It is no secret that high incarceration rates are an epidemic in the Black community. Many of today’s biggest celebrities, from sports to music, are survivors of this epidemic. Some of today’s biggest hip-hop stars often rap about their struggles growing up in the Black community, but few return to their old neighborhoods and mentor children about avoiding the temptation of street life.

Few rappers have been criticized as much as Long Beach legend Snoop Dogg, whose early success led to the popularity of “gangsta” rap in the early 1990s. Despite the raw lyrics of Snoop’s early records, he is determined to see that the youth in the Black community do not follow in his footsteps, which led to his incarceration before achieving international fame.

According to reports, the West Coast rapper has teamed up with documentary director Gabriel London, filmmaker Alex Munoz and Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) Urbanworld Film Festival to present Bigg Snoop Dogg’s Youth Authority: California, an autobiographical streets-to-prison documentary production.

According to a released statement, “The resulting documentary weaves together Snoop’s experiences growing up in the midst of daily violence and gang activity with the stories of young men still caught up in the streets-to-prison cycle. Bridging generations, London has painted an intimate portrait of Snoop and the ‘young G’s,’ current prisoners and parolees who struggle to find their way in a system that is too often focused on punishment rather than education and rehabilitation. The film is Snoop and the filmmakers’ attempt to break a vicious cycle that leads to over 10,000 youth being locked up annually in California alone.”

Before signing to Death Row Records in the early 1990s, Snoop was active in the nefarious street gang the Crips, experiencing frequent run-ins with the law. The rapper, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, actually spent time inside California’s infamous “Youth Authority” (also known as CYA).

Not long after high school graduation, the future rapper was arrested on cocaine possession charges and spent the next three years in the judicial system. Unlike so many others in the Black community, Snoop was able to find an alternative lifestyle when he discovered a love for hip-hop. Snoop, along with Nate Dogg and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre’s step-brother Warren G, founded the group 213 and began recording mixtapes hoping to impress Dr. Dre. At a NWA house party, Warren G persuaded the disc jockey to play a 213 mixtape, and Dr. Dre was so impressed with Snoop’s rhymes and charisma that he collaborated with him on his debut solo single “Deep Cover.”

Snoop would go on to become an overnight sensation in the world of hip-hop. However, he could not escape his violent past, and at one time was charged with the murder of a rival gang member, Phillip Woldermarian, a charge he was later acquitted of because of self-defense.

Despite his numerous run-ins with the law, he is determined to see a change in the mentality of youth in the Black community. Snoop’s idea for the documentary was to use his personal story to teach children in the Black community that there are alternatives to the criminal lifestyle.

Bigg Snoop Dogg’s Youth Authority screens Friday, September 12 at the Urbanworld Film Festival.

Todd A. Smith is the publisher of http://www.regalmag.com, an online magazine dedicated to issues affecting African American men. The website tackles such topics as social and political issues, health, relationships, business, sports and entertainment.

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