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A Snoop Dogg Primer

On April 23, 2018

In May, members of Vinyl Me, Please Rap & Hip Hop will receive an exclusive 25th anniversary pressing of Snoop Doggy Dogg's landmark debut, Doggystyle. A classic in G-funk, it's a timeless album that features hits that can still rock a party in 2018 ("Gin and Juice" and "Who Am I (What's My Name)" chief among them). The first vinyl reissue in the states since the early '00s, this 25th anniversary edition comes on brown and mint splattered vinyl, a heavyweight tip-on jacket, and newly mastered for vinyl from the original analog reels by Chris Doremus at Penguin Recording. This is a must-own for rap fans. For the first time, you can sign up for just Vinyl Me, Please Rap & Hip-Hop which you can do right here.

Here, we give you a primer for going deeper into Snoop’s catalog, from the Death Row albums, to the No Limit albums, to his commercial comeback thanks to Pharrell, we break down his essential releases. Snoop's got a deep catalog full of albums stretching the limit of a CD's length, so we make it easy for where to go next.

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Tha Doggfather (1996)

This record tends to get shunned for coming on the heels of Doggystyle, two years after the insatiable demand reached a fever pitch off Snoop’s debut. The outside world spills in a bit more: Snoop beat his murder charge, Death Row’s in mid-fallout, and the consequences of Snoop’s celebrity have him considering the power he holds. There’s plenty to critique on Tha Doggfather: with Dre out of the picture for the moment, the production is spotty throughout, showcasing the worse sides of late-’90s beats that come off corny. And like all Snoop albums—but most albums in the '90s—the bloat weighs on you. But at its best, Snoop elevates his execution a bit while posturing himself further into veteran status as a young OG. And this time around, Tha Dogg Pound only show up when necessary, not clouding all the focus away from what Snoop has to deliver. A simple tracklist trim would’ve had this album in much better standing; for two years of working, it’s an admirable effort that deserves another examination.

No Limit Top Dogg (1999)

Most folks write the Snoop/No Limit era off as a series of missteps in the catalog, but No Limit Top Dogg deserves reconsideration as well. After the Death Row smoke cleared, Snoop sounded far more rejuvenated on here, trying new subtleties in small ways while reuniting with Dr. Dre to bring the old team back together. Dre and DJ Quik came through production-wise, saving what would otherwise be another long journey down the LBC. Sure, Master P was heavy-handed with the senseless A&Ring that threw the whole vibe off; I never knew “Down 4 My Niggas” was on a Snoop album to begin with, and it’s still a slap! For what it’s worth, there are underrated gems on here if you’re willing to trek through familiar ground.

Tha Last Meal (2000)

The final Snoop/No Limit album’s a good example of what happens when Snoop retains his creative control without too much interference from Master P. You know what subject matter you’re getting into by now, but Tha Last Meal features a Snoop Dogg rediscovering his own sound while slowly foreshadowing his steps into stranger territory. Timbaland and Scott Storch show up to age the G-funk into the new millennium, and the extensive features from KoKane serve their purpose without being overbearing. It’s smooth, solid work serving as a primer for a return to glory as Snoop hits his pop stride.

Paid Tha Cost to Be Da Bo$$ (2002)

This is arguably the second-best Snoop Effort in the catalog because it meshes what all its post-Doggystyle forefathers have left underdone: innovation, improvement, consistency. And we have the Neptunes to thank: Pharrell and Chad’s presence ages Snoop Dogg into the true OG he is, blending new wave pop into the funk influences to create one of the smoothest rides yet. The change of surroundings made for breakout potential, Snoop’s harder edges reserved for when they’re necessary, making every pimpish moment more sinister and believable. When he’s not breaking someone down, he sounds softer and genuinely happy to be. Not to mention amazing production from Just Blaze and Hi-Tek, forcing Snoop into a boom-bap zone to broaden his horizons with fantastic results. This is grown gangsta shit, an effort overdue to reinvigorate Snoop’s persona and bring fresh new life to the same old songs.

R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (2004)

R&G is where the Snoop trajectory gets a little confusing: in the mid-2000s, his pop forays took him to uncharted territory compared to his anthems a decade prior, but the loaded CD formula became too unpredictable. In this case study, the Neptunes score the album’s two big hits—“Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Let’s Get Blown”—but the other songs kinda sound like Neptunes clones even when they’re not behind the boards. The knockoffs sound downright clumsy, like the whole piece’s sonically confused about what album it wants to be. You’ll get a fire Justin Timberlake single, and an outro track with Bootsy Collins serenading the soul; you’ll also get a 50 Cent feature that doesn’t quite work, and a Lil Jon and Trina joint that’s just atrocious. When Snoop Dogg albums average around 77 minutes per disc, you can file their contents under Hits, Coulda Been Hits, Misses, and Nah. Still, I suggest you stick around for the former two because it’s a Snoop album: they exist.

Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006)

Ask most folks who’ve been down for two decades plus, and Tha Blue Carpet Treatment is likely the go-to choice for post-’90s Snoop albums. This time, the excess is far more enjoyable: the singles go hard, the experimental strides pay off dividends, and Snoop’s rapping as hungry as he was when he stepped in under Dre’s tutelage. Speaking of which, Dre’s contributions are fantastic: “Boss Life,” “Round Here,” and “Imagine” are all required reading. Blue Carpet also features some of the best autobiographical perspective Snoop’s had in a while, paralleled by indulgence in the cartoonish side of his father figure/football coach progression. Snoop has a record about the youth football league he coaches, and threatens a thirsty parent to check his rap sheet before getting the team to mob on said thirsty parent. Since Snoop steps all the way up to the plate with his signature grace, you’re eager to take the rest in stride.

Snoopzilla + Dâm-Funk: 7 Days of Funk (2013)

This lean effort came out on Stones Throw, and serves to whet the appetite for Snoop Dogg (under Snoopzilla) over some throwback waves that find him channeling his predecessors more directly. Dâm-Funk builds a small universe around heavier drums and airy P-funk synths for that warped '80s feeling, updated just enough for the moment without spoiling the source material. The pace lags along slower, and Snoop’s reserved energy lets the maturation of the OG show; not too gangsta, not too pimpish, but a happy medium for an exercise in concentrated nostalgia. Never cheesy, but never taking itself overly serious, it’s a nice piece in dialogue with the Bootsy Collins and George Clinton(s) that paved the way for tha Doggfather. Treat it like a sidestep out of the canon, but a heavily-enjoya

Bush (2015)

Fresh outta the Snoop Lion phase—one that ended in excommunication from Rastafarianism—leave it to the Neptunes to bring Snoop back down to Earth again. This time, Bush turns the disco/funk nostalgia on high and lets the production lead the way; but Snoop’s no mere passenger, he’s reflexive in when he chooses to coast along and when he assumes control of the voyage. He waxes poetic only when it’s necessary, opting to sing and harmonize far more than his dabbling in previous efforts. The Pharrell magic touch shines harder in some spots than others, but it’s an overall enjoyable effort that’ll surprise you if you thought the Dogg left all his tricks in decades past. It’s the power of reinvention and homage that’s given Snoop so many opportunities to hit refresh in charismatic ways; throw Bush on in the appropriate Summertime setting and breathe easy.

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Michael Penn II

Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.

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