Although hip-hop legends Ice Cube, Too $hort, E-40 and Snoop Dogg have spun the rotating wheel of collaboration for about 30 years, a full-length album from pioneering elder statesmen was an unexpected, but welcome, development. First teased in late 2020, NFT enthusiasts were treated to the group’s official debut album, ‘Bad MFs’ in June of this year, when the album was released via blockchain. ‘Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort’ reads like a fleshed-out, retooled version of that; West Coast rap fans are serviced well here.
The LP opens with the Rick Rock-produced ‘California’. Sharing the third and final verse with Cube, Too $hort’s verbal volley of explosives overpower the potent kicks and snares: “And we ain’t throwin’ no signs (oh god), just a clip and a nine / One bullet to the head, put some shit on your mind”. But despite the brilliance shown early on, ‘Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort’ is restrained by its own ambition, catering to the four emcees’ needs sparingly. ‘Have A Nice Day’ sees Snoop open with Antarctic levels of cool before a stilted chorus by Dem Jointz and Jenn Em melts any momentum the cut once had.
Dr. Dre pops up for a welcome cameo on ‘Too Big’ and mid-album treasure ‘I Got Pull’ is nothing short of G-Funk perfection. With a tempered bassline and liquid synths reminiscent of DJ Quik’s ‘Rhythm-al-ism’ and Warren G’s ‘Regulate… The G Funk Era’, highlight ‘I Got Pull’ beams listeners into a palm tree-covered, westside wanderlust as E-40 spits: “Wake up man, wake up / 40 here with some brand-new game / Like I said when I’m all up in her brain / She think I’m a cloud, want me to make it rain”.
Awkwardly, ‘Up & Down’ is an unworthy successor. The attempted “thug romance” number sees our four leads concoct a sour and repetitive snooze-fest. “Nipples pokin’ out like missiles (missiles) / When I whisper in her ear / she get tickled”, rapped by E-40 comes across as juvenile. The record teeters on self-parody with ‘How Many’, a creatively skint club record with sparse replay value. As a result, listeners may cast their minds back to $hort’s blazing club anthem ‘Blow the Whistle’, Cube’s era-defining ‘Death Certificate’ LP, Snoop’s funk-driven ‘Doggystyle’ and E-40’s thug autobiography ‘In a Major Way’ for refreshment.
‘Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort’ isn’t completely devoid of praise; having to accommodate four distinct styles and personalities is no simple task. But while there are moments of brilliance, it’s clear there are too many chefs in the kitchen.
• Release Date: December 9, 2022
•Record label: Mount Westmore LLC / MNRK Music Group