Every since his breakout performance on the Deep Cover Soundtrack and his overwhelming contribution to the classic LP “The Chronic” by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg has been a consistent emcee who has evolved to superstar status. While some thought he fell off when he released “The Doggfather” and “The Game Is To Be Sold Not To Be Told”, he bounced back with his albums “Top Dogg” and “The Last Meal”. He teamed up with The Neptunes and had some hits from his album “Paid The Cost To Be The Boss”. From movies and guest appearances, Snoop Dogg has truly evolved and changed with the times while maintaining his pimp persona. Recently, he has been trying to maintain the formula for hit singles. Many of his fans have remained faithful to this very day. He started out with the hardcore West Coast gangsta sound of “Nuthin But A G Thang” and has changed to hit singles like “Beautiful”. At the tail end of 2004, Snoop Dogg released his latest LP “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece”. Like “The Chronic”, “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” is deeply rooted in melody and R&B styles. Unlike “The Chronic”, the hardcore, weed smoking, gun-toting element is missing along with production by Dr. Dre. The pimped out style does remain and is accentuated by the glossy sound. While “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” is not a true masterpiece, it is a well-constructed and well-produced album which displays a matured Snoop.
In every Snoop Dogg album, there are some songs that instantly satisfy listeners. The “Intro” track, “I Love To Give You Light” is the best Snoop Dogg intro track since the “Doggystyle” LP. Produced by Alchemist, the gospel-sounding loop gives the LP a soulful starting point. Over handclaps, Snoop rhymes with a newfound energy and feeling of enlightenment as if he just caught the Holy Ghost. “The Bidness” is an excellent track that consistently changes beat throughout the song. Snoop handles the changes extremely well. “Oh No” is a hard-hitting duet with 50 Cent that gives the LP a much needed sinister sound and angry energy. The final track “No Thang On Me” is a cover from Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Superfly” soundtrack. Produced by Hi-Tek, “No Thang On Me” features Snoop singing once again. The song works because of the pimped-out style mixed with the social awareness originally inspired by music of “Superfly”. Snoop sings, “…I’m so glad I got my own / So glad that I can see / My life’s a natural high…” In this track, the smoked-out emcee has sobered up and has found peace. Bootsy Collins makes a funky appearance, giving the song a seal of approval.
There are also some unlikely tracks that end up working well. The concept of The Bee Gees performing on a Snoop Dogg album seems just wrong but “Ups & Downs” actually works. The Bee Gees do not dominate the track and Snoop can add his signature style. “Step Yo Game Up” featuring Lil Jon and Trina is another song that surprisingly works well. While the style of the song is somewhat different for Snoop, he is quite comfortable with the theme and sentiments of the song. Even listeners who do not like Lil Jon may be able to appreciate this song.
The Neptunes play an important role on the LP. While they only produce a handful of tracks, their involvement is generally positive with only a few detours. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is the first single that is getting major airplay on both radio and TV. The slow/mid-tempo beat with the electronic drum-track give the song an old-school sound. Pharrell, who usually sings the hook, performs the first verse instead. Still, Snoop steals the show with his flow, voice, and style: "...I can't fake it, just break it, and when I take it / See I specialize in making all the girls get naked / So bring your friends, all of y'all come inside / We got a world premiere right here, now get live! / So don't change the dizzle, turn it up a little / I got a living room full of fine dime brizzles / Waiting on the Pizzle, the Dizzle and the Shizzle / G's to the bizzack, now ladies here we gizzo..." Even though Juvenile and Lil Wayne (of Cash Money Records) started using the phrase, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” is another addition to the list of Snoop’s hits. “Perfect” (featuring Charlie Wilson) is a blatant attempt at making another hit song like “Beautiful”. Snoop even goes as far as calling the track “Beautiful Part 2”. The accessible Neptunes-produced beat sounds extremely similar to “Beautiful”. The sung hook is also extremely catchy and commercial. The romantic side of Snoop comes out again as he uses his deep voice to deliver his rhymes. This is a huge difference since the days of “B*tches Ain’t Sh*t”. Some of the Neptunes produced songs are attempts at being hit records. Unfortunately, they end up being filler tracks. “Signs” featuring Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson is truly annoying. When Timberlake sings “You better don't f*ck wit me!” in the hook, it just does not sound believable. How can you truly be a hardcore Gangsta emcee and have Justin Timberlake sing on the song? “Signs” is extremely commercial and will become a track where older fans will hit the skip button (especially if radio and TV plays it to death). “Let’s Get Blown” is not much better with the upbeat and radio-friendly production. Pharrell Williams & Vanessa Marquez handle the falsetto hook. By this point, the formula is being overused and becomes somewhat tiresome. The Neptunes redeem themselves with the smoke-loving “Pass It Pass It”.
Every Snoop Dogg album has filler and “R&G” is no exception. While Bootsy Collins does a nice little ad-lib on “Can I Get A Flicc Witchu”, the song’s concept is just annoying and slightly disrupts the flow of the LP. The song is about how people love his work and always ask him to be in a photograph. “Girl Like U” featuring Nelly is another commercial sounding track that is a blatant attempt at making a hit song. “Snoop D.O. Double G” is another addition to the endless songs that use his name in the hook. While the hooks are catchy, the formula becomes slightly boring and the themes do not hold as much weight as other songs.
While earlier Snoop Dogg albums were considered hardcore gangsta rap, his recent LPs show a softer side and many contradictions to his persona even though the LPs have some tracks with guns and pimps. On tracks like “Perfect” and “Girl Like U”, he is rapping about romance and loving women while he is slapping women and calling them “Hoes” and “B*tches” on “Can’t Control Yo Hoe”. Another contradiction is about marijuana. He was the one who brought the “chronic” to the sessions for Dr. Dre’s classic LP. The song “Pass It Pass It” is about smoking weed while “No Thing On Me” has sentiments about the positive aspects of sobriety. These contradictions are embedded in every human being but they give the LP an uneven quality within the otherwise tight tracks.
Snoop Dogg has come a very long way since the days of “The Chronic” and “Doggystyle”. His latest effort, “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” shows a softer side to the emcee and a blatant attempt at making hit records. For “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece”, Snoop pulled out all of the stops to make this accessible for the radio and TV. He has production by The Neptunes, vocal collaborations with Pharrell, a song with 50 Cent, a song with Lil Jon, a song with Nelly, and even a song with Justin Timberlake. The production has a glossy and expensive sound and the LP is filled with R&B hooks. The days of Snoop and The Dogg Pound are over and done. Dr. Dre is sorely missed from the production too. While The Neptunes production is generally exciting, the chemistry of Dr. Dre and Snoop cannot be matched with a different producer. As an LP, “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” is an interesting and tight effort that may win some new fans but may disappoint the hardcore fans from the old days. “R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece” may not be a masterpiece but it is strong enough to entertain and solid enough to be appreciated.