[23 November 2004]
Sometime last week, Method Man said that out of all the rappers splitting their time between the microphone and the big screen, Snoop Dogg was the worst actor. Coming from a guy whose acting roles run the gamut from himself to… well, himself, the statement seems to be a moot point. Say what you want about Snoop and his apparent lack of range; he’s been the most consistent rapper-slash-entertainer since Dre let him off the leash in 1993.
It’s been 11 long years since Dr. Dre first lent a skinny, former drug-dealing gang banger named Calvin Broadus his funk-flavored production for the hip-hop classic Doggystyle. In that time, Snoop rose to stardom with his Long Beach drawl, French braids, and unrepentant gangster attitude. He waged war on the East Coast, ditched Dre and buried ‘Pac. He also severed ties with Suge Knight, Dre, and Death Row Records, tucked his tail between his legs and split to Master P’s No Limit Records, where he’d drop two of his worst albums. Eventually, he’d reconcile with Dre and the East Coast, become an actor, have a car (the Snoop Deville) and an action figure named after him. Of late, the man who defined perma-stoned gave up weed to coach his son’s football team. Sure, it was only for four months, but for a guy who’s been smoking the some of the best “sticky-icky” everyday for 15 years straight, it signalled growth.
To say that Snoop Dogg has merely influenced the popular consciousness does him a great injustice. From his role as a purveyor of street slang to neo-blaxploitation actor, Snoop has infiltrated the zeitgeist. He’s the black Bob Hope—a consummate entertainer. R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece is his seventh solo album and in spite of the parental advisory that accompanies most of his work, it’s business as usual for the Doggfather.
It’s important not to compare this album with Doggystyle. Not only is the comparison unfair, it’s unnecessary. You can’t expect Snoop to sound as hungry as he did in 1993. As Dave Chappelle would say, “he’s rich, bitch.” Nevertheless, if you did want to compare it, you might use this guide as a measuring stick.
Right off the bat, I’m warning you that Dr. Dre does not appear anywhere on this disc, which, for all intensive purposes, bars it from being a true masterpiece. At a recent press junket in Los Angeles, reporters asked Snoop why Dre didn’t contribute one of those California sun-drenched gangsta beats. Snoop offered a cryptic response, “You’ll have to ask Dre.” The thing is Snoop really isn’t Snoop without the kind of beat that forces you to lean way back in your caddy as you bounce up and down Crenshaw Blvd.—and only the good doctor can provide it.
In Dre’s place are the Neptunes, whose stock as hit producers plummets daily. As executive producers, they sprinkle their tinny, over-synthesized beats all over the album. It ain’t fresh and it definitely ain’t funky. The first single, “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, finds them at their newfound minimalist best. A Viagra-fueled drum beat throbs incessantly as Pharrell clicks the beat and Chad presses play on a creepy, pre-programmed Stanley Kubrick keyboard sample. “Perfect” attempts to capitalize on “Beautiful’s” success, so much so that it ends up going limp before the song gets started (and yep, Charlie Wilson and Pharrell are back on it).
DJ EZ Dikk is back with an interlude that leads into the album’s funniest song, “Fresh Pair of Panties On”. Over a sensous harp-driven number, Snoop jokes “let me guess, you prefer to wear cotton/ I can tell cuz you like squatting.” One of the most-disturbing moments on R&G is the use of Justin Timberlake on “Signs”, who else is going to show up Nelly? Snoop doesn’t have to stoop to this kind of thing; he is the eptiome of mainstream success. What’s worse is that just as Snoop’s finds his rhythm extolling the virtues of Mary Jane, Justin chimes in with that whiney, cry me a river shtick. On the disco retrospective “Ups and Downs”, Snoop samples the Bee Gees to mixed results. Underground producer, The Alchemist contributes one of R&G’s best instrumental for the sped-up soul number “I Love to Give You Light”. However, as the album’s intro it’s deceptive. Snoop spends the rest of the album quoting from the gangstas bible, CHURCH!
Everyone who enters the cultural milieu becomes a novelty, which is why this record doesn’t fail. For Snoop fans, it will always be about his Crip walk and gangsta credentials, still intact after all these years as he flaunts them in the video for “Drop It Like It’s Hot”.
That said, R&G is about seven to eight tracks overweight, but appearances from Nelly, 50 cent and the album’s closer won’t disappoint. The Lil’Jon produced “Step Yo Game Up” is rabidly misogynistic, but we knew that about Snoop from way back.
Since Doggystyle, Calvin Broadus has kept his fans happy by working with Dre and coming up with funky ass tracks like every single day. R&G might be lacking in funk and Dre, but I’ll bet my copy of the album that R&G will keep fans rolling down the street smoking indo and sipping on gin and juice, though without Dre they’ll probably have their seats in the upright position instead of laid back.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/snoopdogg-randg/