Artist: Snoop Dogg
Label: Doggystyle Records / i am OTHER Entertainment, LLC / Columbia Records / Sony Music Entertainment
Release Date: May 8, 2015
During the CES Expo, held this past January in Las Vegas, Snoop Dogg unveiled the title of his new album, simply called, BUSH. The album is produced entirely by Pharrell Williams, with some assistance from his Neptunes partner, the understated Chad Hugo, along with a touch of other renowned musician’s fingerprints on it as well. If you had expected a return to the Doggfather’s early Gangsta Rap form, you will be sorely disappointed. This album is the exact sonical antithesis of Doggystyle. However, if you approach the album with an open mind you will be pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is.
BUSH begins with “California Roll” a light and breezy ode to Snoop’s home state. The title of the song is a double entendre referring both to the way people operate/maneuver in California and of course the marijuana that they roll there. The song opens with Pharrell crooning, “Baby you could be a movie star, hey (in Los Angeles)/ Get yourself a medical card, yeah (in Los Angeles)/ Cause that’s how California rolls/ They do the fingers like Redd Foxx (in Los Angeles)/ You can make it on a light blue box, yeah (in Los Angeles)/ Cause that’s how California rolls, yeah.” The depth of these lyrics are easily overlooked but all at once refers to the bright lights of Hollywood, the high life of a state with legalized medical marijuana and the notorious gang culture of communities like Compton and Watts. However, there is no doubt that Snoop is the star of the show when he takes center stage on the first verse of the album leading the listeners on a seductive tour of LA. The song is further bolstered by legendary musician Stevie Wonder’s hypnotic harmonica playing throughout, blending perfectly with the production accentuating Snoop’s vocals.
BUSH as an album is clearly influenced by late 70s Disco and Funk. A prime example of this is “R U A FREAK,” which is a record that would make the original members of Parliament grin from ear-to-ear. This song, like many on BUSH, is tailor-made for gyrating hips in cramped, sweaty clubs. In fact, like most of the album, it is incredibly hard to sit motionless while listening to it. This just further proves that when Pharrell and Chad Hugo are paired together, the duo known as the Neptunes still have the ability to dominate the charts, radio waves and dance floors as they did for most of the last decade.
While Snoop will never be mistaken for a top-tier vocalist, his tone is enjoyable and expertly matches every production. While his voice may not have the emotional depth of a Frank Ocean or the introspective qualities of Drake, it is pleasing throughout. While ardent fans of vintage Snoop D-O-Double G may be inconsolable about him barely rapping on BUSH, music fans will be thoroughly pleased with what they find on his thirteenth studio album. In fact, when rap is included on BUSH it is usually to the detriment of the overall flavor of the album. A prime example is “Edibles,” an upbeat romp dedicated to desserts baked with an extra bit of TLC in them. The song features T.I., and while his verse is by no means a poor performance, it has nothing to do with the overall theme of the song; in fact it is just the stereotypical braggadocious fair that has come to typify rap music. “I’m Ya Dogg” featuring Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar fairs a bit better, with both rappers putting forth solid efforts. However, the best lyrics on the song are still the ones that are sung. At the end of the first verse, Snoop utters the insightful lines, “You see girl, time is like money, both of which men loathe/ Spend them both with me and then for sure you’ll know.” That’s not to say Snoop himself doesn’t come correct when he spits here-and-there on the album. A prime example of this is the album’s lead single, “Peaches N Cream,” which takes its soul from Gap Band crooner Charlie Wilson and its rhythm from the one-and-only George Clinton who lends his hand with additional co-production. Despite this assistance from prolific artists, it is clearly Snoop’s show as he rattles off bars in his trademark G-Funk fashion (“She too fly for words, and where I’m at now, I’m too high for birds/ Shorty what you think about my return / ‘Cause what he think about it ain’t my concern / I ain’t come for you, I came for ya Mrs. / I don’t do it for the haters, I do it for the players”) In fact, this song is truly the only one on BUSH that may be mistaken for a rap song and it is also the only track that’s really well-suited for radio.
BUSH is a well-crafted and enjoyable project from start to finish. This album has a vibe that’s perfect for a Summer BBQ or a house party; but don’t expect any massive pop-radio hits from this project such as the Snoop and Neptunes collaborations “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot” of yesteryear. Snoop Dogg and Pharrell, with the assistance of the often-underappreciated Chad Hugo, have produced a body of work that’s fortified with enough funk to have listeners boogying clear into the next decade. In a day where so much of the music made by hip-hop artists is disposable, it is refreshing to see a familiar pair come together to make something different and with enough substance to span generations of music listeners. Word.