Snoop Dogg : Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$

...a fairly sophisticated pop record, albeit one that starts with the sound of someone being shot...

It’s ten years now since Snoop Dogg entered what he calls ‘the game’, and the anniversary affords a good opportunity to see just how well he’s mastered that game’s rules. On the one hand, he’s not dead like his contemporaries Tupac and BIG, or like Suge Knight spent a good while in prison. On the other, he’s not re-launched anywhere near as successfully as Dr Dre. If the game hadn’t beaten him, the last five years had at least postponed his part in it, due to bad records.

‘Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$’ changes all that in one swoop, however hard it’s title may be to type. Successful in other areas of self-promotion (from clothing lines to porn concessions, to his own car imprint, the Cadillac Snoop DeVille) he may well be, but Snoop‘s records have left him looking a little like Ozzy Osbourne – a hard-working and much-loved figure, but who’s latest album might be worth staying away from. Here finally, Snoop has the production muscle (Neptunes, Just Blaze) and impressive guests (Jay-Z, Ludacris and Redman) to add some threat to the Godfather status he’s been claiming since 1996.

Hardcore as some of its themes may be, this is a fairly sophisticated pop record, albeit one that starts with the sound of someone being shot. Songs about the playa lifestyle, about girls (the brilliant ‘Lollipop’, the one with Jay-Z on it), even a love song to the missus (‘I Believe In You’) sit slightly incongrously side by side on this compendium of gangsta standbys, and most importantly do so with great hooks. Whether it’s that he’s cut down on his weed intake – it barely gets a mention, which is a first for a Snoop album – but this is an incrdibly sharp return.

A period piece for playas with a modern soundtrack, ultimately ‘Paid…’ is an excellent showcase for Snoop‘s great charm. “I’m on a mission/I leave my residence,” he says on ‘Paper’d Up’. “Thinking about how to make dead presidents.” For a long time he’s talked the talk – now it’s a great pleasure to see Snoop Dogg again taking that walk.

John Robinson