Once upon a time, a music legend’s moniker put him in a category all his own. Jack Johnson, Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle were among those whose eight-legged initials conveyed certain qualities. Let’s call it a chain.
But for some reason, O.G.S. have lost their cachet.
OK, maybe you’re the person who calls yourself O.G.S. You’re the one who lives in a seven-square-foot studio apartment and has served time behind bars and you’re the creative force behind Youth Over Incarceration Network, one of many groups dedicated to the cause of reforming a justice system built around making us, by government fiat, feel like villains.
That’s your O.G.S.
Now let’s move on to Snoop Dogg.
Cara Eisenpress is the founder of Alpha Fellowships, a firm dedicated to supporting black female entrepreneurs. One of her clients is Miguel. She was with him at his emo art show and has discussed social justice in the context of his show with him. Miguel is a younger guy than Snoop Dogg; the elder statesman is 45 years old.
So I asked Cara to comment on this situation. Here’s what she had to say:
“One aspect of Snoop’s list that surprised me is the length of the name: I am surprised it wasn’t longer. The name itself evokes nostalgia for a time when it was extremely cool to be dope. But I am curious to learn whether other people have had their own issues with having a classic-sounding nickname.
“Whether or not it is still popular to have cool nicknames, I think (and Snoop!) likely considers the naming process to be a form of name making. He couldn’t have known that a style-sensitive generation would soon be asking him to explain what the word ‘O.G.’ means. Or that being an O.G. would be a part of the conversation. Or that ‘termaine’ would become the word of the season: He may not have imagined that his following would talk about how his generation was ‘tainted’ or what the word ‘gangsta’ meant until recently. And as Snoop is the OG of the rap world, he couldn’t have imagined being labeled as an OG of the LGBTQ community either. Maybe it was just the disco-era synonyms that the ‘O.G.’ stuck with.”
It isn’t a coincidence that Snoop Dogg’s identification as an OG, come the age of a new O.G., has hit a moment when social justice-minded youth are searching for relevant cultural references. The cultural symbols of the Nineties are that held most dear by a generation still exploding with vitality.
The OG logo is itself a symbol of respect, as in “I respect you.”
But along with that homage comes an understanding that if you’re named after a rap or R&B star of any vintage, there’s a place for it. Over the last year, I’ve seen youth calling themselves “D Dip” and “Dogg Klown” in conversation. I’ve heard a father tell his 15-year-old to go “Up Dogg” and I’ve written about conversations in which children called themselves “Dopey,” “Nasty” and “Riff Raff.” They all pass the “OG” label along.
I don’t mean to say Snoop’s name never referred to music. The fact that its definition has never been modernized — its currency is “regular” and “old” and “iconic” — makes it a vital piece of internet culture. At every turn, regardless of how hip young readers are, hip-hop fans can reach out to Snoop Dogg, Snoop Dogg and Snoop Dogg.
It’s one of the reasons that in writing this, we mention Snoop and not “Snoop Dogg Dogg Dogg.”