "When I walked in, I could just feel like he wasn't even there, and I fainted." According to Snoop, the reason he wasn't in Las Vegas with Tupac when he got shot was because of their disagreement.

Snoop Dogg's Death Row defection felt like a death sentence

Death Row Records is where Snoop Dogg got his start, but by 1998, it was no longer the hip-hop powerhouse it had been during its heyday. Suge Knight was in prison for a probation violation, and another of the label's most influential co-founders, Dr. Dre, had decided to start afresh by launching a new record company. Death Row had also lost one of its biggest stars when Tupac Shakur was murdered. Snoop listed all of these developments when explaining his own decision to ditch the label. "There's nothing over there," he told the Long Beach Press-Telegram (via MTV News) at the time. "... It's telling me that I'm either going to be dead or in jail or I'm going to be nothing." But after making his exit, Snoop still felt like he had to fear for his life.

According to a report by The Washington Post, Snoop told the LAPD that he believed himself to be in "grave danger" because his departure had angered Knight. Snoop further incurred Knight's wrath by signing with Master P's label No Limit Records, and Snoop claimed that his former boss didn't let being in prison deter him from trying to exact his revenge. "The n***a threatened my life," he recalled to Rolling Stone in 2006. "N***as tried to get at me at concerts; they put my address on a tape. He was gonna give a n***a a Benz if a n***a cut my hair — all kinda f***in' with me."

How his family has been impacted by gun violence

Snoop Dogg has had a few traumatic experiences with family members. When he was around 8 years old, one of his uncles was the target of a drive-by shooting while staying at Snoop's house. "Hearing them gunshots, that s*** f***ed me up," the rapper said on "From the Streets to the Suites." No one was injured, but the experience kept young Snoop up at night as he worried about whether the gunmen would return.

This wasn't the only time Snoop's family was impacted by gun violence. Of the murder of an unnamed relative, he told The Guardian in 2013, "When that happens, it's a horrible feeling. You never want to feel that." Snoop tried to prevent his family from suffering another tragedy in 2002, when his brother-in-law, Jermaine Fuller, was involved in a standoff with Las Vegas police. Fuller, the brother of Snoop's wife, Shante Broadus, shot and injured one officer, fired upon another, and barricaded himself inside an apartment, where he held two residents hostage. 

During the 11 hours the standoff lasted, Fuller reportedly asked to speak to Snoop, who recorded a message pleading with him to surrender. "Do what they say. We've got lawyers to take care of this. We'll take care of it," the rapper said in the recording, per the Las Vegas Sun. While the hostages escaped unharmed, Fuller was found dead inside the apartment. It was later determined that his cause of death was suicide.

Snoop Dogg lost three family members in five months

Snoop Dogg suffered three heartbreaking losses over the span of five months beginning with the death of his beloved mother, Beverly Tate, in October 2021. He paid tribute to Tate, who was 70 years old when she died, on Instagram. "Thank u god for giving me an angel for a mother," Snoop captioned a smiling photo of his mom. Days after he shared this sad news with his fans, he celebrated his mother's life again during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club." Said the rapper, "The qualities that you see in me — the storytelling, the happiness, the fun, and joy — that was my mother. ... She was my best friend for my first 10 years in this world."

Snoop found himself mourning and memorializing another relative three months later when his uncle, Reo Varnado, died. "Thank u for loving me and the whole world u were a blessing," he wrote on Instagram. Varnado was the owner of the Portland barbecue joint Reo's Ribs and once appeared alongside Snoop and his good pal, Martha Stewart, on their show "Martha and Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party."

Just weeks later, Snoop's older cousin, Janice, died. He posted a photo of himself posing with her on Instagram, and his caption included a heart-wrenching reminder of how much he was missing his mother. "Say hi to mama and grandma for me and aunt," he wrote.

The rapper's grandson Kai died at 10 days old

In a March 2023 Daily Mail interview, Snoop Dogg explained why he was trying to live a healthier lifestyle and cutting back on the amount of weed he was smoking. "I want to see my grandkids grow old," he said. Sadly, he had already lost a grandson by then. Just 10 days after his oldest son, Corde Broadus, welcomed a baby boy in 2019, the infant tragically died. In a now-deleted Instagram post, Corde revealed that he and the baby boy's mother, Soraya Love, had decided to name their son Kai Love. "He died in my arms and that feeling of energy will never leave me," he wrote. Kai was survived by two siblings, his sister, Elleven, and brother Zion.

Snoop briefly spoke about Kai's death when he appeared on "Red Table Talk" in 2020. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had died the month prior to the interview, and Snoop had lashed out at Gayle King after she brought up the sexual assault allegations against Bryant on "CBS This Morning." Snoop explained that his since-deleted Instagram attack on King was partly triggered by the multiple losses he was struggling with at the time. "I got to be strong in front of everybody," he said. "... But what about when I want to cry? What about when I'm hurt and I'm feeling bad and I feel disgusted and I want to be angry and I want to just blurt out? I can't. I let my emotions get the best of me."

His daughter's illness helped repair his fractured family

Snoop Dogg decided to divorce Shante Broadus after seven years of marriage in 2004, later admitting during a CNN interview that he wanted to experience the freedom of being "a pimp" again. However, the couple's divorce was never finalized. In a 2010 interview with People (via Digital Spy), Snoop and Shante revealed that their daughter Cori Broadus' lupus diagnosis is what made them decide that their marriage was worth saving. The worried parents realized that being a supportive family unit wouldn't just be beneficial for Cori; they'd also have each other to lean on. "Cori's lupus showed us we need to be together forever," said Snoop.

Lupus is the same inflammatory autoimmune disease that Selena Gomez has. It can cause a wide range of painful and distressing symptoms, such as arthritis. Cori was just 6 years old when she was diagnosed with the chronic illness, and she told People that she was taking up to a dozen pills daily by age 24. However, she said that she was able to wean herself off of the medication by making lifestyle changes such as working out.

Snoop came to realize that divorcing Shante would have been a big mistake, and not just because Cori needed her parents to be strong for her. "That's the love of my life, that's who I want to be with," he told GQ in 2021. "... She ain't never did no wrong. Everything wrong with this relationship has always been me."

Snoop Dogg's daughter attempted suicide

Cori Broadus has discussed her struggles with lupus and mental health at length, explaining how the two were linked in a 2021 Instagram video. "I got lupus at 6, so I was overweight from being on steroids," she said. "And that just automatically just messed with my health. ... I've always been sad, I've always been depressed, because I feel like I've just been through a lot." Being sick made her feel like an outsider in her own family, and she began struggling with suicidal ideation at age 13 when she also became the target of cruel bullies who criticized her physical appearance. "I was ready to die. Just so sad, crying to my mom like, 'Mom, I'm so ugly. ... Why did you have me?'" she recalled. 

According to Broadus, she feels extremely overwhelmed when forced to deal with a stressful situation, which is what happened when her boyfriend crashed her car. It sent her on a downward spiral, and she attempted suicide at a hotel. Broadus credited an involuntary psychiatric hospitalization with changing her perspective. "As I was in there ... I started appreciating everything," she said. This included what an amazing support system her family is. 

In a February 2023 Teen Vogue interview, Broadus shared an example of how Snoop Dogg was there for her when she needed him. "I was at the hospital, about to get my [kidney] biopsy. He was like, 'You are so damn strong,'" she recalled. "He couldn't even imagine going through what I am. ... I think they're proud of me."

He's mourned the loss of many music industry friends

Snoop Dogg has found himself grieving many of his friends and colleagues over the years. One rapper he said goodbye to in 2011 was even family; his fellow former 213 member, Nathaniel Hale (aka Nate Dogg), was his cousin. The "Regulate" rapper was just 41 when he died from complications caused by multiple strokes. "I miss u cuzz I am so sad but so happy I got to grow up wit u and I will c u again n heaven cuz u know d slogan," Snoop tweeted.

During his 2022 "Impaulsive" interview, Snoop said that Nate's death and that of Ermias Joseph Asghedom, aka Nipsey Hussle, are the two hip-hop industry losses that have hurt him the most. "It just felt like they had so much to do," he said. Snoop and Nipsey were close friends as well as collaborators, and Snoop even spoke at the "Hussle in the House" hitmaker's 2019 memorial service after he was shot and killed at age 33. "One thing that me and Nip had was a kind spirit," Snoop said, per People.

Snoop also had to say a sad farewell to Earl Simmons, aka DMX, in 2021 when he died from a heart attack at age 50. On "The Tonight Show," Snoop fondly reminisced about his Verzuz battle with his longtime friend and told host Jimmy Fallon of the "What's My Name?" rapper, "He's off to a better place, and he's finally got his angel wings."

Snoop Dogg is a mental health advocate

During his gangsta rap days, Snoop Dogg was viewed as being tough but chill. As he evolved as an artist and as a man, the chill remained but his tough exterior thawed out. He's now known for being playful and fun, like when he explained the meaning of "fo shizzle" to his bestie on "The Martha Stewart Show." But there's a side of the rapper that his fans rarely see. "I cry. I'm sad a lot," he told HipHollywood in 2018. "I have problems and issues. I'm human." During a 2022 appearance on the "Nappy Boy Radio Podcast," Snoop revealed that one problem he's sought counseling for is his struggle to control his anger. He also shared that he's had to cut a lot of toxic people out of his life for the sake of his mental health.

Snoop has become an outspoken therapy advocate who is doing his part to remove the stigma around seeking mental health services. "There's certain things that you need to have another voice help you understand," he said on "The Pivot Podcast" in September 2023. "There's no such thing as being weak for asking for help, so I'm not one afraid to ask for help." According to Snoop, marriage counseling also helped him and his wife during a rough patch. "It was the best thing that could happen to us," he said on "The Breakfast Club." So, Snoop Dogg's mind isn't always on his money these days; it's on the things that really matter.

If you or anyone you know needs help with mental health or is struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: