Big Bow Wow

In his trailer behind the MTV studios, Snoop Dogg is winding down after filming an episode of his new comedy show. The Lakers are on the big-screen TV, and his boys--DJ Pooh (who co-wrote the film "Friday"), ex-Laker Isaiah Rider, a gang of Snoop's grade-school pals from Long Beach--are passing around a blunt whose haze cuts off most of the oxygen. OK, oxygen may be overrated, but didn't Snoop announce just months ago that he'd stopped getting high on account of his three kids? "I'm only human, you know?" he says. "Sometimes it takes time to break a habit. But I'm trying to stay healthy--playing ball and working out. Ever since you've known me, I've been slim, right?" Right, but how does he get away with it all? Not the dope-smoking--hardly unusual, however illegal--but his 1990 conviction for cocaine possession, the murder rap he beat in 1996 and the criminal charges he may face after last week's BET Awards, when three armed men were arrested after dropping him off in an armored van. (It's illegal for a felon to hire armed guards.) The Doggfather inhales, considers. "I guess I'm just a likable motherf---er."

Snoop's Teflon-like likability is one reason MTV gave him a weekly 30-minute "Doggy TV" series last year, featuring such antics as the "Superpimp" skit, in which he flew around "pimp slapping" crooks with an oversize hand. (Well, maybe you had to be blunted.) His new show, "Doggy Fizzle Televizzle,'' which debuted this month, includes such sketches as the Rap-a-Gram delivery service for bad news: "I know you recuperatin'," he raps to a hospital patient, "but I'm sorry to tell you, it's your arm they'll be amputatin'." "Our audience really likes this guy," says Tom Calderone, a senior VP at MTV. "He's natural on the screen.'' Another is that Calvin Broadus, 31, is an old pro. His sly drawl, lanky frame and Cavalier hair have made him a durable presence in the fickle world of rap for a decade--he's sold more than 14 million albums. And whether he's making such feature films as the horror flick "Bones" or snapping off one-liners on MTV, he never seems to miss a cue or blow a line, and his timing, as you might expect from his music, is impeccable. "This is easy," Snoop says of his new show. "I loved 'Living Color' back in the day, and always wanted to see that kind of show again. And I hired my boy DJ Pooh to write, too, 'cause I didn't want them writing me in no white-ass 'Jackass'-type s--t."

MTV actually had another idea for Snoop: a reality show with a camera dogging him and his family around. Even if America had been ready for that, Snoop wasn't. "I was like, 'Hell no'," he says. "S--t, the way me and my wife fight sometimes, we'd both be in jail for whipping each other's ass if some of our s--t got on television. We ain't that kind of funny. We ain't the Osbournes.'' Closer than you'd think, though. Like Sharon Osbourne, Snoop's wife, Shante, is his manager, and she's stuck with him through hard and sometimes bizarre times. Can you imagine Snoop with a high-school sweetheart? That was Shante. "When I first met him he would rap all the time," Shante recalls, "but I didn't think it was going anywhere. Even when he came home saying he was making a track with Dr. Dre, it didn't really hit me that it could go this far. He was just my boyfriend Snoop--who knew?'' She's seen him through his feud with Suge Knight, who signed him to Death Row Records and has had it in for his ex-protege since Snoop left the label in the mid-'90s. And she's also watched, from a disapproving distance, as Snoop became a porn baron with the best-selling "Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle," shot at his home, in which he narrates as actors have sex. "This porn stuff didn't make me happy," Shante says. "But after we disagree, he does what he wants anyway. And then he's extra nice to me afterwards." Over to you, Snoop. "What's wrong with a porn film?" he says. "Somebody gotta make 'em. And it ain't like I'm makin' nobody do the s--t. I didn't invent the porn industry, but I sure do like makin' a dollar from it. You can't blame a Negro for gettin' paid, can you?"

Another bone of contention around the Dogg house is Snoop's spiritual adviser, Archbishop Don (Magic) Juan, an ex-pimp who found the Lord back in the '80s. "I mean, that's his buddy and he loves having him around," Shante says, "but that's about all I can say about it.'' The Archbishop came into Snoop's life a couple of years ago, when the rapper spotted him at a show. "He had on this pimped-out suit that was just the best s--t I'd seen," Snoop says. "I was like, 'Bring him backstage'.'' Soon Don Juan, who also advises P. Diddy and Mike Tyson, was traveling with Snoop, and coaching him on everything from finance to posse reduction. "He got a lot of friends around him," Don Juan says, "and I try to tell him that ain't good for business. Them white folks don't want to see all them young brothers with him--that's too much for them to handle. I ran a business for a long time. I know these things.'' Don Juan says he also got Snoop to stop getting high before taking meetings. "One day he and I went to the studio with his posse, and they smelled like weed big time," the Archbishop recalls. "Snoop was like, 'Is that what I used to smell like going to handle business?' " But the most noticeable influence has been on Snoop's style. He and Don Juan both carry around 14-karat gold chalices with their names in diamonds, and Snoop has gone from sagging blue jeans to fur and ice. "Any true player deserves a number of mink coats and some diamonds," the Archbishop says. "Real players don't have to pull their pants up all the time."

Reality TV would have to get realer than it is now to be true to a life like Snoop's. He and the Archbishop claim that women give both of them money on a regular basis, just for being them. "I'm not saying I run a whorehouse," Snoop explains, "but I make my money, and some of it is from women." Some of Snoop's friends urge you to take his tales of pimped-out glory with a grain of salt. But it's a matter of record that Snoop, whose friend Tupac Shakur got gunned down in 1996, was shot at while riding in a car a couple of months ago. "It was just one of those things," he says. "People get shot at all the time." Right. And meanwhile, as Snoop puts it, "I'm making my s--t happen right now. Hey, I'm just living the American dream."