December 13, 2005
I've spent the evening chronically listening to Snoop Dogg's 2002 album Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$ while we await the impending execution of his idol, Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Snoop's rather more interesting than this dumb thug- though he's getting ready to "pay tha cost to be da bos$$," so while we await the time for Tookie to pay the piper, I figured to spend the last hour of his life writing about some Snoop tuneage.
I'm way into music, so I tend not to pay much attention to Snoop. I recognize that he has some skills and at least a few half decent jams, but this guy's fame is WAY disproportionately based on secondary personality and charisma elements rather than actual music making.
I have to say though that I'm liking this album more than I would have expected. Maybe I'm more receptive because I've been steeping in the P-Funk this year, but some of this actually sounds pretty good.
Actually, most of this broadly sounds pretty good. He's got a very strong and recognizable vocal instrument and style. Plus, he's obviously the top dog, and he's got some of the sharpest players and producers in the business backing him up. He's an outstanding performer.
I've mostly just never heard much interesting from him compositionally. He typically can conjure up a decent basic hook here and there, but they don't go anywhere. There's no song under much of his stuff that anyone could cover. Cover versions of "Gin and Juice" just don't work, cause there's nothing to it.
There are at least a couple of memorable tracks on Paid tha Cost to Be da Bo$$, though. I'm particularly struck by "Batman & Robin," with Lady of Rage and RBX. That's just getting all up in my head there. I don't know if I'd call it so much a song, though. It's more of an orchestral work than a vocal melody, like your finer P-Funk.
The classic "Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk" comes to mind as a basis of comparison. Parliament's finest jam built up funky orchestral variations based on basic nursery rhymes. Likewise, the Snoop crew work up a pretty rich funky orchestral stew based on the Batman theme and a couple of scraps of recognizable sound effects from the old tv series. They've got some beautiful cross rhythms going with the horns cutting across the subtly restructured and newly nuanced simple guitar rhythms of the original Batman theme.
Then we they drop in the vocal chorus on top of all this, they get the maximum impact out of it. "No one can save the day like Batman." The more I listen to this, the more compelled I feel to hear it again. I've never heard of her before, but Lady of Rage largely steals this record, particularly with the potatoes and gravy rap at the end. Really, the Snoop rapping is the least interesting part of the soup.
I don't know that it's right up there with absolutely Sir Nose, but "Batman and Robin" will run head to head with Prince's "Batdance," and that's pretty frickin' good right there. Also, it's interesting to note how little they sound alike, considering that they're both funk jams based theoretically on the same simple source material. They just develop the ideas very differently. These jams will sound real interesting back-to-back on a mix CD for the car, I predict.
The song "Beautiful" from this album was a big honkin' hit single, and you can't much argue against it. A lot of it is in the production and performance, but there's more of a tune under this than about anything I've heard from Snoop. Notably, this is something like a commercial 70s AM radio soul song, hardly even a rap- and certainly not some harsh gangsta stuff.
Again, the core Snoop rap is not bad, but it's the least interesting part of the record. Those guitar rhythms and chord progressions are compelling, and the flute bits (whatever instrument, exactly, is making the noises I'm hearing) on top really sell this before you get to the Snoop love message.
It's a beautiful and tender and sharp but gentle funk groove. Yeah you can see how this might start sounding like a nice romantic lover.
However, this "Beautiful" love vibe kind of gets severely soured by all the just ridiculously thick misogyny. The talk on Snoop records goes about 1 part nice boyfriend talk, and about 10 parts harsh pimp talking, unnecessarily harsh even by the standards of the profession, as best I understand them. Rand knows I hate PC, but I could have done without the hateful specificity of "Lollipop" in particular.
For example, he's generously telling a fellow pimp that it "Wasn't Your Fault." The problem, naturally, is that the pimp was too nice to his hoe. "You should have put your foot in her ass like a pimp's supposed to do." Then a few minutes later he starts telling you that you're "Beautiful." Hmm.
Anyway, besides "Beautiful" and "Batman & Robin," there are several other jams that seem to be holding up to at least a few repeat listenings. Actually, "Wasn't Your Fault" isn't bad, and "From the Chuuch to da Palace" make pretty strong P-Funk party jams.
"Ballin" is also pretty good. Naturally, he's carrying on about the bitches, but otherwise this is about as close to Al Green as Snoop's getting. The Dramatics classic harmony vocals are what really sell this song, anyway. Also, I'm somewhat amused by the contrived names of his various progeny, but "Lil' Half Dead" actually kicks some ass right here.
I do have to dock him a point or two for the ridiculous closing "Pimp Slapp'd" minstrelfest. He's calling Suge Knight out in song, threatening him with death, threatening to "wet it up" with his crew, specifically someone named "Corrupt." Whatever. For one thing, this is just ridiculously dysfunctional, like Snoop's not going to be satisfied until he manages to needlessly provoke some dumbass into whacking him like Tupac. That's just dumb.
Far worse though, this gangsta shit is about a dozen years past being boring. This calling out of rivals thing has been done SO many times. If there was a real jam here, I might overlook the lyrical foolishness. But there's not much compositionally. It seems that the more attention he pays to making his lyrical Statements, the more he detracts from some otherwise effective jams.
Dang though, listening to it a few times, at least half this stuff pretty well works. "Paper'd Up" is kicking in as a particularly sleek jam. The whole album seems to sound better with multiple listens. I don't know how long it'll hold interest before I get impatient with that bitch and hoe nonsense. Still, I got to say that Snoop made a pretty credible jam right here.
So anyway, I've had a couple of good hours with this funky Snoop joint. Wonder how Tookie's evening is going...
Music Sustains the Soul
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