Snoop Dogg is probably the most consistent rapper in hip-hop today. Now I'm sure that audacious statement was received with many an eye roll but it's less of an opinion and more of a fact. It's safe to say that Snoop was in top form on his 94 debut, Doggystyle. His menacing gangsta rhymes carried by his laid-back flow matched with Dre's flawless production poised Snoop to be the biggest force to be reckoned with in hip-hop. Suffice it to say, that album was a fluke and every subsequent album since has left Snoop in the category of a one-trick pony. His relaxed flow has always stayed intact but his lyricism has yet to reach Doggystyle's caliber. It seems as if when he fell off, he bumped his head and it affected his POV severely. Every record from The Doggfather down to Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$ has been centered around an amalgam of three things; being a gangsta, smoking weed, and hoes. No matter the label, no matter the producer, Snoop's focus has been unwavering. But just like his relaxed flow, his whole POV became repetitive and worn-out after awhile, which would explain why Snoop's sales fluctuated album-to-album. He made minor splashes here and there, and even found success outside the music realm, starring in hit movies and TV shows.
Then in 2002, it happened. “Beautiful” happened. Snoop's smooth love song hidden underneath his pimp guises and backed by the Neptunes' exotic instrumentation became a match made in pop music heaven. It became Snoop's biggest hit and re-introduced him to a whole new generation. But the numbers still didn't quite add up. And since Snoop's no stranger to label changes, if it worked for one song, imagine what he and the Neptunes could accomplish with a whole album. So he jumped ship to Star Trak and crafted the 20 songs that populate R&G: Rhythm & Gangsta - The Masterpiece. The question is; is this album just more of the same or does it prove that you can teach an old dogg new tricks?
Considering the album's subject matter, seems a bit sacrilegious that the album opens up with a gospel sample backing Snoop's own hymn, I Love To Give You Light. Backed by a sample of Andrae Crouch's “I Come That You Might Have Light”, Snoop attempts to dramatically open the record, spouting how he's a modern-day John the Baptist and whatnot, culminating in him speaking of how his music is light and how he shines it on the world out of love. The sentiments are nice and Alchemist's production is top-notch but this serves as nothing more than hypocritical filler. $.00.
Bang Out is a much better opening track. J. Rotem's production is perfect for Snoop's flow, modernizing the West Coast sound by adding a gritty gloss with menacing keys and synths and sampled gunshots that creates a nice atmospheric vibe. Snoop wears his gangsta bravado well on here, talking about how slick of a shooter he is and manages to keep his cockiness at a cool level of tolerance and respect. Jasmin Lopez' singing on the hook is a perfect addition as her soulful warbling has the right amount of grit and gloss to balance with the production and thus completes this short but sweet tale from the hood. $3.00.
Utilizing tongue clicks/clacks as backing percussion, a staggering staccato drum loop, a sparse synth keyboard run and steam hiss, without wandering into overproduction, is a feat in itself and would make for a killer instrumental. That, and the catchy hook, was enough to make the Grammy-nominated Drop It Like It's Hot Snoop's biggest hit yet. So Pharrell's braggadocio verse (while good) and Snoop's big, bad gangsta lyrics (tolerable) really serve as nothing but background noise since the production is the star of this record. $2.90.
By the time Can I Get A Flicc Witchu kicks in, it's evident (as indicated by review title) that R&G is gonna be more of a sonic masterpiece than a lyrical one, which is fine because if the production is good enough, then the lyrical inadequacies can be tolerated better. Such is the case with “Flicc.” The distorted synths, heavy handclaps, and other sound effects creates a record that's instantly catchy and makes for a unique piece of ear candy. Snoop injects a little more oomph into his flow, which turns into a somewhat sardonic snarl as he basically mocks all the fake people who admire him. Bootsy Collins' guest appearance was nice but once again, the production is the star. $2.65.
If you can get past the somewhat unsettling opening line of “another dirty 9-inch d!ck classic”, then you should be find with Ups & Downs. The slight throwback sound of the production, complete with Bee Gees sample, bounces along nicely and Snoop's wordplay on the ups and downs of his life and the industry (basically on how people can be your best friend one minute and worst enemy the next) is surprisingly good. His vocal ad-libbing aside, this is another solid record. $2.75.
The throwback sound comes even harder on The Bidness. Interpolating a James Brown sample and launching into 70s-tinged production, with heavy handclaps and percussion, synth-horn blasts and sparse, west coast backbeat breakdowns, Snoop tightens his gangsta bravado and comes off with an harder edge as he spits about just how tough he truly is:
I had to tell you the truth homey but you got mad
I hurt yo feelings, f*ck it, it's too damn bad
I'm a major player, I got major game
I might floss a different b!tch but the pimpin the same
I ain't got time for no haters, I lay 'em flat on they back
I'm from the Dogg Pound homey, I don't f*ck with them cats
I f*ck with n!ggaz, who be bustin them shots
I'm talkin Long Beach, Inglewood, Compton, Watts
Close your chops, I knows your spots, keep talkin n!gga, I'll expose your knots
You ain't ready for daddy, boy I do this for fun
It's like you vs. Kobe ballin one on one
You ain't got no chance, you ain't got no fans
I kick the sh!t out you punk, look mama no hands
I'm not a holy roller but I pray so hard
Help me, I'm sendin these b!tch n!ggaz straight to God
Sh!t, I'm too damn grown, conversation is short
While your talk is funny Jack, I talk with money
Keep the chain on bling, the rock is sunny
For you smart mouthed b!tches, I ain't that dummy
He may or may not be saying much but his flow and edge, which makes you long for more Doggystyle-esque moments, along with the production, on this record is pretty solid and makes for one of the more memorable efforts. $3.00.
I think the true first occurrence of filler comes along with Snoop D.O. Double G. The laid-back production should be a perfect compliment to Snoop's trademark flow but really is nothing but a drowsy mix of bells and whistles. And Snoop's gangsta lyrics kinda float in thru one ear and right out the other without a second thought. Nothing worth listening to. $.00.
Current single Let's Get Blown is nothing but a big slice of summer plunked onto our winter airwaves and play lists that will keep us warm and entertained until spring. The Neptunes exotic production is reminiscent of “Beautiful” but with a much more relaxed and heavier throwback feel to it. And is much more fitting for Pharrell and Star Trak label mate Vanessa Marquez' crooning. Snoop's laid-back pimp posturing on the verses and ode to getting high on the hook here is extremely fitting and enhances the smoothness he already possesses. And if nothing else, it makes him sound cooler, which should count for something. $3.00.
Considering everybody and their mama's cousin's next door neighbor's hairdresser has to work with Lil' Jon, even Snoop isn't too smooth to not call in a favor. And thus we have Step Yo Game Up. Production-wise, crunk tries to get a little grittier, with the menacing synths and ominous bass line, and comes off sounding predictably catchy. Trina stops by for a surprisingly good, albeit trashy, cameo but considering how gratuitously vulgar and raunchy the song is, all culminating in a blasphemous (and completely irrelevant) chant of “chuuch, preach, tabernacle”, this is a song that no one should like and one that most would shamefully admit to liking (myself included). $1.50.
Snoop's all crunked out so he resumes his smooth pimp stance on Perfect. With the Neptunes' smooth, airy production chugging along and Charlie Wilson's emphatic ad-libbing chiming in at the right times, Snoop effortlessly seduces the ladies and creates another smooth, pimped-out love song that will get plenty of rotation in bedrooms across America. $1.50.
But “Perfect” sounds like foreplay compared to this album's true “baby-making” jam, Fresh Pair of Panties On. Somewhat a lampoon of Quiet Storm jams (as indicated by the preceding WBALLZ skit), the production is spot-on, with mellow, muted keys and strings, quiet synths and off-kilter percussion, and the anonymous male R&B singer on the hook just seals the deal. This record was tailor-made for Snoop's relaxed flow, as he just glides over this record effortlessly, making for a smooth and somewhat cheeky jam. $1.85.
Now Snoop decides to bask in the afterglow with the slick Promise I. Mr. Porter's (from D12) production is just as sleek as something the Neptunes would concoct and matches Snoop's flow well. Whoever Treasure is, a couple vocal lessons wouldn't hurt or at least learning something about pitch control and singing on-key. Her warbling doesn't quite fit well with the song. Snoop's laidback pimp lyrics aren't anything special and reduces this song to being nothing but another smooth piece of filler. $.75.
Gangsta Snoop's awaken from his nap and called in a favor from 50 Cent to appear on Oh No. Sam Jackson's infamous “say what again!” speech from Pulp Fiction is played at the beginning and is meant to make the record sound more intimidating as the threatening synth kicks and drum loops kick in. Then Snoop and 50 drop more big, bad gangsta lines that sound a little too cyclical. “The Bidness” did a much better job of portraying Snoop as a gangsta. Here, he and 50 just sound like 2 bad actors. $.00.
Now some of Snoop's rhymes and songs on the album might've had a tinge of misogyny but he flat out proclaims his misogynistic tendencies on the aptly titled Can U Control Ya Hoe. Against L.T. Hutton's cartoonish synths and bells and whistles, Snoop goes into full pimp mode and criticizes all his fellow pimps who can't keep their ladies in check:
You got a b!tch that won't do what you say, u can't control ya hoe?
She hardheaded, she just won't obey, can u control ya hoe?
You've got to know what to do and what to say
You've got to put that b!tch in her place even if it's slapping her in her face
Ya got to control your hoe, can you control your hoe?
Now the beat and flow of this song is catchy and you really have to take this record at face value. All derogatory remarks to women herein sound sung with tongue firmly planted in cheek. With most of this record fawning over Snoop's female fan base, I'm sure he didn't take the recording of this song too seriously. $1.99.
Let's face facts; the main reason anyone should listen to Signs is to hear pretty white boy Justin Timberlake croon “cupid don't f*ck with me” in his most convincing falsetto. But there's also the Neptunes' excellent 70s-inspired, disco-era production, complete with a hyper horn section, fast-paced handclaps, bass line and more emphatic ad-libs from Charlie, all begging you to shake your butt. Snoop even puts a little pep in his vocal step, matching his flow well with the upbeat vibe of the song. Another winner. $2.55.
Believe it or not, pimps can experience heartbreak too and Snoop's provides an in-depth look into the hurt heart of a pimp on the Suga Free-assisted I'm Threw Witchu. Against melodically minimalist production, simple drum taps, mellow synths and such, Snoop and Suga make the difficult decision to leave one of their hardheaded females alone. Yet again, this pimp stance was definitely done for sheer comical effect. At points, it even sounds like Snoop & Suga had to try their damnedest not to burst into a fit of laughter. And who couldn't with such ribald yet humorous material as:
I knew that u was a hoe back then and b!tch, your still one now
U like to bust nuts in your face but with that big-@ss mouth
U need to shut the f*ck up, you talk too much, I told you once before (get out!)
The pimpin don't like to tell u twice so we're walking out that door
I smell a Dave Chappelle skit with this one. This record's comicalness is priceless and is reason enough to garner a cursory listen from you. $3.00.
Now you know Snoop had to record at least one more ode to his beloved green and thus we have Pass It Pass It. Too bad his beloved had to get stuck with such a crappy song. The Neptunes' production is pretty standard and ordinary for them and Pharrell's dry hook of “pass it, pass it
get it girl” doesn't help the replay value of this track. Snoop's verses are pretty detailed but there's nothing remarkable or even original about this track. $.00.
I don't care how commercial and poppy Girl Like U is, it's definitely one of the album's best offering. LT Hutton's production has a nice, sleek groove, with twinkling keys and staccato percussion, and is catchy enough for a placement on radio but smooth enough to support's Snoop's rhymes adequately and even makes Nelly's sing-song flow appealing. I dare you to resist against grooving along with this beat. The lyrics, especially those on the hook, are pretty pedantic and routine but there's no denying the luster of this song and how infectious it is. $3.00.
Now many complain about rappers who sing (Nelly, Ja Rule, 50, etc..) but at least those men can somewhat carry a tune or at least make their off-key crooning melodic. So you were forewarned that temporary deafness might occur upon hearing Snoop's interpretation of Curtis Mayfield and No Thang On Me. Now Hi-Tek's backing production, which has such a smooth soulful sound, with keys, percussion, strings, and doo-wop backing singers in spots, also has a nice modern edge to it that makes it appealing. And Bootsy's infamous ad-libs blends well with the sound of the song. But Snoop's off-key falsetto sounds a bit feigned and deficient. Maybe if he put actual effort into singing, it would've had a better effect. But his vocals aside, this is a true aural pleasure and a nice closing to such a suave project. $2.00.
It should be no big surprise that Snoop's POV hasn't changed and that his 3 favorite subjects are still being gangsta, weed, and hoes. What is surprising is that this album isn't noticeably boring, repetitive or bland. This is Snoop's most cohesive and consistent album since Doggystyle. The pimp posturing balances out well with the gangster episodes and occasional highs. And Snoop still does it all with the greatest of ease. His relaxed flow makes this whole album sound effortless and even the space-filling moments aren't complete wastes of your time. But let's not kid ourselves. The music is the real star of this album because half of these songs wouldn't be nearly as great as they are if it weren't for the backing production. Snoop will never be on the same level lyrically as he once was but he seems perfectly content with resigning himself to being a pimp/gangsta/weedhead. And it's also reassuring that Snoop never takes himself too seriously and makes it clear that he only serves to entertain. So while saying this is a stretch, this album really is a masterpiece of sorts. By no means is it a classic but an album that sounds this good by being everything it shouldn't and an album that takes a burnt-out formula and makes it work so solidly and sound so fresh after all this time is an album worth hearing now. Who knows? You might have to wait 11 more years for another one.
Mini-Masterpieces: “Bang Out”:: “The Bidness”:: “Let's Get Blown”:: “I'm Threw Witchu”:: “Girl Like U”
Desecrations of Art: “I Love To Give You Light”:: “Snoop D.O. Double G”:: “Oh No”:: “Pass It Pass It”
Album Worth: $35.44 - 11 years seems worth the wait.