Thursday, May 15, 2008

New tricks (and new hoes)

for an old Dogg

Snoop Dogg
Ego Trippin'
Score: 6

Big Snoopy's gettin' long in the toothy. Outlasting gangstas and canines alike, Snoop Dogg asserts his longevity on his ninth album proper. Over 21 tracks and nearly 80 minutes, he shows that, if anything, he still has lots of energy.

Ego Trippin' runs the gamut, from the house-party bass bumpin' of "Sets Up" to the chipmunk soul of "Those Gurlz"; from the piano clank of "Deez Hollywood Nights" to the back-porch acoustic strum of the Everlast-assisted "My Medicine." "Cool" is a dead ringer for Prince, all synth vamps and drum machine. Snoop and a crew of producers traffic in familiar templates, but they do it with considerable skill, making Ego Trippin' a relatively streamlined grab bag.

Rumor was, Snoop was going to sing on this one, and while his parts aren't unmistakable --- he's not trying to outdo Ne-Yo here --- he does occasionally rest his rap to play with vocoder and some studio treatments. And you can hear his naked voice behind the cabaret chorus line in "Deez Hollywood Nights."

'Course, with his smooth, blunted flow and his outsize personality, it's not like he needed any new tricks up his sleeve. But we'll take 'em. It's fun to hear his Prince, since both have such a special connection to the bedroom. Snoop decides to go the extra mile for his partner, devoting a track to ... well, it's called "Sexual Eruption."

Overall, though, it's clear Snoop hasn't gone soft (so to speak). His No. 1 concern is still Snoop D-O-Double-G, and most women don't advance beyond the status of playthings.

It seems a bit incongruous that he details his sexual exploits with the hoes, then dedicates a song or two to the wife. He even refers to her by name on "One Chance (Make It Good)": "Shante, what more can I say? / But, baby, look at us today / Your husband's a boss, the kids is cute / The king of the coast with a gang of loot."

In "Gangsta Like Me," which blares cinematic horns for drama, he tells of a fan inspired by "my nasty video," otherwise known as his Hustler film "Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle." He doesn't turn her down, but he makes sure to note, "We can do our thing, but you can't be wifey."

Did the encounter really happen? There's Snoop the person, and there's Snoop the persona. There's fact, and there's fiction. But with this album, the line is all blurry. Within the first minute of Ego Trippin', Snoop alludes to his TV show, "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood." "Neva Have 2 Worry" gives us the CliffsNotes version of his career. In "Deez Hollywood Nights," he says of Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson and Jessica Biel, "I let 'em all come to my back table / Roll up and lick the paper if they able." And that wily Leonardo Di Caprio "slide me new hoes everywhere we go."

Regardless of whether that's true, the expansion of Snoop's fame through the years has made more of his boasts plausible. His real life now competes with his larger-than-life character in the way of extravagance. Snoop has appeared in "Training Day" with Denzel Washington. He has his own line of hot dogs. On the Showtime hit "Weeds," he's played himself. (Is that even acting anymore? Their script would be tied to your reality!) He's made it as a rapper, an actor, a TV star and a porn director. The memoirs can't be far behind.

No, wait: They already came out. Nine years ago.

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