Snoop Dogg [Priority]


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Snoop Dogg - Doggumentary

Bryan Gerhart discusses tracks from Snoop Dogg's latest album.

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Anybody who thinks that Snoop has "sold out" has got it all wrong. On his first solo single he proudly declared that he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind, a nearly-official credo he's lived by ever since. Sure, a GPS navigation system and duet with Katy Perry might be as far from the streets as you can get, but that doesn't matter - he's still making bank. These days, Snoop Dogg is a celebrity first and a rapper second (or maybe third or fourth), but in any case, we can't say he didn't warn us.

Doggumentary is Snoop's 11th full length - sure, there have been plenty of fine moments since his brilliant debut, but no album he's released since has come close to matching his first. Doggystyle set a bar so high that even the Boss Dogg himself doesn't seem interested in trying to top it, but he'll be damned if he lets you forget his early flair. From Doggumentary's opener "Toyz N Da Hood" on, the G-Funk sound Snoop helped perfect is hinted at, yet never committed to.

Instead, Snoop Dogg plays a chameleon, latching onto whatever seems to work in hip-hop today. He raps over beats by Kanye West, Lex Luger (Waka Flocka's resident producer) and Scott Storch, among others, but even his familiar drawl isn't enough to command the songs as his own. Too often it feels like the Doggfather is the guest rather than the host. When he does try to tap into the style of production that defined his earliest work it feels half-hearted.

Maybe that's not anyone's fault; maybe G-Funk was specific to a bygone era and just doesn't work in the 21st century. But if that's the case, Snoop should be pushing towards cementing a new signature sound rather than trying to recreate his own past or lazily accepting what's already out there. "Gangbang Rookie" distinguishes itself as a highlight because the rapper balances musical homage with slight progression, avoiding both the caricature and camouflage that marks the rest of the release.

It doesn't help that the guest list here is straight-up ridiculous, featuring everyone from Kobe Bryant to Willie Nelson, reinforcing the idea that Snoop's Rolodex might be more intriguing than his rhymes. Like it or not, Doggumentary is the perfect summation of Snoop in 2011.

Parliament-Funkadelic's Bootsy Collins makes an appearance on the first track, delivering the cliche wisdom that "You may never get a second chance to make a first impression." This isn't Snoop's issue: His first impression was fantastic. It's his 11th impression that could use some work.

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