When [a]Snoop Dogg[/a] released his [B]'Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told'[/B] album last autumn, more than just the [B]Doggy[/B] part of his name was missing....
Surprising it is, then, that the follow-up boasts a stout rejuvenation of the G and explicit rejoinder of Snoop's [I]sang-froid [/I]rapping. More surprising still, it's largely produced by No Limit Recordings' Master P (assisted by old Snoop compadres Dr Dre and DJ Quik), the man who played no small part in making 'Da Game...' so dire. This time, though, the contrived pugnacity and threadbare beats are gone, and the silken, sumptuous flow of yore is back, threading deluxe soul and full-bodied grooves through tracks like the shapely 'Trust Me' and nimble-footed '6 Bedtime Stories'. Though with periodic intermissions for kennel-rattling gunfire and swearing, obviously.
Snoop views 'Top Dogg' as a companion piece to his 'Doggystyle' debut. While it's not quite in that league, in terms of devil-may-care fortitude he's come close. The roll call of guests is inevitably long - headed by Warren G and Xzibit - but it's the cool drawl of Snoop himself which captivates, unveiling tales of love, thuggery, surviving and succeeding in the wild west.
Of the guests, Raphael Saadiq provides the most beneficial contribution. Saadiq's role on 'Somethin' Bout Yo Business' has Snoop edging deeper into soul than ever before. It's far too masterful and unfeigned to write off as a wimp-out - ah, but the sheer cheese of 'I Love My Momma' surely is not. Still, it isn't long before he's upping the bass once more, aboard the sultry skank of 'B Please' and party-starting 'Ghetto Symphony'.
With rhythmic bite matched by a soporific yet insidiously potent bark, this qualifies as a certifiable return to form. All pulled off without the aid of a hyperbole-generating impending court case, too.
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