Rap musician and singer Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Dawayne Hale) has performed on dozens of hit rap and R&B records, but he began his singing career in the gospel choir of New Hope Trinity Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he sang and practiced three days a week. He continued to sing at the church, where his father, Daniel Lee Hale, was the pastor, until he moved back to Long Beach, California, at the end of his freshman year in high school. After returning to California, Nate became close friends with his cousin Calvin Broadus (rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg) and with Warren Griffin (rapper Warren G), when all were attending Jordan High School in Long Beach. Nate Dogg soon grew tired of his studies and left school at the age of 16. He joined the U. S. Marines, where he served for three years before returning home.
Upon his return, Nate Dogg rekindled his interest in music by forming a rap group with Snoop Doggy Dogg (now known as Snoop Dogg) and Warren G. The group, named Three The Hard Way after the 1974 Gordon Parks blaxploitation film, began to record songs and shop their demo tape to area producers. Soon after changing their name to 213 (after the Long Beach telephone area code), the group's tape reached the hands of rap super-producer Dr. Dre (Warren G's stepbrother), who began to work with Nate and Snoop Doggy Dogg for the classic 1992 album The Chronic. Nate added his soulful vocals to the hardcore gangsta lyrics of "Deez Nuts," an album cut featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, and Daz. Word of Nate Dogg's vocal talents quickly spread, and he appeared soon after with Mr. Grim on "Indo Smoke" and with Snoop Dogg on "It Ain't No Fun." In 1993 he signed with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight on their Death Row label and began working on his solo album.
Although the completion and release of his own album was frequently delayed, Nate Dogg continued to contribute his talents to the music of the West Coast's hottest rap artists. In 1994 he and Warren G released the Grammy-nominated hit "Regulate," which used a sample of Michael McDonald's single "I Keep Forgetting" to help recount a wild night of sex and violence in their native Long Beach. Over the next few years Nate Dogg would become rap music's most prominent singer, providing the choruses for numerous artists on the East and West Coasts, including Pharaoh Monch, 50 Cent, Mos Def, and Mac 10.
Although Nate Dogg's greatest moments have come as a guest on some of rap music's most memorable hits, he has also found time to develop a prolific, though uneven, solo career. In 1996 he completed his first album, G-Funk Classics Vol. 1. Due to problems with Death Row Records the album was shelved, despite the success of his debut single "Never Leave Me Alone." Nate Dogg left Death Row Records in 1997 and formed his own label, Dogg Foundation, through Celestial Breakaway Entertainment. After a long battle with Death Row Records over the rights to the album, Nate Dogg released the album along with 15 new songs in what would be G-Funk Classics Vol.1&2. While the album's first single, "Nobody Does It Better," was released to warm reviews, the entire album was not well received by fans and critics, and the album was largely dismissed by critics for its dated sound. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide remarked, "It was a case of bad timing, pure and simple—G-Funk Classics sounded dated, and its bloated running length made it seem even more of a dinosaur than it actually was."
After his Dogg Foundation label folded, Nate Dogg released Music & Me for Elektra Records. The album, which reached gold status, was highly regarded by critics for its stronger production and improved lyrics. Reggie Royston of the St. Paul Pioneer Press noted, "While no song on Music & Me ever quite rises to the dramatic dexterity of Barry White, or even R. Kelly, it's Nate's ability to produce understated, catchy vocal parts dragged from the subconscious of disco radio that makes this album as listenable as any Funkadelic record."
Like many rap artists, Nate Dogg's career has been marred by legal troubles. In 2000 he was accused of kidnapping, arson, terrorist threats, and domestic violence, after being arrested outside of his Pomona, California, house. At the time, police officials reported that Nate Dogg had beaten his ex-girlfriend and held her at gunpoint in a Los Angeles home, setting her car on fire after she escaped and contacted the police. Although five of the six charges were immediately dropped, he was forced to stand trial for possession of a firearm as a felon, based on a 1996 drug case. After pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser charge, Nate Dogg was given three years' probation and a $1,000 fine. In 2002 he was arrested on drug and weapons charges, after his tour bus was pulled over for speeding and police found him in possession of four ounces of marijuana and a stolen handgun. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation, 24 hours of community service, eight hours of drug treatment, and a fine of more than $4,000, in exchange for a dismissal of the weapons charge.
Despite his legal problems and fluctuating solo career, Nate Dogg has remained one of rap music's most sought-after vocalists. In 2002 he lent his talents to cinema with a part in Chris Rock's film Head of State. More recently, he reunited with Warren G and Snoop Dogg to finally release a 213 album, titled The Hard Way. The album, a collection of relaxed summer G-funk tunes, was released in August of 2004 to brisk sales and warm reviews. Although the microphone time is dominated by Snoop Dogg, the album, like West Coast rap music, would not be the same without Nate Dogg's vocals.