[16 May 2011]
A lot of people hated on Malice N Wonderland—hell, I scored it fairly awfully upon release—but the summer it came out, I couldn’t help but fall for it eventually. See, for me what works with that album is that Snoop realized Blue Carpet Treatment was sort of a one-off success, and that if he was going to reign in his Ego Trippin’ impulses, he had to rethink everything. So he cut the shortest album of his career and made himself a guest on his own album, molding his verses and style to fit whatever artist he was collaborating with. Sure, Soulja Boy outrapped him on his own album, but “Pronto” was still a ridiculously enjoyable song. Doggumentary seems to take most of its cues from that album’s backlash, though, because here we’re given more of what we’ve come to expect since Snoop’s R&G: lots of tiny experiments (chiefly that whack ragga attempt with Damon Albarn late in the disc), songs that sound like they’re from completely different projects, lazy lyricism and every guest imaginable, even Willie Nelson.
But unlike most of those albums, Doggumentary surprises by simply pulling everything off save the songs you’d assume don’t work just by checking the tracklist. DJ Battlecat satisfies heavy with his early contributions, especially the soulful “Wonder What It Do?”. Jake One and Bootsy Collins throw down on some funk revivalist stuff on the intro that barely carries any signs of Snoop. Things first start to get a little shaky with “My Fuckin’ House” just because it matches up with nothing before (or really after) it, and Snoop talks about serving nickel rocks and stuff like that. You know, things that don’t make sense because Snoop never (or extremely rarely) mentioned the trap or crack in his early raps, when it would have made sense. As a multi-millionaire known more for his television and club celebrity than his rap skills? Let’s just say it carries just about zero appeal. E-40 can do it because he can do just about whatever he wants, and Jeezy can because it’s a genre he practically created, but…no, Snoop. You can’t cross over into everything.
The confusion continues with songs like “Peer Pressure”, an anti-drug track over a beat bearing one too many similarities to “Crazy” from Blue Carpet Treatment. It’s a song that just feels strange on an album featuring tracks like “My Fuckin’ House”, or the token tokin’ anthem with token toker Wiz Khalifa “This Weed Iz Mine” (perhaps unsurprisingly, Snoop’s most dextrous and invigorated flow arrives in time for this one). I mean, it’s admirable that Snoop is asking his listeners not to try to live up to his legend but simply be themselves; it’s just I doubt anyone is going to buy this album with the intention of soundtracking their journey to sobriety. Maybe I’m wrong. The song itself isn’t too bad, but it does lead into one of the album’s two weak segments with the flat-footed “Platinum”, a semi-R&B track laced by Lex Luger of all people (I like this song, but mileage seems to vary), and T-Pain featuring “Boom”, which definitely isn’t the pop hit the pair expected. At least we get to sandwich them with “I Don’t Need No Bitch” and “We Rest N Cali”, two of the stronger songs in Doggumentary‘s set.
One could complain about a few more things, but you know what? Normally, I don’t say this, but we’ve been living in a world littered with skip buttons for a while now. And Doggumentary is one of those albums that’s hyper-aware of this fact. You’ve got a very good 12-14 track album in here filled out with a bunch of songs that will please different factions of its listeners—save “Peer Pressure”, probably. As such, like Blue Carpet Treatment, Doggumentary is an album that reminds us all why we like Snoop so much, and pleases us through his taste for good music more than his talent for good rhymes. The filler’s not really necessary to skip, even, which ranks among Snoop’s bigger accomplishments in recent years. And even more surprising is the lack of fatigue the album imbibes you with by the time it’s 80 minutes finally expire; where Snoop albums have pretty routinely left people in a state of post-trauma since roughly Tha Last Meal, if not Tha Doggfather, The Doggumentary just c-walks along dutifully. As it rounds itself out with the beautiful Twisted Fantasy outtake “Eyez Closed”, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than Snoop Dogg gave us his most solid longplayer since Doggystyle nearly 20 years ago. If he’d have titled this Doggystyle II as originally intended, it would have been a mistake, but this is definitely his release most worthy of that moniker. It’s kind of a shame Snoop’s struggling to push six figures of this album, it’s his first totally legit release in five years and his best in a long, long time.