Criticizing a Snoop Dogg album is something akin to reviewing a Kevin Bacon performance – essentially pointless. For more than a decade, they’ve been doing what they do, and at this point, who are we to say they can’t coast? Snoop Dogg hasn’t changed much of anything since Doggystyle, also never nearing those heights again. It’s easy to bitterly say, “Hey, Katy Perry,” but think back to the way those Doggystyle beats hit – he’s always wanted radio play. Despite the hate they may have been met with, the Pharrell and T-Pain singles were just a natural evolution of Snoop’s perpetual laziness. That’s not to criticize, either: that’s just Snoop; by now you know damn well what you’re getting.
This essentially worked until last year’s Malice n Wonderland, not because the album was Doggystyle Pt. 10, that was expected, but because Snoop finally sounded spent. He collected some tight beats as always, but snoozed all over them, dropping in for half-hearted quips after Soulja Boy, complete with an autotuned chorus and a beat that sounded fit for the younger performer’s album. Worse for Snoop, it lent credence to the Dre mythos: the man’s produced 9 (see: nine) beats across Snoop’s last 9 (repeating numbers, give the Illuminati theorists a moment) albums, including (it was thought) album highlight “I Wanna Rock.” Snoop puts out a wack album, but of course the Dre track still hits. Turns out Dre just mixed it, but damage done.
So Snoop dreamed up Doggumentary, initially planned as a sequel to Doggystyle, likely altered when someone kindly told Snoop that was a terrible idea. Nonetheless, he was hyping the album by even suggesting such a thing. He swore refocused devotion, yadda yadda – how’d it actually turn out? Certainly better than Malice but Snoop is lucky as hell he didn’t go with the whole sequel idea.
It’s near all standards, and it’s the moments that dare to venture beyond that which really resonate. The Bootsy Collins intro – “Toyz n da Hood” – is as dumb as you’d expect, “The Way Life Used to Be” exemplifies that portion of every Snoop album save one: this is fine, but it sounded better on Doggystyle. Battlecat just can’t match Doc in his prime, and his attempt pales (he comes much closer on “Wonder What It Do,” among the album’s funkiest standouts). “My Own Way” is better, with the seemingly nonexistent Mr. Porter killing the beat – he’s been great for years, we just keep forgetting. “My Fuckin’ House” is as clumsy and noisy as it sounds, “I Don’t Need No Bitch” is groovy but Snoop’s boss player persona, speaking as a married man, has grown far too tired. The next two are the singles, “Platinum” and “Boom,” featuring R. Kelly and T-Pain respectively: yes, they’re both bad. After the dregs, Porter comes back around for “We Rest in Cali,” and the Detroit producer cranks out what’s probably the album’s best West Coast cut. “Gangbang Rookie” is pretty smooth, a better imagining of “That’s the Homie,” although rookie MC Pilot probably won’t be getting much attention (hint: he drops a poor verse). “The Weed iz Mine” features newfound buddy Wiz Khalifa. It’s too much of a weed anthem for even a stoner and amounts to little more than a pothead movie compressed into an mp3 (and, hey, Wiz and Snoop are making one of those). “Wet” is the most confusingly bad track found here – it seems like Snoop in experimental mode (if you’re being fair, there is that side to him), so maybe give it a few months, but for now it’s just baffling. On that note, the Gorillaz-featuring-and- produced “Sumthin Like This Night” is perhaps the most brilliant track on the album, its delirious groove feels something like being caught in a back-and-forth fast forward and rewind on a Ferris wheel… just trust us, you’ll like it. Following this, the album closes with the other two talked about collaborations – and it’s hard to say which is more surprising. Willie Nelson comes around to acoustic the album out on “Superman,” but it’s a small thing, and Snoop and he have a mutual interest, if you hadn’t heard.
Then Kanye West crashes in. With his Dark Twisted Fantasy musically, if not lyrically, crushing everything in recent memory, West’s mere presence overpowers Snoop. “Eyes Closed” leaked some time ago, then it was announced it’d be reworked for this album. Rechristened, of course, “Eyez Closed,” the beat serves its original purpose: to frame West’s verse perfectly. Snoop, on the other hand, sounds out of place on the emotional beat. To no surprise, the album insists on continuing past this closing point, dumping out one terrible and two inoffensive but unmemorable tracks. It’s an oddity of an album: for all those who wrote Snoop off following the last run, there’s some real goodness to be found here. Nonetheless, this album is a veritable mess. That said, it’s a relatively likeable one: it’s not every day that a record this lazy achieves such delirious highs. It has to be said: only from Snoop Dogg.