Review Summary: Who says old Doggs can't learn new tricks?
He’s certainly come a long way from “sippin’ on gin n’ juice”. When Mr. Snoop Eastwood first rolled up in his 6-4 and into the rap game, it was 1992 and he was barely out of high school. Dr. Dre, impressed with what he heard, took the young MC under his wing, collaborated with him and showed him the ropes of the music biz. That young MC would go on to become Dre’s BFF and one of the most respected rappers in the game with 4 platinum albums hanging on his wall, and more hits under his belt than he has notches for. Snoop Dogg, now 38 (266 in dog years) finds himself in a very different place in his life, which is reflected on his latest release Malice N’ Wonderland. The pot-loving gangster is now a pot loving father who takes his family to Apple Bee’s, hockey games, he even coach’s his son’s minor league football team! I think our “Lil Ghetto Boy” is all grown up.
The album starts off with Snoop Dogg’s son phoning him to ask him to play that song that him and his friends like to drink to…which would be “I Wanna Rock” that displays the smooth, lazy flow that made Snoop millions using a sample of the Black Eyed Pea’s “Rock That Body”. Not too shabby. “2 Minute Warning” sounds like a street freestyle with production quality, which is Malice’s most consistent strength. I can’t help but feel that Snoop’s lost a step though, it took him three songs before we hear our first collaboration, if you would classify “1800” with Lil Jon a collaborative effort that is. It has a very club feel which goes to show that Snoop can still write a good dance tune, but Lil Jon doesn’t do anything but yell *** like “What?!” or “Yeah!” in the background. I’m serious. “Different Languages” switches gears and is probably the closest thing that “Ms. Bow Wow” is going to get to a love song from her gangsta husband. Jazmine Sullivan’s vocals in the chorus contrast very effectively with Snoop’s steady flow: “20 years in the game what love won’t do/A lot of women want me but I want you.” The man even makes love songs sound cool.
The first single “Gangsta Luv” is one of two songs featuring The Dream (Snoop's cousin apparently), who does a pretty good job here. Its catchy chorus can get annoying after awhile but it reminds us that Snoop is still the master of the rhymes. Snoop continues to keep it in the family with “Pronto” featuring his nephew Soulja Boy. The eerie UFO effects are pretty cool, but again the chorus can get a little annoying after awhile. “That’s Tha Homie” and “Upside Down” are two that don’t really stand out, but are probably going to end up getting played in clubs for in the next week or two. “Secrets” is a welcome change featuring Kokane, who keeps the listener entertained while you wait for the D-O double G to come in. “Pimpin Ain’t EZ” with R. Kelly sends the very important message that pimping is definitely not easy. This one’s pretty cliché and Snoop probably should’ve known better.
The Dream shines again on the R&B jam “Luv Drunk” while his homie Pharrel and his cousin Brandy shine on “Special” (imagine what Thanksgiving’s like?). Brandy’s smooth, bluesy voice perfectly compliments Pharrel’s falsetto and Snoop’s quiet confidence. Malice’s outro has Snoop calling home to tell the wife that the album’s done, and when he gets home from work he wants to take her on a nice vacation. Snoop Dogg, the family man.
While rap’s elder statesman may not hold the same influence and relevance that he did back in his heyday, Snoop’s proved that he’s still got plenty left in the tank and he still knows how to make a good rap record. Over his last couple albums it’s become evident that even though his style has matured, his approach remains the same. So has Snoop Dogg traded his 6-4 in for a minivan? Not yet, but you just might see him at an Apple Bee’s in the near future.