It's one of the most depressing stories in pop music. Long Beach gang member Calvin Broadus, known to the world as Snoop Doggy Dogg, tries to extricate himself from a life of petty crime and gangbangi
IT’S ONE OF THE MOST DEPRESSING STORIES IN pop music. Long Beach gang member Calvin Broadus, known to the world as Snoop Doggy Dogg, tries to extricate himself from a life of petty crime and gangbanging. He gets a lucky break, hitches up with Dr Dre, arguably the best producer in rap, helps make two of hip-hop’s benchmark albums, but finds he’s simply swapped one gang for another. He avoids prison when he’s acquitted of being an accessory to murder only to find his label, Death Row, disintegrating amid recriminations, threats and violence. Label boss Marion ‘Suge’ Knight winds up doing nine years, the label is at the centre of an ongoing FBI investigation and its best-selling artist, Tupac Shakur, is murdered.
Snoop got out while the going was good – dropping part of his name for contractual reasons – and has hitched up with Louisiana indie No Limit and its mentor, 26-year-old multimillionaire Master PP and the rest of the No Limit crew. Specialists in lowest common denominator gangsta funk, on ‘Da Game Is To Be Sold…’ they provide a selection of lacklustre beats and just about let Snoop get a few words in.
This is a record that sets itself low standards, then consistently fails to reach them. It will, of course, sell by the bucketload. Snoop’s still got the flow, the languid, laid-back delivery that signalled the arrival of one of the all-time rap greats seven years ago, but he spends most of his time here trying to turn some lumpen, misshapen backing tracks from dogg-shit to diamonds.
That he succeeds occasionally merely underlines his genius as a rap stylist. Laboured but sporadically effective cuts like ‘Hustle & Ball’ are blessed by his butter-smooth vocalising. Lyrically, however, there’s little to suggest that can still reach the pinnacles he so effortlessly conquered with ‘Lil’ Ghetto Boy’, ‘Nuthin’ But A G-Thang’ and ‘What’s My Name?’. The best material here is old (reworkings of past glories ‘Gin & Juice’ and ‘…G-Thang’) or borrowed (he rejigs NWA’s ‘Gangsta Gangsta’ with requisite malevolence). A cover of KRS-One’s ‘Love’s Gonna Get’Cha’ (‘Doggz Gonna Get Ya’) finds Snoop twisting the song’s sentiments, turning it from a desolate morality tale to an exercise in blank nihilism. He muses on the deaths of Tupac and Biggie Smalls and concludes that it pays to carry a gun.
In the world Snoop comes from, one peppered with brutality, murder and senseless, incomprehensible aggression, this may well be the only course of action: that he’s been unable to take himself somewhere else suggests the prognoses for his career, and for the future of ‘reality’ rap itself, are both desperately, unremittingly bleak.