Snoop Dogg Doggumentary

[EMI; 2011]

Styles: mainstream hip-hop, g-funk
Others: T-Pain, Kanye West, Too $hort

On DJ Khaled’s 2010 summer jam “All I Do Is Win,” Snoop Dogg claims in his guest verse, “I’ve been running this rap game since I was 20 years old.” It’s a curious claim, because Snoop’s remarkable longevity seems to stem from mastery of one flow: that lackadaisical, behind-the-beat drawl that sounds cool and rarely says anything. He is a brand, an icon, standing in generically to represent partying, weed smoking, and ‘pimping’ (you know, the kind that has nothing to do with prostitution) in the popular consciousness. He could (and you may think he does) just coast, pop up for an occasional Pepsi Max commercial or reality TV season if he’s ever short for cash, and call it a career. Why keep making rap albums at all, especially 20 years removed from his only bona fide classic?

The interesting thing about Snoop’s post-millennial career is that he still occasionally records good singles. His flow never deviates from that of Doggystyle, but the production on his hits demonstrates an effort to evolve with the times. Earlier in the 2000s, Snoop turned two of The Neptunes’ best beats into hits (“Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot”), and while I thought 2007’s “Sexual Eruption” was pretty terrible, it did represent an attempt to update the Snoop sound for the T-Pain set. The pattern continues on Doggumentary; the production is ambitious, professional, and contemporary. Some of these tracks sound great. The collaborations with Bootsy Collins are a success, making me wonder why such an obvious pairing had never materialized before; “We Rest In Cali” is my favorite beat on the record, both funky and brooding. Lead single “Boom” is an interesting stab at futuristic club rap, T-Pain chorus and all.

The worst songs are at least entertaining trainwrecks: “Wet,” a single dedicated to Prince William’s bachelor party (no joke), is like a cross between Kanye’s 808s & Heartbreak singles and Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” and is exactly as ridiculous as that sounds. “My Fucn House” spoils a great guest verse from E-40, and even Young Jeezy manages to lyrically upstage Snoop on the track. The reggae-sampling “Sumthin Like This” featuring Gorillaz is a throwaway stoner jam poorly matched to the rapping or singing found within. Snoop and Willie Nelson have a sing-along on “Superman,” accompanied only by harmonica and acoustic guitar. Surprise surprise, the whole second half of the 79-minute album is bogged down with half-assed collaborations, including disappointing turns from Kanye West and Too $hort.

The one thing that becomes clear from Doggumentary is that Snoop Dogg still enjoys recording rap albums. Ambitious production, though scatterbrained and camouflaging the lack of variation in Snoop’s flow and lyrics, makes this a pleasant listen in spite of its missteps. Frankly, that’s more than we can reasonably expect at this stage of one of rap’s longest careers.

Links: Snoop Dogg - EMI

Most Read