Top Dogg is the jump-from-the-foul-line slam dunk that Snoop fans
have been waiting for since Doggystyle (1993), an album that spawned
legions of imitators possessed of little talent and even less charm.
Snoop's Tha Doggfather (1996) was an unfocused attempt at G-funk. His
Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (1998) was a misguided effort
to turn tha Dogg into a Dirty South rapper. Casting around for a focus and
finding his strengths is not a problem on Top Dogg. In fact, there
isn't much on this album that's a problem. It's not about hard-hitting Dirty
South beats or dance grooves mined from the Gap Band and P-Funk; it
is about soulful, smoke-friendly loops inspired by Blaxploitation
soundtracks and Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul.
Unlike Tha Doggfather and Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be
Told, this record is packed with highlights. On "Buck 'Em," "Bitch
Please" and "Just Dippin'," Dr. Dre proves that he hasn't forgotten how to
make the smooth, yet aggro-synth dominated tracks that serve Snoop's mellow
flow so well. Among the other guests on the album, special props go to: Sylk
E. Fyne, for her expert sparring with Snoop on "Trust Me"; Sticky Fingers from Onyx, for showing
he can rhyme without screaming on "Buck 'Em"; and Xzibit, for playing the
bad cop to Snoop's deceptively good cop on "Bitch Please."
The "Hard To Handle" loop on "Ghetto Symphony" makes "Symphony" the best No Limit posse track since Master P's "Make 'Em Say Uhh" (quite an
accomplishment, considering the number of No Limit albums unleashed since
then). Also worth mentioning here is "Snoopafella," Snoop's cover of Dana
Dane's "Cinderfella Dana Dane." In the past, Snoop has covered hits by Slick
Rick, Biz Markie, N.W.A, Boogie Down Productions and, uh, himself. This time
he dug deeper for inspiration and came up with a dusty gem.
The only trouble with this album is that Dogg's still gnawing on the same
old bone. Rhymes about weed, women, parties and hustling dominate. Maybe
next time around we'll see Snoop expand his territory ... maybe not.