Nathaniel D. Hale, soulful singer of gangsta rap known as Nate Dogg, dies at 41

By T. Rees Shapiro
Friday, March 18, 2011; 10:33 AM

Nathaniel D. Hale, a singer known as Nate Dogg, whose mellow baritone provided soul and swagger to gangsta rap in the 1990s and 2000s, died March 15 of complications from a series of strokes at a care facility near Long Beach, Calif. He was 41.

The son of a Baptist minister, Mr. Hale started his career in a Mississippi gospel choir and became one of the most prolific hip-hop artists of his generation.

His vocals were featured on hundreds of tracks, and his smooth voice was said to possess a nearly mythical hit-making quality. Scores of his collaborations appeared in the upper ranks of the Billboard charts.

He was considered hip-hop royalty through his association with many of the genre's top artists, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, Ludacris, 50 Cent and Fabolous.

"There was no other singer like Nate Dogg," Bonsu Thompson, editor-in-chief of hip-hop magazine Source, said in an interview.

Thompson said that Mr. Hale had a "biblical voice" and sang "about things that were taboo to mainstream America," including "threesomes, smoking weed and drinking beer."

"It was that juxtaposition," Thompson said, "that made him so attractive."

While living in Long Beach, Calif., Mr. Hale became close friends with Calvin Broadus, who became Snoop Dogg, and Warren Griffin III, or Warren G.

The three musicians formed a group known as 213, after the Los Angeles area code, and they distributed a homemade demo tape from the trunk of a car.

The tape eventually made it into the hands of producer Dr. Dre, who featured all three on his first rap album, "The Chronic" (1992).

Dr. Dre's debut became an international success, and Mr. Hale's voice helped define its laid-back sub-genre known as G-Funk, or gangsta funk.

In 1994, Mr. Hale emerged as a star in his own right by appearing on Warren G's popular single "Regulate," which recounts the tale of a violent late-night gang encounter.

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