Snoop Dogg, who arose from Long Beach’s Eastside, has legendary status in the hip-hop world. In SNOOP: The Early years of Snoop Dogg, a photo exhibition that opened Saturday night at the Pine Avenue shop MADE in Long Beach, Snoop’s childhood buddy and Poly High classmate Duke Givens is shedding light on the times and the neighborhood that spawned the iconic rapper.

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Duke Givens presiding over his photo exhibition opening last Saturday night at MADE in Long Beach. Photo by Matt Cohn. 

“Eastside” (east of the Los Angeles River) is an old term for the area that roughly comprises Long Beach’s Sixth District. The Eastside that inspired Snoop to create hip-hop staples like “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” and “Gin and Juice” was a world of absentee fathers (including Snoop’s), fierce gang loyalties and appalling levels of violence.

On Saturday night, Duke Givens painted a picture of the late-’80s Eastside, employing a video interview with Snoop, testimonials from friends and mentors in attendance and a dance presentation by Poly grad Janine Saunders. He also gave a guided tour of the entire exhibition.

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Duke Givens paying tribute to V.I.P. Records owner Kelvin Anderson (seated). Photo by Matt Cohn. 

Midway through the evening, Snoop himself called in (see video) to reminisce, give encouragement to his old pal Duke and to sing the praises of Duke’s father, Sylvester, who was a key leadership figure in Snoop’s life.

It was revealed during the call-in that Snoop is a painter (“oil on canvas”) and was once a superior typist (“165 words a minute.  I’m down to about 40 now,” said Snoop).

Duke and Snoop played Long Beach Pop Warner football in ’85 for Coach Tony Bramlett, who told a harrowing tale Saturday night of his team’s narrow escape from Baldwin Hills after a last-second Long Beach victory there. 

“There were grown men with red bandannas on waiting for us after the game,” said Bramlett. “I had our players stay on the field until the police could escort us out.”

Givens described how the Eastside gang violence spiked in the late ’80s;  kids walking around fully armed, friends of his getting killed during simple trips to the store.

The most powerful moment Saturday night came when Duke began pointing at players in a photo of his ’85 Pop Warner team.  “Murdered…..Murdered……Got life in prison…….Murdered,” he said.  Almost half the players on the team were victims of gang violence in some form.

Givens served in Iraq with the Air Force during Operation Desert Storm, and upon his return he was sad to see that the gang wars in his old neighborhood were still raging. In ’95, using his budding photographic talent, Givens created a Stop The Violence calendar that featured the group 213—Snoop, Warren G. and Nate Dogg—on the cover.  The world-wide success of the calendar opened creative doors for Duke and put him on the path to doing his most important work.

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Comin’ from the East Side: Snoop Dogg (standing, far right), Duke Givens’ father Sylvester (standing, third from right), Warren G. (standing, fifth from right) and Nate Dogg (standing, third from left). Photo by Duke Givens.

“The work that I do has been forged into helping young people move toward positivity in our community,” Givens said. “Respect for police, fire, teachers, clergy.  The work that I do is gauged on that.”

It’s fitting that Duke’s show is taking place at MADE in Long Beach (240 Pine Avenue), a self-described “hosted space for over a hundred Long Beach makers and merchants.”

“Snoop is the ultimate ‘MADE in Long Beach,'” said MADE’s event coordinator Mimi Masher. 

Duke Givens, whose photographs will be on display at MADE in Long Beach until the end of March, put a final stamp on his show’s opening night with this exhortation to the crowd:  “Whatever your gift mix is, allow it to manifest so you do good work for everyone.”



Photographer Duke Givens Offers Glimpses Into His Friend and C…

In his SNOOP: THE EARLY YEARS OF SNOOP DOGG photo exhibition, Duke Givens sheds light on the times and the neighborhood that spawned the iconic rapper.Featured: Excerpt from a dance performance by Janine Saunders and a call-in from Snoop Dogg at MADE in Long Beach.Read more:

Posted by Long Beach Post on Monday, February 22, 2016

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