Published May 12, 2015On Bush, hip-hop's most famous gangster rapper has morphed into a gangster of love. Snoop Dogg's 13th solo studio album, Bush, finds the elder MC cooing, crooning and speak-singing funky sex jams that, at their best, are smooth and pleasantly catchy, such as the joyous disco of "Peaches N Cream" and the swaggering R&B of "I'm Ya Dogg." Some of the weaker tracks, however, ease into midtempo monotony and never climax. Case in point: "Run Away," which finds Snoop swapping vocals with pop diva Gwen Stefani in an assured but uninspired fashion, as if they're both about to snooze.
"Edibles" is more successful, in part because of a guest turn from T.I. that's so deliberately unambitious that it makes for laugh out loud fun (at one point the King of the South literally raps: "She took off her underwear / There ain't no hair under there"). Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar make stronger guest contributions, but Pharrell Williams is Snoop's true partner on the new LP. The star producer built all ten of the full-length's instrumentals (with occasional help from Chad Hugo, his Neptunes partner in crime), giving Snoop a soulfully funky early '80s vibe to work with that is more consistent — but less bold and exciting — than the preceding zanier, '70s style 7 Days of Funk that the Doggfather released with Dam-Funk in 2013. Snoop sounds more at ease on Bush, especially on deep cut "I Knew That," where the MC's verses become a blend of rapping and smooth, unstrained singing. When he slyly lays out lines like "What's your sign?" on that song, he's downright charming.
After a near-decade of decline in the hyper competitive hip-hop arena — where Snoop's rapping has grown lazier and lazier — it's refreshingly fun to hear him hit a gradual, but undeniable, stride in the broader world of hip-hop soul. An old Dogg can learn new tricks after all. (Doggystyle Records / Sony Music Canada)