A year ago to this day, one of rap's most lauded male hook singers, Long Beach, California, native Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Hale) died at the age of 41 after several years of health problems.
With his deep, melodic voice and smooth soul rumble, Dogg was one of the key elements in the rise of the West Coast G-Funk sound pioneered by Death Row Records in the early 1990s. Though overshadowed by such peers as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Warren G, Nate was a critical participant in a number of major left-coast gangsta hits, including G's "Regulate" and Dre's iconic solo debut, 1992's The Chronic.
Hale's death was first reported by the Long Beach Press Telegram, which noted that his family announced his death. The cause of death was not announced at press time, but Hale had struggled with serious health issues recently, including suffering a massive stroke in 2007 that left him partially paralyzed and another the following year. A spokesperson for the singer could not be reached for comment at press time for further details on his passing.
Hale was born in Long Beach on August 19, 1969, and dropped out of high school at 16 to join the Marines, where he served for three years. He formed the rap group 213 — a reference to the local area code — in 1991 with then unknown pals Snoop Dogg and Warren G. The group's demo eventually made its way to Dre, who liked Nate's sound and recruited him to participate on The Chronic.
Nate was a four-time Grammy nominee, earning his first nod in 1995 for the legendary Warren G collaboration "Regulate," followed by another in 2001 for providing a hook to the Dre and Snoop tune "The Next Episode." He earned his third notice in 2002 for singing on Ludacris' "Area Codes" and another in 2007 for his work on Eminem's "Shake That."
Though his instantly recognizable, laid-back sound blessed countless songs by other artists over the years, Dogg also released a number of solo albums, including 1998's double-CD G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 & 2 (featuring guest spots from Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and Warren G), 2001's Music & Me and a self-titled 2008 effort.
Following news of Nate's passing, a number of his hip-hop brethren reflected on their fallen comrade. The news appeared to hit both Snoop Dogg and DPG member Daz the hardest.
"We lost a true legend n hip hop n rnb," Snoop tweeted. "One of my best friends n a brother to me since 1986 when I was a sophomore at poly high where we met. I love u buddy luv. U will always b wit me 4ever n a day u put the g n g funk u put the 1 n 213 n u put yo stamp on evrybdy u ever didit wit ... 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. ... All doggs go to heaven yo homie n baby brotha bigg snoopdogg!!"
"R.I.P. TO MY HOMEBOY NATE DOGG DPGC DOGG POUND GANGSTA 4 LIFE," Daz tweeted.
"There is a certain void in hip hop's heart that can never be filled. Glad we got to make history together. RT @SnoopDogg: RIP NATE DOGG," Ludacris tweeted.
"I lost a friend," an emotional Game wrote on his Twitter account. "Been here before. Tears. Memories. One day someone will lose 'US' as well. LIVING until that day comes is our only option. R.I.P. Nate Dogg. Why does it take Death to remind us about the importance of life ??? Cherish every moment cuz tomorrow he mite call your #."
"We love you Nate Dogg, it's never going to be the same" West Coast rapper Xzibit added. Among the others who weighed in on Twitter were Erykah Badu, reclusive comedian Dave Chappelle, Murs and producer Fred Wreck.
Share your memories of Nate Dogg by leaving your comments below.