Albums That Raised Me: Snoop Dogg ‘R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece’
Calvin Broadus Jr., aka Snoop Dogg, is more than a legend. Biggie once rhymed, “The way Salt shoops and how they sell records like Snoop.” Yes, Biggie Smalls gave Snoop props, who at the time was celebrating the success of his quadruple platinum debut album, Doggystyle. I was only four years old when that album dropped, and it destroyed the New York stranglehold on hip-hop. Snoop changed the game, which revolved around stop-and-go flows, bars on bars, and fast-paced lyricism. New York rappers were in a rush to cram as many lines into each bar as possible, until Snoop came and slowed things down.
The G-Funk sound, which was perfected by Dr. Dre, assisted Snoop’s smooth and lazy flow. He allowed the beat to breathe, and would say more with less; allowing his silence to speak as loudly as his voice. “May I kick a little something for the G’s, and make a few ends as I breeze through?” It was smooth, and the pauses in-between words created a flow that stressed comfortability instead of competition. In the end, it was the inner city competition that destroyed NY rap, but that’s another story for another time. I couldn’t grasp the true importance of Doggystyle until I was much older. So, it was another Snoop album that captured me first; R&G (Rhythm and Gangsta): The Masterpiece.
In 2002, Snoop connected with Pharrell and created “Beautiful.” The single thrust Snoop back into the stratosphere of commercial success, and the Doggfather attributed his resurgence to Pharrell. The two decided to stick together, and Snoop’s next album was released two years later by the now defunct Star Trak Records. It’s hard to mention R&G without thinking about “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” The tongue clicks and video game synths are instantly recognizable worldwide. In fact, I bet you just started making the beat in your head just by reading that sentence. “Drop It Like It’s Hot” was a dope record, but the entire album has so much more to offer.
“Ups and Downs” is an interpolation of “Love You Inside Out,” a classic Bee Gees record from the late ’70s. Produced by Warryn Campbell, “Ups and Downs” is a funky yet contemplative track that reminds us that the feelings of both pain and pleasure are fleeting. The concept is just as relevant today as it was in 2004. “Let’s Get Blown” is another masterpiece on Snoop’s seventh studio album. The Neptunes lace a bodacious instrumental that is perfect for laid-back two-stepping or shameless head bopping. It’s interesting to hear Pharrell and Co. mix the G-Funk sound of Dr. Dre with a more pop-soul style.
“Girl Like U” featuring Nelly is produced by L.T. Hutton, a crony from Snoop’s Death Row days. The Doggfather and Pimp Juice trade bars over the glimmering piano plucks, and offer a genuine sounding song for the ladies that trades vulgarity as well as sexual prowess for smooth talking and admiration. “Signs” featuring Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson employs the same method; Snoop buries his gangsta persona and instead shines as a trendsetting funkmaster.
When Snoop does decide to go gangsta, it doesn’t sound as natural as it did on his albums prior. For instance, “Oh No” featuring 50 Cent should have been a banger. It’s produced by Ron Browz (Ether boy himself), and 50 was the hottest rapper in the game at the time. I do enjoy “Oh No,” but I expected so much more from this collaboration. “Bang Out” is the only track that successfully captures the gangsta vibe that Snoop usually exudes easily.
While R&G does feature tracks that are a complete miss, such as “Fresh Pair of Panties On,” “Step Yo Game Up,” and “Can U Control Yo Hoe,” overall the album is thematically cohesive and imaginative. Yes, Snoop has better albums in his vault, but this is the first full-length project by Snoop that I actually purchased and digested. It introduced my musical palette to new sounds, bridging pop and funk with hip-hop and soul, and for the first time in my life, I was curious about producing. That is why R&G is an album that raised me.