Bush (to be released May 12, 2015)
Dr. Dre told us long ago that “things just ain’t the same for gangstas.”
Sometimes that’s hard for crusty rap aficionados to accept. Me included.
If the first rap album you purchased was recorded by Drake, first, I’m sorry for your misfortune, and second, you probably only know Snoop Dogg as your kindly weed-smoking uncle — the guy who dances without moving his knees and whose manicure looks better than your mom’s.
But real heads know Calvin Broadus as one of the fiercest West Coast lyricists in the early 1990s, whose Doggystyle debut was one of the most anticipated recordings of the era. And even with all the hype, it exceeded expectations.
Snoop’s more known for his pop culture antics than microphone presence these days. Sure, he’ll give us a decent 16 bars every now and then, but it doesn’t seem to be a priority.
That’s the story of Snoop’s 13th album Bush. If you’re in this to hear Snoop spit like it’s 1993, go dig crates for his old stuff.
But trust, he still entertains listeners in a major way.
Remember Snoop Dogg’s 2007 hit “Sensual Seduction/Sexual Eruption?” Well, Bush is an album filled with that sort of off-kilter crooning, but thanks to lead producer Pharrell Williams, it works so much better than you’d expect.
First single “Peaches N Cream” proves that Snoop is still that P.I.M.P. Snoop gets some much needed vocal assistance from Uncle Charlie Wilson, who is so ever-present that this might as well be a duets album. It’s not about lyrical gymnastics, it’s about riding the beat like a prize Chevy.
Snoop awkwardly maneuvers through the percussions of “Edibles” and the funky guitar licks of “Awake,” fully aware that his Rick James act won’t land him a Grammy. But the energy of the former and funk of the latter are so infectious that you won’t mind one bit. I mean, “R U A Freak” is the kind of track made for summers at the skating rink, if Snoop wasn’t talking about freaks n’ stuff.
But Bush isn’t all about weed clouds and women.
Well, actually, yes it is. Snoop just drops some fun anecdotes along the way.
On “Run Away,” Uncle Snoop and Gwen Stefani realize that “the world is getting ugly” and flee from life’s troubles — it’s the type of escapism that’s the theme of the whole album. “California Roll” serves as a love letter to LA, with Stevie Wonder’s harmonica floating in the summer breeze.
And for those of you aching for quality hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar delivers his usual standout verse on “I’m Ya Dogg.” Poor Rick Rawse is there too but is rendered an afterthought. The wily veteran Snoop was wise enough to lay back and let the young’ns shine.
Laying back is what Snoop does best on Bush. His days of going toe-to-toe with rap’s elite have passed, clearly doesn’t have anything to prove. Bush instead seems to have been molded in the image of Pharrell’s 2014 G I R L: It’s smooth, lighthearted and maddeningly addictive.
It’s certainly no Doggystyle but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good time.
Best tracks: “California Roll,” “I’m Ya Dogg,” “Peaches N Cream”
4 stars out of 5