|Over The Counter (1991) Tape|
Due to the fact that Death Row did not have total financial capability for supporting itself as a legitimate record label in 1991, their distributors; Priority Records, Sony Music and Time Warner, could not legally get these albums which they had pressed out to the streets. (Although it is true that the papers for the Death Row brand name had already been formed as well as the debut release of Snoop Doggy Dogg under Future Shock Entertainment acting as the record label.) Future Shock Ent. alone could not afford a deal with Sony that would allow for any more than a few copies to be manufactured. These were signed releases intended to legitimize the company and provide exposure for future releases to a wider public audience. Quite ironically Warner and Death Row may have arranged what is called an "over-the-counter contract" to produce this album. An over-the-counter contract is a bilateral contract in which two parties agree on how a particular trade or agreement is to be settled in the future. Essentially the money was loaned to Death Row for later payment. Over-the-counter contracts are usually done via the telephone or computer-internet and this is likely to have been the case knowing the unscrupulous contracts that both Ruthless Records and Death Row were negotiating in those days. This theory would also explain part of the cliche to the title of the album. Snoops first album was sort of a prototype for the making of Doggystyle (1993).
|Promo Tape Cover with Track Listing|
About the tape cover: Later used for the Doggystyle cover, the 'Snoop Doggy Dogg' title cartoon and lettering was designed first without the blunt in the dogs mouth - that was added later for Doggystyle ala The Chronic. Everything on the jacket cover of the album was done with a white on black template though the promo tapes showed the original cartoon drawings copied on. The iconic image of Snoop Dogg is robbing a liquor store for $5000 'over the counter'. This shows the first example of that icon created before Doggystyle.
|Comic Featuring Mickey Mouse|
Like Doggystyle as well, the Over The Counter promo tape had a comic on the inside. The talking rat character 'rata-tat-tat' replaced Mickey Mouse on Doggystyle and one can imagine that this was made to be a slap to Disney by Time Warner. Competitive battles between those two companies have been going on for decades.
|Snoop Doggy Dogg - Over The Counter (1991)|
About the music: 187 (It's On) was the first unmastered sampling freestyle that became the inspiration for the Deep Cover soundtrack. This track was part of the promo tape for which Dre was the recording artist. It was mastered later as simply "187", now called 187um (after the rapper Cold 187um) that is now one of the late Death Row releases. 187 was a lyrical response to the Rodney King incident that occurred in L.A. on March 3rd of '91 where King was maliciously attacked by the LAPD for speeding. "Let Em' Understand" was produced by DJ Glaze and featured the group Foesum made up of Glaze, MNM, Waniac, and Tripp Loc. One of the song lyrics from Over The Counter that is also on Doggystyle was put on the track Lodi Dodi. "Im only 19 go ask my mother". Snoop was 19 in 1990 when that lyric was first recorded and 22 when it was used on Doggystyle. When Snoop was with the group Above The Law in 1990, Cold 187um promised him a deal for a record but they're group was stalling and Snoop was getting tired of waiting for them to get their act together. So him and Dre hooked up and also did compilations with Above The Law. This song was an intended dis to former Foesum member Domino who left the group before they managed to hook up with Death Row. "Nigga decided to leave and get his rap on elsewhere ask me if they care and I give you a sale….5000 that's word to the D.O.G". DJ Glaze then comes in "…and Glaze is the hommie cutting records like a villain so buy the album cuz were gonna make a killing'" DJ Glaze produced some tracks for Over The Counter as well as Cold 187 and DJ Aladdin. The promo tapes contained four tracks including 187, The Message, Let Em' Understand, Do You Remember, and True To The Game and one bonus track that is now a classic called 'County Blues'.
|Over The Counter (Tape Sleeve in Protective Cover)|
It is doubtful that any official statements to support the legitimacy of this record will ever be made by anyone who were affiliated back in those days as it was probably decided by all to keep it closed since Death Row was not yet officially a record label, it was more like a brand name of Future Shock Ent. Thanks to controversy regarding Suge Knight and his early financiers who helped him launch Death Row and the Death Row Studios this album sort of got buried. Either that or it was just an over the counter record released so that Suge could legalize his company and get Death Row Records into full effect. Nonetheless the Over The Counter album did exist. This is not a hoax nor a concocted myth. These cassettes were in circulation in record stores long before this author began any in-depth research on the subject. If I had never had a copy of the Over The Counter tape and if it had not been for the fact that it was unlisted, my investigations on all this would not have ensued. As a result of it I have even become more a follower and listener of the Death Row artists and much of this fascinating history. I myself am not a die-hard scholar of gangster rap nor a poster fan. What I offer to those who are true scholars or followers of the music is my testimony, the truth, and knowledge.
So that's the story in a very small nutshell. Credit is due to those who have contributed to understanding the history of this album. Besides my personal sources and correspondences I would like to thank AnnonymousOne from thedeathrowvault and Row Rider from deathrowtapes. I would also like to thank my buddy Rob. M for helping me put this website together as well as my text editor Linda C.