The 2-1-3's own "Top Dogg" of hip-hop is virtually synonymous with hip-hop at this point. He's fought the law AND won, he's got more platinum on his walls than Paul Wall has in his mouth and he's loved everywhere from the East coast to the Dirty South. At this point Snoop Dogg has only one enemy who can disrupt his career - himself. His iconic status and name recognition could carry even a mediocre album to the kind of sales most artists dream about, so if Calvin Broadus just said "fuck it" and phoned it in with no enthusiasm he'd still win anyway. Artists who reach that level have to carefully check themselves to make sure they're peaking creatively and still staying relevant to their loyal audience who has been down since day one. That certainly seemed to be the case on 2008's "Ego Trippin'" but on "Malice N Wonderland" the battle starts all over again with Mr. Broadus showing us how he puts game down on "Gangsta Luv":
"Yeah she love it the way I put it on her
Blowin trees, summer breeze, sippin Coronas
Boss Dogg, I give it to her right, and she like it
She on the hip like a Sidekick
Is he, one of the coolest, a fool on the flo'?
I whispered in her ear 'C'mere, you're ready to go?'
I rolled up a winner and put it up in the air
Got that lil' dress on you comin up outta there, yeah!
She like that - you like that?
You say you bite? Well I bite back
And I'm all go, we can do it 'til tomorrow
I beat it up like Harpo
Snoopy, I go hard baby, yes!
Kissin on ya chest and I'm diggin out your stress
I won't stop 'til you're finished
But you ain't felt love 'til a gangsta get up in it"
C. 'Tricky' Stewart and Terius 'The-Dream' Nash provide production for Snoop's latest hit, while the latter also comes through to sing the hook on the shit. Result? WIN. Not shocking really - Snoop rarely loses, whether on a track or with the ladies. In truth Snoop is so naturally charming it's often hard to remember he has a gangsterish side, but the Battlecat bounce of "Secrets" featuring Kokane puts a little more G in it - that is once Koke is done interpolating The Romantics.
"From a nickel to a dub, from a G to a scrub
I'm a vet on the set, I'ma show you what it was
Y'all flippin out, trippin out, cause I took a different route
Six-two rag El, yeah I come dippin out
Beach City rider, 85'er, Eastsider
Ain't none of y'all niggaz liver
I hear the bad shit that y'all talk
Y'all wanna catch me out of pocket but I cain't get caught
I'ma show you what a bitch thought - a bitch taught
A nigga got played out and laid out in chalk
It's a cold game"
Not only does "Secrets" prove he hasn't left the streets of Long Beach behind, it shows that Snoop can spit a fast paced rap instead of his usual lackadaisical flow. As usual though Snoop has no fear of branching out beyond his background and bringing the people who aren't that G over to his C. "Special" featuring Brandy and produced by The Neptunes features that same kind of smooth sound and high falsetto crooning made famous on "Beautiful," and will probably be just as big of a commercial hit. "Pimpin Ain't EZ" featuring R. Kelly is equally marketable thanks to Kels undeniable Chicago swagger and Nottz providing the right mix of ivories and horns. "1800" has Lil Jon pulling double duty on a track that only gets better the more stripped down it gets - lil' momma what it do? And in a rare case of Soulja Boy actually doing something fresh, his hook and rap on "Pronto" don't annoy me one bit - though I'm sure the B Don beat backdrop help out a whole lot.
With only 14 tracks on "Malice N Wonderland," with two being cut from consideration for evaluation as intros and outros, there's not much time or space for Snoop to miss the mark or make mistakes. The only song that really goes wrong is "That's Tha Homie" - it's way too bloated at nearly six minutes long and Danja's beat tries so hard to be menacing it would be better suited for Three 6 Mafia. And even though it's not a criticism of Snoop per se, I don't feel like Nipsey Hussle and Problem add much of anything to "Upside Down." That being said Snoop gets the credit he is due and deserves for coming back strong on "Malice N Wonderland" and managing not to lose his edge despite all his success. It won't go down as the most important album of his career, but it's not one that you should pass on either.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 15, 2009