It’s amazing how many contemporary rappers have launched entire careers based solely on their ability to imitate Snoop Dogg. Chingy, Petey Pablo and Cam’ron all owe most of their income to Snoop and his lugubrious flow. What’s even more influential is the ease with which he transitions between his charming persona in the cineplex and the still wily, sinister Long Beach gangster from his youth.
Snoop has Crip-walked his way into every American household. He’s not just a first-ballot rap hall-of-famer; he might be one of the most important pop icons of the past 10 years.
And maybe, just like the other heroes of the past, Snoop Dogg can release an album where he does nothing unexpected, nothing unheard of, and everything can still come out appealing. R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece is calm, approachable and it just plain works. Teamed with Pharell Williams and the Neptunes on a handful of the album’s tracks, Snoop sounds butter-smooth, confident and just as intriguing as he did on Doggystyle.
“Let’s Get Blown,” and the lead single “Drop It Like It’s Hot” are packed with enough of the Doggfather’s dark magnetism and the Neptunes’ pearl-handled production that Mormons might start hanging Crip bandanas from their pockets. Don’t let the wink fool you completely, though. Just like that, he barks out quiet storms of threats and warnings. On “Can I Get A Flicc Withchu,” he gets more than a little peeved at those mindless fans who might forget his authentically rough past. He sure as hell ain’t Huggy Bear all the time.
Of course there are a few missteps, “Fresh Pair of Panties” most notably, where he shows his age, letting the beat run on too long and falling back into a predictable “izzle”-fest. R&G is a relatively new convention: hip-hop easy listening. It’s classy, self-assured, and by all means a veteran record. In a genre that values youth and energy above almost all else, the album is worn-in but not yet weathered.
Snoop Dogg is becoming quite a bit like Frank Sinatra in his later years. He’s more like the ringmaster than the showstopper, and when he brings in the right people, the disc sounds a lot like the Rat Pack resurrected. Hey, Frank ran with the mob, Snoop is a dyed-in-the-wool gangbanger, Pharrell gets to be Dean Martin, Chad Hugo as Joey Bishop, toss in Justin Timberlake, who guests on “Signs,” as Peter Lawford and the album is one thugged-out “Ocean’s Eleven.”
R&G might be glossy, but who’s to say Snoop couldn’t go big-budget? It’s so irresistible that when Snoop croons, “Pharrell got the babyface and Snoop got the whip appeal, so name the place,” even Frank and the boys would be jealous.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars