Hip Hop heads point to 1994 as the beginning of Rap’s Last Renaissance. East Coast acts like Biggie Smalls and Nas dropped their breakthrough albums in an era that was often referred to as “The Return of Lyricism”.
But, what was the industry returning from? Well, the answers can be found on Snoop Dogg’s seminal CD Doggystyle. Gangsta themes, weed and misogyny were built on a foundation of G-Funk production forming the West Coast’s Music Mission Statement during the early 1990s. A decade later, Snoop is one of the last remaining remnants of that time.
While every one of his albums has gone platinum or better, his sales have been steadily declining with each successive release. The soft-spoken gangsta gimmick from back in the day has evolved into a brash, flamboyant pimp schtick, which has proven to be more marketable”¦to a point.
Through his short-lived MTV sketch show and checkered movie career, he’s become a pop culture phenomenon, while alienating many of the fans who supported him from the beginning. The detractors claim that Snoop’s fallen off and lost his urban roots in a morass of “dizzles” and “shizzles”. But, the D-O-double G consistently pulls hits out of his sleeve and seems poised for another run with R&G: Rhythm & Gangsta.
The buzz began with the release of the first single Drop It Like It’s Hot. With one of the most original beats in recent memory, the Neptunes craft a bass-heavy club anthem laced with tongue clicks and a single “Snoooooooop” melody on the hook. And, while Snoop, himself, is just taking up space, Pharrell absolutely kills his verse:
Eligible bachelor, million-dollar boat
That’s whiter than what’s spilling down your throat
The Phantom, exterior like fish eggs
The interior like suicide wrist red
I can exercise you, this can be your Phys. Ed
Unfortunately, The Neptunes don’t make too many more appearances behind the boards. An odd development, considering much of the early album hype revolved around the duo producing every track, at one point.
Longtime Snoop Dogg collaborator, Soopafly, drops the beat for another slice of goodness and probably the album’s best track, The Bidness. Snoop’s flow is just crazy hot:
I f*ck wit’ n*ggaz who be bustin’ them shots
I’m talkin’ Long Beach, Inglewood, Compton & Watts
You ain’t ready for daddy/I do this for fun
It’s like you ballin’ wit’ Kobe, one-on-one
Meanwhile, Soopafly mixes in nearly a half-dozen subtle samples of everything from Run-DMC to Richard Pryor. Ah, but as is often the case, there’s nowhere to go from here but down.
The Neptunes return on the run-of-the-mill sex song Let’s Get Blown. Production-wise, it’s nice enough”¦with an odd floating tempo that seems to lilt in and out. If only Snoop had something better to say than getting his girl “on the cot” and “nice n’ hot”. Of course, that’s the Equal Rights Amendment compared to the ironically-titled Step Yo Game Up.
In what might be the single worst Snoop track ever, Lil’ Jon and Trina slime their way on to a disgustingly vulgar and mindless mess that begins with the line, “Hey, back that p*ssy, tease a m*thaf*cka”¦” and gets worse with every verse.
Oddly enough, this cut is followed by the pro-women song Perfect, which is such a shameless and simpering sequel to his last big hit Beautiful, that even Snoop calls himself on it during the last few seconds it runs. And, the Dogg hits this hydrant over and over again, failing lyrically each time.
On Signs, Justin Timberlake gets one of those barely-there credits, as Snoop has trouble keeping time with the Neptunes’ up-tempo backing. And, what was that about Snoop’s lyrics?
You’ll have Sundays with chiquitas
You’ll see Venus & Serena in the Wimbledon Arena
Nelly chimes in on Girl Like U which attempts to pander to the pretty ladies, but compromises itself with all the “bitch” slang that’s casually tossed around. At least there are no pretenses with cuts like Can U Control Your Ho and Fresh Pair of Panties On. But, by the time Snoop calls himself “the Black Jack Tripper” on Promise I“¦well, it can’t all be this bad, right?
And it’s not”¦Alchemist and Andrae Crouch (via sample) weave a ghetto gospel opener on I Love To Give You Light. The Bee Gees(!) get a guest credit on Ups & Downs, where Snoop addresses some old beefs and 50 Cent returns the favor from P.I.M.P. on Oh No“¦a passable paint-by-numbers thug cut.