On a 2014 episode of Snoop Dogg‘s YouTube show, GGN, Snoop and 50 Cent mock the ubiquitous flow of rappers like Migos and Future. In less than 30 seconds, the West Coast legend brilliantly illustrates the flows that have homogenized mainstream rap. That continues on Coolaid, Snoop’s highly anticipated 14th studio album. He continues to flex his veteran status with “Coolaid Man”, looking out at the scene: “Big Snoop Dogg/ I do my own thing/ Stays in my own lane/ My rap style is dynamite/ A lot of y’all niggas do sound alike/ You do it how you do’s it/ See, you can blame it on the drugs, or you can blame it on the music/ Where I come from, if you sound like another nigga/ That’s called bitin’, yeah, you the other nigga,” he drops. Whether it’s a direct slap in Migos or Future’s faces, he’s got a point. Originality seems to allude some current hip-hop stars, chasing fads and scenes. But Snoop hasn’t wavered too much stylistically — well, aside from his 2013 reggae album, Reincarnated, released as Snoop Lion.
Fittingly, Coolaid jumps off with “Legend”. Since emerging with Dr. Dre on 1992’s “Deep Cover”, that’s what Snoop has become. Solo albums like 1993’s Doggystyle and 1996’s Tha Doggfather cemented his reputation as one of the hardest in the business, which has allowed him the freedom to be as brash as he wants to be. On Coolaid, Snoop uses that solid footing and wastes no time taking it back to the G-funk era with “Ten Toes Down”. Produced by Los, the track feels like it could have been made in the early ‘90s, complete with layered synthesizers and a deep bass line. The Too $hort-featuring “Don’t Stop” continues the trip down memory lane, the two rap legends playfully trading verses over a funky, Nottz-produced beat.
Over the past 25 years, Snoop has stayed true to what made him a rap god in the first place. From Doggstyle’s “Gin and Juice” and “Murder Was the Case” to The Chronic’s “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” and Tha Doggfather’s “Doggfather”, he maintains his street mentality and rough exterior. The Just Blaze-produced “Super Crip” proves you can’t take the gangster out of him, as he revisits “Deep Cover”, claiming “it’s still 1-8-7” and giving shout outs to Watts and CPT (Compton). At first, it’s almost comical, but when considering he grew up in gang-ridden Long Beach, he’s recalling things he’s actually lived, not the fiction so many contemporary rappers regurgitate these days.
The tempo slightly picks back up with “Let Me See Em Up” with Swizz Beatz, who appears on two others tracks, “Light It Up” and “Let the Beat Drop”. Ironically, the trifecta sounds a little too close to the mainstream sound he’s vilifying. But that’s the danger that’s run in working with artists from other worlds, the fit not necessarily matching. When he’s left to fend for himself, Snoop really shines, especially on “My Carz”, a reimagining of Gary Numan’s classic 1979 hit “Cars”. As one of the most inventive tracks on the album, it was (not surprisingly) crafted by the late, great J Dilla.
There are a few celebratory tracks that channel Michael Jackson in addition to the G-funk vibes, especially “Oh Na Na” with Wiz Khalifa and “Two or More”. Though it’s always been a part of his repertoire, “Side Piece” and “Double Tap” (featuring E-40 and Jazze Pha) turn the revelry up too high, resulting in some awkward sexuality. Snoop is a grandfather now, and some may not be too keen on hearing a 40-something rapper talk about fellatio. But then again, Snoop isn’t worried about what the PTA, his fellow youth football coaches, or anyone else might think about him.
No Snoop album would be complete without a humorous ode to weed, which in this case comes in the form of “Kush Ups” featuring fellow weed aficionado Wiz Khalifa. It’s fun and serves its purpose, but lacks depth. In that way, Snoop periodically rests on his laurels. The 20-track album has 12 features, so he’s able to go on autopilot from time to time. But just when you’re about to write Coolaid off as cheap entertainment and nothing more, Snoop gives you something to think about. He gets philosophical on “What If”, looking inquisitively at the alternate paths life could take. He then raps about uniting Bloods and Crips, and the death of his grandmother. That’s the funny thing about Snoop. He will deliver something like “Double Tap” or “Kush Ups”, then moments later hit the listener with something that requires earnest deliberation.
Coolaid ends with the undeniably provocative “20 Revolution”, featuring singer October London. “This is serious business,” Snoop begins, before diving headfirst into a dissection of systemic racism and police shootings. Produced by Just Blaze, Snoop voices his opinions on Huey Newton, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King, all against a gorgeous hook and lush, orchestral samples. With delicate piano notes, a haunting organ, and London’s soaring vocals, it’s closer to an Isaac Hayes song than anything you’d expect from 2016 Snoop, but that’s the beauty of the legend — he does whatever the fuck he wants, and won’t change for any trend.
Essential Tracks: “Ten Toes Down”, Coolaid Man”, and “Revolution”