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Various Artists: Bigg Snoop Dogg Presents…Welcome to Tha Chuuch, Vol. 1

Perhaps not that many people have noticed, but it's been well over a decade since Snoop Dogg had an original thought.

Perhaps not that many people have noticed, but it's been well over a decade since Snoop Dogg had an original thought. Back in '92, when Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" made him an instant superstar, Snoop was hip-hop's next great thing. One classic album and a whole lot of mediocrity later, he's a hip-hop institution, but can anyone other than serious hip-hop heads name one song by Snoop other than "Drop It Like It's Hot" that came from an album other than "Doggystyle" or "The Chronic"?

So, you can understand why I'm a little bit skeptical about Snoop's new compilation album "Welcome To Tha Chuuch". This marks the second time that Bigg Snoop (as he’s billed on this album) has tried to showcase protégés, and considering that no one from that first collection has gone on to megastardom, you should already be approaching this project with a wary eye…er, ear. “Chuuch” collects some recognizable faces from Snoop (and West Coast hip-hop)'s past, along with some new "talent" and the ultimate result of this compilation is...more mediocrity. No one featured on this album has the lyrical acumen or charisma of it's presenter, and that does not bode well for an album that's supposed to feature potential superstars.

Among the familiar faces (or voices) featured, the only two to make a major impression are Snoop himself and The Lady Of Rage. The former femme Death Row lyrical assassin makes mincemeat of the track "Notorious DPG", leaving former associates RBX and Kurupt in the dust. One of the major selling points of this album is the reunion of the long-fueding Dogg Pound (Daz and Kurupt), but the several tracks they're featured on fail to excite. Snoop himself kicks one of his best rhymes in ages on "Sisters N Brothers". S-Dizzle leaves the chronic and hoes around for a few minutes and delivers a rare socially conscious track, touching on Black and Latino relations and the war in Iraq, among other topics. "Real Soon" also tries to kick it on the socially conscious tip, acting as an open letter to associates who are locked up, but it falls flat due to the painful Nate Dogg chorus.

Snoop's always appeared to be an old soul, and this album has it's share of R&B tracks sitting alongside the familiar hip-hop. "Just The Way You Like It" could have easily been a long-lost Rick James track, with it's prominent bassline and high-end synths. It's also dangerously close to a comedy track, as Snoop joins forces with longtime associates Soopafly and Half Dead to form a group called 9 Inch Dix. Yeah, imagine that being said on your local R&B station. However, it's the best track on the album, especially when compared with run-of-the-mill generic R&B like "Remember Me" by James. Aside from the fact that it sounds like every other Mario112CarlthomasAvant R&B track currently playing on urban radio, it's not even inventive from a lyrical standpoint. "I know you remember me/I'm the guy that bought you Cristal and Hennessey" is just straight-up lazy.

Lazy is a sentiment that can be used many times over the course of this album. Even Snoop's new female rap discovery Tiffany Foxx fails to excite. With a delivery that comes a little too close to echoing a teenage Foxy Brown's, songs like "Shake That Sh*t" (an obvious rip of "Drop It Like It's Hot") and the intriguingly titled (and just plain crass) "Can't Find My Panties" don't warrant a second listen.

This album's only saving grace is the music. As with most West Coast hip-hop albums, "Chuuch" would be almost as good as an instrumental album. The songs, which reference everyone from "Off The Wall"-era Michael Jackson to Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, are smooth and soulful. Unfortunately, also like most West Coast hip-hop, lyrical stagnation dooms "Welcome To The Chuuch" to be just another half-baked sermon from reverend Snoop.

5

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