|Snoop Dogg - R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Charles Andrews|
|Tuesday, 16 November 2004|
Is this The Masterpiece? Close, but no blunt. Does Snoop step his game up? Oh, yeah. Does anything else on the disc match the hot hot single “Drop It”? No, but there are two or three more really good ones to come. Is this his best since the Dre days? Bet. Do the Neptunes lend a hand? Big-time. Any other big names join this venture? Pharrell, 50 Cent, Nelly, Justin T, Soopafly, Bootsy Collins, Charlie Wilson, Lil’ John and Trina. Does this album put Snoop back on top? Mos’ def.
We are hardly talking comeback here -- every solo release by Snoop Dogg has gone multi-platinum. But he has never had a single rocket to number one on the pop (not hip-hop) charts the way “Drop It Like It’s Hot” did. It just exploded. Single of the year, many called it. Perfect record, they said. In L.A., you couldn’t go to a club or a dance class anywhere without hearing it. Lots and lotsa folks are buying this CD just so they can play cut three over and over and over.
But if they get around to the rest of the 75-plus remaining minutes, they’re going to find a lot to like. “Let’s Get Blown” is retro funk late ‘70s-‘80s-style, smooth as silk and already making an impact as the second single. (One hallmark of this album is how much ‘70s soul there is, the late-night so-smooth Stylistics/Chi-Lites/dare-I-say Barry White-type o’ groove. Is this going to spread? Check the cha-ching, baby. Could draw in tons of disaffected white and older black listeners.) “Can I Get a Flicc Witchu” is an insinuating, mysterious slow grind that I’d unleash next, though “Step Yo Game Up” is a killuh, all-out club banger that would’ve made a great follow-up to “Drop It.” Only problem is, it’ll have to be a club hit; the lyrics will keep it off radio.
Snoop is still the unreconstructed gangsta espousing horrible thoughts about women and guns, smoke and drink, as he establishes right off in the second cut “Bang Out” -- of course, that’s right after he opens the album with his life story in the most sympathetic terms, “I Love to Give You Light,” book-ended by samples of the great gospel man Andre Crouch. All through the album, Dogg flip-flops more than Kerry-Bush combined, from star to lover to homie to misogynist to player to family man to pimp to romantic to gangbanger.
But that’s the classic stuff of stardom that’s making the Dogg huge: you can’t pin him down, he makes his own rules, he takes big artistic and personal chances and he knows that everything he tries has to be gold, or at least highly entertaining. He’s been in 15 movies (though has yet to do any real acting), writes or co-writes all his songs, had his own series on MTV (cancelled), flirted with the soft porn world, picks the best producers of the day to give his albums top sound, shows up all over TV and is always
interesting and amusing, and continues to put out cutting-edge videos. Throughout it all, and throughout this album, Snoop Dogg keeps his sense of humor, and though he can’t ever admit it, we know he doesn’t take himself seriously. He laughs at us and he laughs at himself, he entertains us and even makes us think, then takes it all to the bank.
Though R & G trips all over the soul-to-rap map of the last three decades -- very effectively -- something few artists have the nerve, understanding or talent to pull off, what gives it a whole feel through several producers and even more guest artists is the sound. It’s as clean as you’re going to get, and it’s an element Snoop could and did put his personal stamp on from start to finish. From the minimalist “Drop It” to the full soul productions surrounding the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson and Parliament’s Bootsy Collins’ contributions, it’s an album noticeably striking for its consistently clear and ringing, open seductive production. It’s a textbook of focus and purpose, something Snoop Dogg doesn’t personally handle as much as he exerts his genius for picking those who best can, who are just right for him and for that particular song, and probably directing them to some degree in the day-to-day realization.
The success of this album is only going to make Snoop’s master plan to dominate the world that much easier. He’s going to challenge George Foreman with his Snoop deGrille, he’s got shoes and a clothing line coming out, serious acting in the works, reuniting with Dr. Dre, and the last I heard his kid’s Pop Warner football team that he coaches was still undefeated and heading for the Rose Bowl, or Yankee Stadium, or wherever they go. The Big Pimp has even admitted that divorcing his childhood sweetheart wife last year was a big mistake, and they’re trying to reconcile. He further confesses his grievous sin was ... cheating on her. Cheating is in Snoop Dogg’s lexicon?! Anybody who can play both sides of the coin like that and maintain street rep and put out an album this good a dozen years into it probably will take over the world.