Snoop vs. Wu-Tang at KAABOO 2019: What could have been

Snoop Dogg performs at KAABOO Del Mar on Sept. 13, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan joint set had the potential to be the best two hours of the three-day weekend


KAABOO Del Mar’s fifth anniversary strangely only featured two hip-hop acts. But as billed, the Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan joint set had the potential to be the best two hours of the three-day weekend. Unfortunately, it would never achieve that status.

The lack of any collaboration between the two veteran acts — both celebrating the 25th anniversaries of their debut albums — and a Wu-Tang set mysteriously plagued by egregious and continuous sound issues made sure of that. But for the thousands of loyal fans who stuck it out, there were a solid crop of highlights. Sadly, at least for Wu-Tang fans, most of them came during Snoop Dogg’s set.

And it started out so promisingly. Robert Diggs — aka RZA, Wu-Tang Clan’s default leader — took the stage a couple of minutes before the scheduled 7:35 p.m. start (so much for hip-hop always running late) and attempted to get the crowd hyped with the call-and-response of “hip-hop” and “Wu-Tang Forever.”

However, the sound from his microphone was far too low, and it would soon become apparent that it was just the tip of the sound-issue iceberg.

Method Man of the Wu-Tang Clan performs at KAABOO Del Mar on Sept. 13, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

As he and the band’s backing DJ launched into celebrating the anniversary of their seminal debut “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” with opening track “Bring Da Ruckus,” things continued to quickly go downhill sound-wise.

One by one, the most prominent members of the New York-based collective took the stage — Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God — some of their mics working better than others, but never all of them at the same time.

YDB, son of deceased Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, seemed to have the best working mic on stage, but his sporadic verses only seemed to emphasize how bad it was for everyone else.

Hit after hit kept coming: “Shame on a N---a,” “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit” — each one seemingly getting both the crowd and the performers more frustrated. The band saying things like “Where’s the energy at?” between songs and a throng of fans screaming “We can’t hear you!” during every break.

The debacle hits its apex when Method Man took the lead on his popular self-titled track. His vocals were so inaudible that after the song ended, fellow rapper Raekwon actually took the time to survey the crowd (by show of hands) on who could hear them and who could not. No surprise it was overwhelmingly the latter.

The shame of it all was that the MC collective seemed to deliver their classic raps with sharp precision and true enthusiasm — that is, until their energy went unreciprocated.

Thanks to the big screens flanking the stage, the baffled and disappointed crowd still participated as much as they could, a tribute to the legacy and staying power of Wu-Tang. But the awful sound made sure that their debut KAABOO set will always fall under the category of “what could have been.”

After a 20-minute set break, coupled with the realization that there would be no collaboration between the two acts, West Coast legend Snoop Dogg took the stage.

Snoop Dogg performs at KAABOO Del Mar on Sept. 13, 2019.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A KAABOO veteran, Snoop (aka 47-year-old Calvin Broadus Jr.) used his second festival appearance to save the day.

First of all, his mic worked — although, still not as well as it should have. By comparison, earlier Grandview stage performers Boyz II Men were far louder. But still, after the Wu-Tang fiasco, just being able to hear the raps changed the entire mood of the show.

At 8:45 p.m., Snoop came out to “Countdown” from his August-released 17th studio album, “I Wanna Thank Me.” And as if his jewel-encrusted microphone was a magic wand, by the time he transitioned into “I Wanna Rock” from 2009’s “Malice n Wonderland,” it had turned from downer to full-on party.

Blunt always firmly in hand, Snoop ran through a set list that included hits from, but also went far beyond, his 1993 debut, “Doggystyle.”

Of course, tracks like “Gin and Juice,” “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” and “Nuthin but a G Thang” made the cut, but the veteran rapper, actor and entrepreneur also included plenty of hits he’s been featured on — from DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” and Akon’s “I Wanna F--K You” to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and last year’s “Smile (Living My Best Life)” by Lil Duval.

Snoop additionally took the time to honor fellow rappers who have passed — Eazy E, the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur (whose death anniversary was also Friday night) — during a nice late-set, in-memoriam section.

It also didn’t hurt that the crowd had plenty of things to look at other than the tall, slender MC — from the cartoonish, costumed mascot Nasty Dogg to a quartet of strippers who pole-danced for most of the 50-minute set.

After the frustration of Wu-Tang’s misfire, and the non-stop visual circus of what followed, ending it with a loud, all-crowd, a cappella sing-along of the chorus from Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s Grammy nominated 2011 track “Young, Wild & Free” was a great way to end the night.

It just could have been so much better.

McDonald is a freelance writer.