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Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Boss
Peter Murphy, 05 Dec 2002
First off, a pledge of allegiance to the one and only Dee Oh Double Gee – I could listen to the guy recite The Celestine Prophesy and still find some merit in it. When most MCs of his vintage willed themselves to power with rapid-spitfire delivery, staccato-ing out those consonants like bullets from a Gatlin gun, Snoop went the other way. His flow drips molasses. He’s Deputy Dogg with a bone, chawing down on every vowel until it has yielded the marrow of its meaning. I for one was glad to see him recover from the Doggfather doldrums of the mid ’90s: his cameos on Dre’s 2000 comeback album were alone worth the price of admission.
Hark though – the bad news is Dre didn’t preside over this collection. The good news is that Snoop can cut it well enough solo (notwithstanding over a dozen walk-ons from the likes of Redman, Jay Z, Nate Dogg, Ludacris, Traci Nelson and more). He always played on black mythic archetypes, a superfly Stagger Lee Van Cleef arching an eyebrow through the bomber joint fog and deadpanning some classic piece of doggerel out the side of his mouth. And here, the beats are the best since the Murder Was The Case soundtrack. He may have appropriated Iceberg Slim’s pimp roll, but you also figure he’s read Mingus’s Beneath The Underdog and absorbed some of the musical notes alongside the whoremongering tips.
So, a whole bunch of tracks on this album seem to eavesdrop on some block party thrown by the NPG when Prince is away; the mix is low-slung, with loadsa rump-a-pump-pump sub-bass for the ladeez. Although, ever the opportunist, Snoop can’t resist getting in on that six-pack slurpy R’n’B action currently making big bucks for nellies like Usher. On that level, I’m not crazy about the Bling Crosby stuff that dominates much of the first third of this album (‘I Believe In You’, ‘Beautiful’), a sort of lover’s rock for the sportswear generation.
But if you get past that, check out the wicked ‘Paper’d Up’ which seems to shadow Dre’s excellent Moroccan Morricone manoeuvres on Truth Hurts’ brilliant ‘Addictive’. Likewise, ‘Boss Playa’ is a flesh-pink soft porn soundtrack topped off with some prime trash talk back-and-forth between the Canine American and his stable of bitches: “Will you steal for me?” “Yes I will.” “Will you kill for me?” “Yes I will.” “Would you lie to me?” “Never.” “Would you die for me?” “Whatever.” Ditto the triple-X T&A club fantasies of ‘Hour Glass’.
Musically, Snoop now cleaves to the collage burlesques of Missy E and Outkast – ‘Batman & Robin’ riffs on Bruce Wayne’s 12 bar blues over a great lumbering obese backbeat spilling potato chips and taco sauce down its shirt front. It also features the album’s best walk-on part, courtesy of Lady of Rage.
On the downside, Snoop Dogg is as guilty as the next ice-man of wasting time singing the praises of his jeweller/tailor/accountant, but even so, you suspect it’s because he can remember all too clearly what the teeth of the poverty trap feel like. Here, that old tinker’s brag “I could buy and sell ya” also makes sense when applied to (relatively) new black money.
Only a crackpot could suggest that this is anything like the Dogg’s finest hour, but for all of that, he’s fun to be around.