In November of 1993, Snoop Dogg released Doggystyle, an inspired, offensive, inarguable work of artistry that would help move the sonic center of rap even further toward the G-funk style that Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992) had begun pulling it. The eighth song on the album was called “Murder Was the Case,” and it’s very meaningful for two reasons:
First, because it was a sideways reference to an actual murder charge against Snoop. Several months before the release of Doggystyle, Snoop’s bodyguard, McKinley Lee, shot and killed a man who reportedly had several altercations and confrontations with Snoop’s camp. Both Lee and Snoop were eventually acquitted of various charges related to the murder in the trial (which didn’t end until 1996), with a lesser charge declared a mistrial, and neither ended up being sentenced to prison for the man’s death. But that case (or, more accurately, his gangster credentials) followed Snoop everywhere in the time after the charges were filed. (A very Snoop-ish sidebar is that, after the charges were officially issued, Snoop hid out until he had enough time to present the award for Best R&B Video at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards with Dr. Dre and George Clinton.) (LAPD actually showed up to the venue when they heard he was going to be there, but Snoop was able to sneak out without getting caught.) (Also: Christian Slater was the host of the VMAs that year.) (1993 was fucking weird.)
And second, and this is far more crucial (at least in regards to this particular article), it was the first time that Rap Satan had a guest verse on a platinum-selling rap album. (The phrase “Rap Satan,” of course, refers to “the version of the devil who appears in rap songs.”) In “Murder Was the Case,” Snoop flips the circumstances of his actual murder charge, this time making it so that he was the one who was shot after an argument in the street. He gets rushed to the hospital, but the doctors and nurses are unable to save him. As he’s lying there waiting to be all the way dead, he asks God to save him. God ignores him, but Rap Satan shows up (he’s presented to us as a crow that flies into the room through an open window, and probably a good a way to know if the hospital you’re in is a good hospital or a bad hospital is to ask yourself, “Do they keep the windows open in the intensive care unit?” and if the answer is yes, then it’s a bad hospital). Rap Satan tells Snoop that if Snoop is willing to give his soul to him, he’ll bring Snoop back to life. Snoop, a shrewd negotiator, asks, “Oh, will I be the G that I was?” and Rap Satan, who now knows he has his hooks in him, responds, “I’ll make your life better than you can imagine or even dream of.” Snoop accepts, Rap Satan waves his hand in front of Snoop’s face, and that’s that. Snoop comes back to life.
During the second verse of the song, Snoop explains how he (a) wakes up from his coma, (b) starts rapping again, and then (c) becomes rich and famous. Rap Satan shows up again to remind Snoop of their deal, which Snoop acknowledges with an almost alarming coolness: Satan materializes in the passenger seat of Snoop’s car and literally tells him, “That ass is mine,” to which Snoop responds with, “Indeed, agreed.” And up until this point, really, everything is working out pretty great for Snoop.
HOWEVER, and this will likely not surprise you, it turns out that Rap Satan hustled Snoop. He allowed Snoop the riches and fame that he was after, yes, but he snatches it all away from him a short time later (the video ends with Snoop having been beaten to death in prison, then waking up in a buried coffin with Rap Satan standing above him, a very clear bit of foreshadowing that Snoop is going to have to spend all of eternity under Rap Satan’s thumb in hell). So here’s the question: Do you think that trade was worth it for Snoop? Because, I mean, given the rules that we assume to be in place for entry into heaven, it seems unlikely that Snoop was going to be granted access there had he died on that bad hospital room bed like he was supposed to. And so if he was going to hell anyway, then I guess why not go ahead and spend a bit more time on earth living in great wealth and success, right?
Here’s another question, and this one is probably less philosophical: Do you think Rap Satan a Good Hang or a Bad Hang? As in: Would Rap Satan be cool to hang out with for a bit?
Much as it seems like it, I don’t think that’s an impossible question to answer. Really, all we have to do is just comb through a bunch of songs where Rap Satan appears, be it either in a guest verse like on “Murder Was the Case” or just as a background reference during a story someone is telling or a point someone is trying to make. Then we can measure what Rap Satan says, or does, or offers, or (ultimately) takes.
On Tyler, the Creator’s “Bastard,” for example, Tyler talks about how Rap Satan listens to music before he goes to bed (“This is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep”), and so maybe Rap Satan is a Good Hang because listening to music before you go to sleep is a pretty enjoyable thing? (This, I think, could be turned into a negative if it ends up being that Rap Satan ONLY listens to Tyler, the Creator’s music before bed—because I like Tyler’s music, sure, but only for, like, two days in a row, tops.)
Jay-Z and Big L both talk about having Rap Satan in their hearts in songs (Jay-Z does so on, among other songs, “D’Evils” and Big L does so, most emphatically, on “Devil’s Son”). It leads to terrible things in “Devil’s Son” (Big L talks about how when he was a child he beat another child to death with one of those wooden stacking blocks that kids play with in ads for daycare centers). But Jay-Z today is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is married to Beyoncé so, I mean, that has to be a check for the Good Hang side of the ledger. (Logic has a song called “Disgusting” where he says he’s raising hell “like I’m [Rap] Satan’s daddy,” and I’m extremely interested in the rest of Rap Satan’s family tree if Logic is his father and Big L is his son.)
Kanye West has a line on “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” where he says that Rap Satan wears Prada, and Prada is very fashionable, and hanging out with fashionable people is a good thing, I’d argue. On “Rap God,” Eminem has the line, “I’m drunk, so [Rap] Satan take the fucking wheel,” and you can probably bend that line enough to make it mean that Rap Satan is a responsible designated driver, which should always be celebrated. Lil Wayne says on the song “Love Me” that promiscuous women love him the same way they love Rap Satan, which means Rap Satan is probably always surrounded by that kind of company, which can be taken as either a very wonderful thing or a very terrible thing, depending on your opinion of fast women.
On Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 4,” Kendrick makes mention of something called “the Devil’s Pie,” which is a reference to an old D’Angelo song. On that song, D’Angelo walks through the ingredients of a Devil’s Pie, saying that it contains, among other things, “cheddar cheese” and “jealousy,” and so it seems extremely likely that Rap Satan is bad at baking pies, which is for sure evidence of him being a Bad Hang. (Imagine the first person that Rap Satan served a pie to. He bites into it, notices the weird taste and texture, and is like, “Hey, uh, Rap Satan, this pie is … what kind of pie is this?” And Rap Satan very proudly says, “Oh, that’s a cheddar cheese and jealousy pie. What do you think?”)
2 Chainz has a song called “Bounce” and there’s a line in it where he says he hung up on Rap Satan because “he told me he want a song with me,” and probably all of these bad deals Rap Satan is making with rappers start to become a little clearer when you think about how maybe Rap Satan is just mad at all of them because he’s a struggling rapper. (Maybe more evidence of Rap Satan’s fledgling rap career is Jarren Benton rapping that he “did a song with [Rap] Satan, and that’s a sick feature” on “Skitzo.”)
On “All We Got,” Chance the Rapper says he “might give [Rap] Satan a swirlie,” and, really, if Chance the Rapper is capable of giving Rap Satan a swirlie then maybe Rap Satan isn’t quite as powerful as everyone assumes him to be. (R.A. the Rugged Man says that he “spit at [Rap] Satan” and kicked him in the face, adding further proof that Rap Satan is not immune to being bullied.) (Saba has a curious line about Rap Satan in a different Chance song called “Everybody’s Something” where he says “Like [Rap] Satan masturbating, shit come hot,” and honestly I’m not sure if a higher-than-average temperature for one’s semen is a good or bad thing.)
If we take a bigger, broader view of things, the number one bargain that Rap Satan seems to make with rappers (and with musicians in general, really), is that he’ll make them extremely successful in exchange for their everlasting servitude (in Ras Kass’s “Interview With a Vampire,” God explains that making that deal is exactly what Rap Satan does). He does it on Snoop’s “Murder,” on Three 6 Mafia’s “In-2-Deep,” on Eminem’s “My Darling,” on J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only,” on DMX’s “Damien,” and on and on and on. (“Damien” is secretly one of DMX’s best songs. It’s brilliantly written and executed. Rap Satan presents himself to DMX as a guardian angel named Damien, and things go well for a while, but then Damien starts pressuring DMX into killing, which, and I’m just guessing here, seems like super not the way that guardian angels work.) (Also: The deal Rap Satan makes on J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” comes with much lower upside; he doesn’t make the guy famous, he just lets him become a drug dealer.) (Additionally: It’s not J. Cole who’s making the deal with Rap Satan, it’s just a guy who knows J. Cole and wants to make a little money by selling drugs. It’s funny to me to think about a guy trying to make a deal with Rap Satan like, “Hey, I’m not a rapper but I know a rapper so let’s make a deal,” then Rap Satan being like, “Which rapper? Is it Kanye? I can make you famous for Kanye. Is it Ice Cube? He’s another guy I can make you famous for. Missy Elliott? That’s automatic fame and fortune for that trade.” Then the guy being like, “No. It’s none of those. It’s J. Cole.” Then Rap Satan is like, “Oh. Nah. I won’t make you famous for that. I’ll let you sell some drugs for a little while and then suffer an untimely death, though. That seems fair to me.”)
The most damning case of associating with Rap Satan is what happens to the protagonist (Billy) in Immortal Technique’s “Dance With the Devil.” In that song, a kid from the projects grows up trying to prove himself as tough and deadly (even though it seems that he is not, in his heart, tough and deadly). After a bit of pestering, a local gang agrees to give him a shot to join them, but they present to him a truly upsetting and unforgivable initiation ritual: He has to help them kidnap a woman at random, rape her with them, and then murder her. Billy accepts, and so one night at 2:45 a.m., they grab a woman who’s walking home from a graveyard shift at her work. They put a bag over her head, drag her to the top of a building, beat her to near death, rape her, and then Billy gets ready to kill her. When he removes the bag from her head, though, he sees that the woman they grabbed was … hold on … wait for it … it’s so, so, so bad … hold on … it’s so, so, so, so bad … like, it’s the worst thing of all … here it comes … it was … his mother (!!!). All of the solar system comes smashing down onto Billy’s forehead when he sees her face. He is utterly, entirely, absolutely destroyed. He calls out for God, but it’s only Rap Satan who calls back. And so Billy, his heart a cold and ugly ash, jumps off the roof of the building, killing himself.
There are plenty more references to Rap Satan in rap songs, but you get the point. So, the question again: Is Rap Satan a Good Hang or a Bad Hang?
He’s stylish, and a dependable designated driver, and he likes listening to music before bed (though possibly only to Tyler, the Creator’s music), and he will make you famous and rich (and potentially married to Beyoncé) for at least a short duration of your adult life on earth. But he’s bad at baking, and also he might be a bully magnet, and also your fame and money can be snatched away at any given moment, and also you might have to murder some of your friends, and also you open yourself up to an Immortal Technique situation.
So: I think Bad Hang.
Verdict: Rap Satan is definitely a Bad Hang.