HOLLYWOOD — Call it Tha Doggfather: Part II.
When Snoop Dogg returns to record stores November 21, the rapper will be back in full-on gangsta mode. "There's a certain fanbase that really loves the Pacino in me, the 'Scarface,' the Michael Corleone," Snoop explained recently. "They love that role. And I gotta give them what they love."
And how does he know?
"I just started asking people, 'What do y'all like from Snoop?' " he said. "And everybody just liked that gangsta sh--. Not that they don't love when I do venture and try different things, and do pop singles and do songs with Pharrell ... but they prefer me to be that [gangsta] character."
And so for the official follow-up to 2004's R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, Snoop is returning to his roots. "I'm back in the game again, as far as aggressively representing West Coast music, because I feel like we invisible right now," Snoop said during a break from work at his personal studio in Hollywood.
"So what I did was make a record where we could actually, like, open up a blue carpet for the young rappers and the old rappers from the West Coast to walk the lane and to be a part of my record," he said.
Hence the album's actual title, Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.
"I went to an awards ceremony and they was like, 'Snoop, we want you on the red carpet, '" the rapper said. "And I was like, 'I'm tired of walking on the damn red carpet.' "I want to walk on some blue carpet.' And it just came to me."
The album introduces a couple of new groups Snoop has put together — Westurn Union and the Warzone — but also unites him with some of the West Coast's top rappers, including the Game (on a track called "Gang Banging 101"), Ice Cube and Cypress Hill's B Real. Most noteworthy, however, is that mentor Dr. Dre is back behind the boards on a few tracks.
"I need him to be there for me," Snoop said. " 'Cause the people, they become addicted to hit records, and when I'm with Dr. Dre, we make hit records."
This time, though, their partnership was different. "I'm focused on making songs, and back then I used to just rap," Snoop said of earlier collaborations with Dre, like his 1993 debut Doggystyle. "And now when I work with Dre, he don't let me do that no more. He don't just let me go in there and freestyle anymore. It takes, like, three days to make one song with that n---a, 'cause he be wanting every word to be right. I can't knock him, but sh--. I remember when I used to come in here and just la la la la boom bam and just do it."
One of the tracks the two worked on together is called "Imagine," which envisions what their lives would be like if their hip-hop careers never took off. "It's deep; it's heavy," Snoop said. "We just wanted to make a record that wasn't such a party record or a dance record. We wanted a record that makes you think."
Tha Blue Carpet Treatment's first single, "Vato," featuring B Real, is also a thoughtful tune, "trying to unite the black and the brown on the West Coast," Snoop said of the track that addresses violence between blacks and Hispanics in Los Angeles (see "Snoop Reclaims His Old Doggystyle, Goes Gangsta For 'Vato' Video"). "Pharrell brought that idea to me," Snoop said of the song's producer. "He's also got a song on my record called 'Special' that he did for me with Brandy. Brandy's my first cousin. We never really told the world because we weren't trippin' off of that, but that's my family."
Other unexpected collaborators include Young Jeezy and Ne-Yo, who produced a track called "Put This Thing on You." "Normally, I don't make records for the ladies because I like being real derogatory towards the women, but I've been working with Pharrell and getting a little older and wiser," Snoop said. "So what I did on that record was I went and got one of the specialists at making songs for the ladies, 'cause I'm kind of, like, lacking on my macking."
Along with Dre and longtime collaborator Battlecat, Tha Blue Carpet Treatment also reunites Snoop with Timbaland. The pair first worked together on a remix of "Doggfather" in 1996.
"I played him 'Vato' and he was like, 'Ah,' and he put headphones on and he went into a little mood and came up with something," Snoop recalled of the Timbaland-produced "I Need a Light." "I went outside [of a Miami studio] and was chillin' with Method Man and Lil Wayne. I came back in there and he was like, 'I got something.' So I freestyled to it and the first thing I said was 'I need a light/ Get it right.' "
The track Snoop is most excited about, however, is one with up-and-coming producer Frequency and called "Think About It." "I rap like before I got with Dre, before I got in the game," Snoop said. "I didn't really trip off no concept. I don't really, like, focus on making no hooks, I don't really want no singing on it, I don't really wanna say anything that's too political, or say anything that's too fun.
"I just wanna express what's on my heart."