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|Snoop Dogg's Doggumentary|
|21-04-2011 07:30 | 0 comment(s)|
| Another two years pass, and another Snoop Dogg album is upon us. Whilst some of his contemporaries wrestle with mental breakdowns, forever-delayed album release dates and false retirement/comeback melodrama, Snoop Dogg remains consistent – a consummate, reliable professional, a slick don of the rap game. In some ways, his status as a celebrity rap O.G. overshadows his musical output by this point, so whilst once upon a time partner-in-crime Dr. Dre might be feeling the pressure to follow-up his two certified classic releases with another, leading to a never-ending wait for Detox, the release of a new Snoop album such as Doggumentary is a lot less ceremonious.
He's recently been living up to his celebrity status, with a collaboration with calamity trainwreck Charlie Sheen supposedly highly imminent and set to be the most absurd and surreal musical release since, well, the song 'Wet', which he tactfully wrote in response to the news of our soon-to-be-wed Prince's engagement (chorus: "Tell be baby are you wet? I just wanna get you wet."). By this point in his career, Doggumentary's success as a musical artefact seems inherently beyond the point. Snoop will surely be around for a while yet, creating comedy news headlines, pleasing crowds with sets chock-full of hits, and generally being one of the more entertainingly enduring figures in contemporary American music.
As for the record itself, there are few surprises in store for listeners. We know what to expect by this point; smooth, g-funked beats, a hefty ton of guest collaborations drawn in from far and wide, and Snoop's distinctive West Coast drawl delivering raps full of weed, gangsta credibility and the D.O.-double-Gizzle's own inimitable slanguage.
His third album in four years, there's no faulting the continuous output of the Big Dogg, but it's also clear that quality control is not a top priority. Firstly, there's the length of the thing – at just shy of 80 minutes, listening to it as one continuous piece from start to end is a task even the most devoted fan will find arduous, especially as it lacks any true narrative or structural continuity. With the long tracklist comes the even longer list of guest performers, an impressive list though it is; old school West Coast veterans like Too $hort, Daz and E-40 appear alongside more contemporary rappers like Kanye and the fresh up-and-comer Wiz Khalifa, and the more obvious hooks from people like T-Pain and R. Kelly rub shoulders with less expected guests like funk legend Bootsy Collins, Gorillaz and Willie Nelson, who's pot-smoking ways make him a natural comrade for Snoop.
This album was once tentatively titled Doggystyle 2: Tha Doggumentary, but it is for good reason that this was subsequently changed, as to try and market this as a sequel to Snoop's classic, concise and career-highlight of a debut album would surely be both misleading and disappointing for fans. A lot of the themes and even some of the structural elements are similar – the G Funk Intro of Doggystyle is met with a similar, woozy burst of funk with Bootsy Collins at the helm, but the track is much messier than the burst of energy the original provided. But, complete with lyrics about drinking gin and juice, it's an obvious throwback to the Snoop of old; a feeling of nostalgia which is mirrored in the lyrics throughout the album.
While it might be nearly twenty years since Tha Doggfather broke out into the world and made a name for himself, his lyrics still play on the similar themes that helped him establish himself as a credible kid from the streets who made something out of his life. However, references to being a little rascal that broke out of the ghetto and likes like "My momma house, ain't in the hood no more" in the song 'My Own Way' can't help but feel like slightly old news by now. And after the album gets going properly on the second track with Snoop's musing that "We need to take it back – to the way it used to be", it's clear that Snoop will be treading comfortable, familiar water. 'Raised in da Hood', with its chorus sample of early '90s west coast group Volume 10, further solidifies these unbreakable ties to the past.
By no means is the album without its highlights. Tracks like 'The Way Life Used to Be' and 'Gangbang Rookie' pack a satisfying punch guaranteed to sound great pounding out of big speakers, as does the Devin the Dude-assisted 'I Don't Need No Bitch', although frustratingly vacuous lyrics let the latter down. And although ultimately forgettable, it's impossible not to get swept up in the groove of a song like 'Wonder What It Do' whilst it lasts.
For all of the throwbacks to the '90s and the familiar Snoop style, the album peaks when he sounds a little more challenged as a performer, such as on the Gorillaz-produced 'Sumthin Like This Night'. With it's pulsating, ever-expanding beat, it's one of the most memorable productions on the album and serves as one of its highlights. 'Eyez Closed', Kanye's contribution to the album is another – but Kanye ultimately steals the song, still in full-on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy introspection and self-interrogation mode, firing off cutting lines that make Snoop's lyrics feel profoundly more forgettable.
Snoop's lyrical performance remains one of the more disappointing aspects of this album. A lot of the time his words are merely forgettable, run-of-the-mill gangsta chat that we've come to expect, and this in fine in a sense, because Snoop Dogg has achieved longevity not by pushing the fold like some artists but by creating a reliable, entertaining cartoon character out of himself. But there are times when the lyricism sinks to a level that even tha Doggfather, you imagine, can't really think is dope – "I'm up all night like I'm on Twilight"? Really Snoop? It's hard not to furiously crave a little more Tanqueray and chronic and a little less R-Patz.
R. Kelly, who's been responsible for some of the most ludicrously amazing choruses in modern music (see: 'Be My No.2', 'Pregnant', 'Echo'), also fails to deliver, providing a hollow chorus on his featured-song 'Platinum'. With R. Kelly managing to not be the tongue-in-cheek talking point of the guests on the album, it's left to Willie Nelson and David Guetta's remix of 'Wet' to provide two of the albums' most bizarre moments. Needless to say the latter remix only worsens things and is, straight-to-the-point, one of the worst songs in recent memory, and is shameful for a man with such floor-filling classics under his name as 'Who Am I?', 'Drop It Like It's Hot' and 'The Next Episode'.
Yet 'Superman', the duo with Nelson, is a charming interlude and change of pace for the album, and hearing Snoop trade verses with him in his signature style is a timely reminder of why he's been top Dogg for so long – he is blessed with an incredibly distinctive voice, and it's hard not to be charmed by the song. The album ends on a high note, with the lush 'Cold Game' finally hinting at some depth, but after 20 tracks this one brief moment of introspection adds little to the overall taste left in the mouth.
Ultimately, Doggumentary is not without it's charms, but it's also the sound of a rap legend riding firmly on autopilot. There are few surprises, and a lot of filler, and the album is best enjoyed in short, sharp bursts. To expand on this, when the album does hits its high points, we're reminded why Snoop has become such a lasting star, and with some ruthless editing there's a really solid ten or eleven track album that could have been released instead. But as it is, we're left with a release from one of rap's most prolific stars which is at best mildly entertaining, but sadly far from essential.
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