AUSTIN, Texas — Less than 15 minutes before he was set to hit the stage, Warren G sat in a dressing room deep within Austin's Venue 222, wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with the picture of his late friend and cohort, Nate Dogg, who passed away on Tuesday, reportedly from complications from multiple strokes.
Obviously still dealing with the loss, Warren was silent, stoic and lost in his thoughts. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he turned to MTV News' cameras and said, with the upmost sincerity, "I honestly don't know how this is going to turn out."
What he was talking about was his tribute to Nate Dogg, which capped off not only the annual Respect the West party (which showcases some of the West Coast's hottest up-and-coming MCs) but the South by Southwest music festival, too. Throughout the night, DJs spun the classics that featured Dogg's soulful voice on the hook — "Lay Low," "The Next Episode," "21 Questions" — and everyone from Kenan Bell to Kendrick Lamar had already made mention of his legacy during their performances, but really, it was the combination of G and his D.P.G.C. running mates Daz Dillinger and Kurupt that would serve as the final word.
So when Warren G said he had no idea how their performance would turn out, you really couldn't blame him. Sometimes, words fail us.
But roughly an hour later, as G, the Dogg Pound and surprise guest Snoop Dogg were exiting the stage, each in a white Nate Dogg T-shirt, the strains of Snoop's "Real Soon" (which featured Nate on the hook) still hanging in the air, it turns out those concerns were unwarranted. What had just transpired was a fitting tribute to their late friend, a man who, by all accounts, enjoyed his time on Earth to the fullest.
In short, it was a celebration, of Nate Dogg's life and his music, as presented by his closest friends and shared by every hip-hop fan who managed to cram inside Venue 222.
Daz and Kurupt were the first to appear onstage, smoking blunts, tearing though "Who Ride Wit Us," as the crowd — who had been waiting for nearly five hours for this moment — lost their minds. That insanity was only ratcheted up a few minutes later, when Snoop emerged from backstage, puffing a blunt of his own, rocking braids and shades, and the trio rolled through "Let's Play House."
Soon, they were joined by Warren G, and, at full strength, they launched into the Snoop classic "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)" — which featured one of Nate Dogg's most memorable cameos — each man stepping to the front of the stage to deliver their verses. And at the end of the song, his worries subsided, G embraced Snoop and then cracked a wide smile.
Warren then took a solo turn on his "This D.J." and then the four men segued into the 213 track "Whistle While You Hustle," a move appreciated by fans who have hung with the West Coast since before Dr. Dre's The Chronic brought the music to the masses.
The classics only continued from there — "For All My N---az & Bitches," "New York, New York" (which saw a fiery back-and-forth between Snoop and Kurupt), Dre's "Xxplosive" — the audience throwing their W's up, the men on stage smoking and drinking in celebratory fashion. It all culminated, fittingly enough, with perhaps the two greatest songs Nate Dogg featured on: "Regulate" and, of course, "The Next Episode," the latter of which featured Snoop pausing mid-song to exhale a plume of smoke heavenwards, and then, at the end of the song, in perhaps the most fitting tribute of all, the DJ cut the record and the entire crowd sang Nate's famous "Hey, hey, hey, hey/ Smoke weed every day" sign off.
It was highest moment of revelry in a night filled with them, a tribute to the man whose voice sold millions of albums, and who was responsible for some of the greatest hooks in history. Warren G most certainly will miss his friend, but he no longer has to worry about doing his memory justice. He and his West Coast brethren did that on Saturday night at South by Southwest, in the most fitting way possible: with a celebration.