213 – The Hard Way Review

Ten years ago, the mere mention of a potential 213 album would’ve set the streets ablaze with anticipation. For those of you rolling your eyes, you’ll just have to trust me. These three bruthas were arguably the biggest names in the game during the summer of 1994.

Keep in mind, this was before the East Coast Renaissance and return to lyricism that would shape the industry as the calendar flipped to 1995. Nas, Biggie Smalls and others were doing their thing on New York radio, but it was three longtime friends from Long Beach, California who had MTV, BET and all of urban FM on lock back then.

Before we go any further a re-introduction is probably in order. The group “213” is comprised of:

Snoop Dogg: Easily the most successful member of the group and one of the most celebrated pop culture figures of our generation. His 1993 solo debut Doggystyle moved more than four million units and was the first rap album to be considered an “event release”. While Snoop has never come close to realizing the commercial success of his first album, he has enjoyed an occasional hit single, such as Lay Low, B Please and Beautiful.

Nate Dogg: One of the most familiar voices in rap, he’s spent the last several years as Hip Hop’s “hired gun”. His work on the hooks of radio-friendly urban anthems (Area Codes, Regulate) has allowed him to make a career out of cameos and guest spots. His own solo career hasn’t produced much in the way of record sales, but his 1998 double album debut, G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 & 2 is actually very underrated.

Warren G.: While it seems almost inconceivable today, ten summers ago Warren G. right up there, too. His first album, Regulate…The G-Funk Era went platinum several times over. Unfortunately, his follow-up LP was released the same day as B.I.G.’s posthumous Life After Death and wasn’t helped by the saccharin-soaked first single I Shot The Sheriff. A few years later, he had a huge hit single with I Want It All, but couldn’t capitalize on its success.

The three have been a group in name only, to this point. They’ve appeared together on each other’s solo projects, but never on a full-length album. Ten years equates to about twice as many lifetimes in Hip Hop. The fans who were once your core audience move on to new acts, while fans who were too young to remember a decade prior have to be won over for the first time. Can Snoop, Nate and Warren do it with 213-The Hard Way?

Well, Groupie Luv was probably a good start. The first single off the album was laced with a DJ Pooh beat that is up-tempo, if nothing else. Snoop handles most of the mic work on this tongue-in-cheek ode to the trio’s pure n’ wholesome female fans. Twist Yo Body isn’t as electric, but follows a similar pattern. The Hi-Tek beat is definitely tight, but a tick too slow to reach the clubs like Groupie.

Now, no one will ever confuse West Coast rap with the women’s rights movement. With this cast of characters it’s pretty much a given that you’re gonna get tracks like My Dirty Ho if you give them enough studio time. In this case, the song is so over-the-top that it seems to intentionally cross over into self-parody. Nate’s pretentious, almost operatic hook makes this an instant guilty pleasure by itself.

And then there’s Joysticc. Admittedly, I’m loving the bizarre ’80s throwback beat. It’s like something out of a 4:00 AM Lionel Richie session or something. Lyrically, however, Warren G. gets the spotlight and the results are…uh, well here’s a sample:

Most women I know love the joysticc/
And love playin’ with it when it goes the extra inch

See, “joysticc” is a euphemism for…well, you know. Warren has never been known as much of an MC and he’s really, really exposed when given this much unassisted airtime.

Fortunately, for most of the album, all three are given equal slices on each joint. Their chemistry is undeniable and, on several occasions, carries tracks that have no business working.

213 Tha Gangsta Clicc is full of warmed over thug posturing, but Snoop’s rapid-fire old-schoolish flow and a crazy Nate Dogg third verse make it one of the hotter tracks on here. The gangbanging content only works in small doses, though, and tracks like Keep It Gangsta are just overkill.

Surprisingly, there are even a few moments of more mature reflection to be found. Run on Up has Warren spitting a quick few lines about the evils of the record industry. Hey, you take them where you can get ’em with these guys. While Appreciation and Another Summer cover family, friends, food and fun. The latter is already being prepped as the second single, which is probably due to Kanye West’s name on the lethargic beat.