When I got to New York in August 2001, Nate Dogg was everywhere. More specifically, Fablous’ “Can’t Deny It” was everywhere. On those first walks up the hill on Fordham Road to the D Train, seemingly every Honda worth its body kit was bumping it. It was on endless rotation on Foot Locker’s in-house music video channel and those little amps outside the hood jewelry spots.
Truth be told, I was always more partial to the deeper cuts on “Ghetto Fabolous” (“Right Now & Later On” is still a top-five Timbaland joint to these ears), but “Can’t Deny It” was my freshman seminar in the NYC summer anthem. Never mind that Nate was an L.A. dude — a hired gun right in the meaty part of his post-“Regulate” career revival, after “The Chronic 2001” but before, say, “Area Codes.” He taught me how this city could get a song ear wormed in its brain for three months. In retrospect, it might not have been all that different from blasting “Country Grammar” or whatever in the high school parking lot, but to a bratty 18 year old fresh off Metro-North, it felt like an otherworldly phenomenon. Other summer jams would come and go (Just listened to “Lean Back” straight through for the first time in half a decade!), but “Can’t Deny It” would always be my first. Even as its sell-by date passed, and I was making cracks about getting Nate to sing the hook on my outgoing voicemail message, I still had it in my head.
You’ve probably heard by now that Nate Dogg died yesterday. Here’s hoping there are hooks that need singing on whichever plane of existence he lands.