Snoop Dogg invites a bunch of friends to the studio, records a small army of songs, accomplishes not much of anything.
Anyone waiting for Snoop Dogg to "mature" would probably do best to, well, stop. Dude's 35 now, he's shilling for XM with David Bowie, he willingly participates in self-parodic sketches at award shows, and he's still going platinum with every single album by rapping about more or less the same things he's been rapping about since Doggystyle introduced all of us to the man with the charisma that belied his half-closed eyes: weed, women, and gang culture.
Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, as its title would indicate, takes the latter and shoves it into the foreground, finding Snoop weaving the Crips into more tracks than he has in some time. This in and of itself might be a problem, given that the glorification of gangs isn't really at the top of the list of things that contribute to a successful hip-hop release these days, but it is admittedly fascinating the way Snoop dances around the issue of his allegiance and what it means. In "Vato", a single that was slowly gaining a little steam before "I Wanna Love You" (the radio-ready version of this album's misogynist watermark "I Wanna Fuck You") went and ate it, cohort B-Real explains that "Vato, you won't believe what I saw / I saw this pack o' guys and they act real hard / They twist their fingers say 'you know who we are' / He said 'I don't give a fuck I'm Snoop Doggy Dogg'". Of course, Snoop explains that he shot at the offending Bloods, "accidentally" hitting three of them, though he doesn't sound all that sorry about it. Contrast this, then, to something like "Gangbangin' 101", where he teams up with The Game in a statement of Crip/Blood unity, or even "10 Lil' Crips", where he removes himself from the equation by telling the tale from the third person. What ends up happening is that Snoop manages to cancel himself out by rapping from every side, effectively saying nothing about his gang-based roots while still namedropping them enough to feign some sort of "cred".
Of course, none of this should be particularly surprising, given that Snoop is historically a man of many contradictions, whether it be dropping the drugs and the pimping a few years ago (and if you believed that...) or a song like "Conversations", Snoop's little attempt at "Jesus Walks", explaining how hard his life is and how he turns to God in those of trouble. He even brings Stevie Wonder along to drive the point home with a gospel kick. And it's even one of the best tracks on the disc, what with solid rhymes, masterfully squeaky production, and a singable hook, but damn if it isn't hard to swallow after nearly 75 minutes of hedonism and self-glorification.
All that said, it shouldn't be a surprise, then, that Tha Blue Carpet Treatment's best track on a musical level is one where Snoop doesn't really say much of anything at all, simply putting together rhymes for the sake of rhymes over a vaguely jazzy backing track. The song's called "Think About It", and it features an inspired Snoop dropping layered rhymes like "Open your eyes and take your time to visualize / And once you decide to move your mind in due time..." and so on, essentially talking about himself without really saying anything, but doing it well enough to get heads nodding and critics like myself frothing at the mouth hoping that the rest of the album ("Think About It" is the disc's second track, after a quick intro) is as skillfully delivered. Alas, it's not to be. Most of the rhyming on the album is that stop-start style that makes it sound like Snoop is literally thinking about the next line before he actually delivers it, which means there's plenty of time between lines for the people responsible for the mix to make sure Snoop is on-beat, but it doesn't make for all that smooth a flow -- by the time you get to "Candy (Dripping Like Water)" and you're hearing lines like "Big Snoop Dogg (pause) / I'm the star o' this (pause) / So go on and get ya'self up all this (pause)", you're longing for something resembling a consistent rhythm. Occasionally, he comes out with a clever couplet, but those sound like accidents more often than not.
The production, for its part, is pretty hit-and-miss, with the producers everyone's heard of turning in solid performances while the lesser-knowns show up with forgettable Dre-wannabe beats. The Neptunes are the best part of two of the gang-related tracks, finding a seriously sinister harpsichord for "Vato" and infusing "10 Lil' Crips" with an ominous low rumble that suits the subject matter. Timbaland, Mr. Ubiquitous himself, finds a harder edge than he's had all year with the relentlessly minor-key "Get a Light", and Akon's club-ready composition that drives "I Wanna Fuck You" is almost enough to make one ignore the classless, painful lyrics. In fact, the only real disappointment to be found on the production end is none other than Dr. Dre, whose three production turns are forgettable at best, his only clever idea the sample of the bath scene from Coming to America as the basis for "That's That Shit" (a stunt that's excellent in theory, but still results in a rather uninteresting backdrop). I mean, really, did Dido's "Thank You" really need to be pulled out for another track ("'Round Here") after Eminem re-imagined her verse for the hook of "Stan"?
In fact, for all the hype pushing Snoop and Dre's reunion here, Dre's presence actually brings the album down -- past his production, even his guest verse on "Imagine" is repetitive and unimpressive once you get past the thrill of hearing his voice again.
Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, for all its faults, isn't really an awful album -- it's more a matter of the idea that when you're given a daunting 78 minutes of media (and no skits, which is awesome), it's easy to find a whole pile of problems. It's an album on which Snoop grabs a bunch of buddies (I haven't even had a chance to mention Nate Dogg, who sounds fantastic by the way, Ice Cube, R. Kelly, or a shrill, ineffective Jamie Foxx) and tries to create the Snoop Dogg album that's everything for everyone -- jams for the ladies/bitches, jams for the street, jams for the heads, jams for the club. Unfortunately, it's an all-encompassing approach that's resulted in so much dreck that it's impossible to enjoy the good parts without subsequently getting frustrated by the lazy stuff. The Dogg needs an editor -- there's enough decent material here for a pretty-damn-good album, filled out by enough trash to knock it right down to "average".