Eight Delighted Thoughts on Snoop Dogg's Unexpected Return to Form
Doggumentary reveals that hip-hop's greatest self-promoter is still a pretty great rapper.
At this point, it's fair to say that Snoop Dogg is know just as much for being a general cultural institution as he is for rapping. His eleventh album, Doggumentary, comes out this week, and though he's no longer calling it "Doggystyle 2" (it was originally planned as a sequel to his breakout 1993 solo album), there's no time like the present to ponder the legacy of one of the single longest running, most lucrative, most entertaining careers in hip-hop.
1. If there's any one difference between 1993 Snoop Dogg and 2011 Snoop Dogg, it's the latter's unreal ability to cultivate mainstream appeal.
During the time that's passed between Doggystyle and Doggumentary, Snoop has undergone a major career evolution. Not only has he changed handles from "Snoop Doggy Dogg" to just "Snoop Dogg," he's also gone from being one of the central villains in inane arguments about rap lyrics and censorship, to a beloved, gently subversive elder statesman of pop culture, complete with (pimp) cane. He coaches peewee football for his son, raps about HBO shows, and has spread his influence so far that when middle-aged high-school teachers want to show that they're "down with the kids," they toss an "izzle" onto the end of a word here and there and hope for the best. Few people in this world reach such pervasive levels of ubiquity.
2. More to the point, he's a genius at finding opportunities to gain both money and publicity at once.
…even more than most other heavyweights in the hip-hop community, who as a rule are way more savvy (and often way more shameless) about endorsements and self-promotion than other celebrities. Seriously, if you haven't paid a visit to the "Endorsements" section of his Wikipedia page, remedy that oversight immediately. From not one but two different malt liquor endorsements, to his "Hack is Wack" campaign for (of all things) Norton AntiVirus, to a line of footlong "Snoop Doggs" hot dogs, he's easily one of the most branded rappers alive.
3. In fact, he's so good at being a celebrity that it comes dangerously close to hurting his credibility as a musician.
That's not to say that he's not still taken seriously as a rap artist, but when you see him making cameos in Owen Wilson movies, tossing in an innocuous (and kind of lazy) verse on Katy Perry's "California Gurls," or plugging the iFizzle iPhone app, it's easy to forget all the talent that made him famous in the first place, if not the bizarre, hard-to-pinpoint charm.
4. …which brings us to the actual album.
And it's good! Granted, it's not especially earth-shattering or game-changing, but the rhymes are clever, the beats (mostly) interesting, and the guest artists well chosen — Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa both make appearances. Of equal importance, Snoop Dogg himself is in top form, and just sounds like he had a great time recording this. Tracks like "Peer Pressure" serve as a reminder of his pioneering g-funk origins, and of just how much of a stylistic debt he's owed by the likes of Outkast. Bringing in Bootsy Collins as a collaborator just adds that much more of a good thing.
Listen: "Peer Pressure"
5. But I do wish he'd left out T-Pain.
Maybe I'm just being cranky, and I know it's probably going to end up as one of Doggumentary's biggest singles, but "Boom," which squanders a killer sample of Yazoo's "Situation" on a less-killer guest appearance from T-Pain, really doesn't work for me. At the end of the day, a song featuring T-Pain is just going to sound like every other song featuring T-Pain, and even if that's right in some situations, it just isn't here.
6. Dropping the "Doggystyle 2" title from this project was the right decision.
Even if the album is something of a return to form, it's still way more representative of the Willie Nelson-duetting, synth-sampling renaissance man that Snoop Dogg is today, not the 213 up-and-comer of Doggystyle. Trying to force parallels between the two would do a disservice to both.
Listen: "My Medicine"
7. I will take back every positive thing I've said here today if he continues to collaborate with Charlie Sheen and the guy from Korn.
As of press date, this is still an unresolved issue, and I just wish that were a joke. Snoop, if you are reading this, stop that immediately. Don't even sit in a studio with them for a Twitpic. Just don't. Please.
8) Snoop Dogg being Snoop Dogg, he can and will do whatever he wants.
If he decides his next album needs to be comprised exclusively of duets with Sheen, we're all powerless to stop him.