Snoop Dogg Strays Back To Roots On New Album

Rapper reunites with former producer Dr. Dre for three tracks on No Limit Top Dogg.

Snoop Dogg says he's been a company man since signing with No Limit

Records last year. But, for his second album on the label, the rapper

said he's taking a step out on his own.

"Master P signed me, so he had the right to dictate and direct me on the

first album, because he was bringing me out as a No Limit soldier," said

Snoop Dogg (born Calvin Broadus), who left Death Row -- the Los Angeles

label he helped make famous -- in March 1998. "To let me have creative

control from the beginning wouldn't have been the smartest thing to do."

A relatively recent addition to the roster of rapper/producer Master P's

No Limit Records, Snoop Dogg took more creative control on No Limit

Top Dogg, his new album, than he did on last summer's spare,

beat-heavy Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, his debut on

the label.

As a result, Snoop Dogg said, he is more satisfied with his latest effort,

which returns to the laid-back, gangsta-funk style of his breakthrough

releases on Death Row Records.

Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told -- produced in-house by No

Limit's Lousiana-based Beats By The Pound production crew -- sold well.

It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in August,

selling more than 524,000 copies its first week. But it was slammed by

some critics for straying from the relaxed, funky rhythms of the rapper's

earlier work.

Offered more freedom in the studio by No Limit, Snoop Dogg, 26, decided

it would be wise to reunite with his former producer and Death Row label

head Dr. Dre (born Andre Young) while recording No Limit Top Dogg.

Together they created three tracks for the new album -- the psychedelic

"Buck 'Em," the spare "Bitch Please" and "Just Dippin' "

(RealAudio excerpt), a salute to partying that uses a mid-tempo funk

beat.

"It was matter of getting some sh-- from Dre that I didn't have, that

would best represent him and would best represent me over his music,"

Snoop Dogg said. "He [directed] me on what to say and how to say it. I

just chose the type of beats I wanted and the type of topics I wanted to

rap about." (RealAudio excerpt of interview)

"The chemistry is there -- always."

The album extends the rapper's "conscious effort" to return to his brand

of gangsta funk with songs such as "My Heat Goes Boom" and "Don't Tell."

There's also "Trust Me," a rap ballad about relationships that is beginning

to show up on radio playlists. Snoop Dogg worked with young producers DJ

Quik, Meech Wells and Bud'da on those songs and others.

"Trust Me" has the feel of an old soul song, with searing violins and a

heavy beat. Dorsey Fuller, the music director at KKBT-FM in Los Angeles,

said the station began playing the track last week.

"The buzz on the street is really hot in regard to this album," Fuller

said. "Folks have been waiting for this."

At Tower Records on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, product manager

Howard Krumholtz said he wasn't so sure a buzz exists. Krumholtz said

the album sold 85 copies in its first week of release there, compared to

500 for the equally hyped Latino pop singer Ricky Martin's self-titled

English-language debut.

"[Snoop Dogg's] last couple of albums ruined his reputation," Krumholtz

said. "Signing with Master P and No Limit killed his career."

Snoop Dogg is trying hard to regain his old form, though. The album also

restores another Snoop Dogg tradition -- it includes a cover of an old

school hip-hop song. In this instance, the song is "Snoopafella"

(RealAudio excerpt) -- a reworked version of New York rapper Dana Dane's

"Cinderfella Dana Dane." A Cinderella-in-the-ghetto tale, the new version

even uses the original's sample and hook, taken from disco-band Brick's

1976 hit, "Dazz."

Snoop Dogg's 1993 debut, Doggystyle, contained a remake of Slick

Rick and Doug E. Fresh's "La Di Da Di." On 1996's The Doggfather,

the cover of choice was clownish rapper Biz Markie's "Vapors."

"It just seemed like the right thing to do," Snoop Dogg said of the Dana

Dane cover. "When I remake songs or pick songs to redo, it's about how

much this song is going to impact on my album and how much impact is it

going to [have in bringing] that old artist back to life." (RealAudio excerpt of interview)

Beats By The Pound producer KLC manned the boards for just two of the

album's 19 cuts. The album also includes two skits.

"Ghetto Symphony"

(RealAudio excerpt) and "Down For My N's" are the only songs on which

Snoop Dogg rhymes with other No Limit rappers. A loyal Snoop Dogg said

Master P influenced the album in other ways, especially on "I Love You

Momma."

"If I wouldn't be on No Limit, I wouldn't even did a song like that,"

Snoop Dogg said. "But since Master P, every album he do, he got a song

about his momma. He got a song about his dead brother. It's like it don't

ever get old to him." (RealAudio excerpt of interview)

Then known as Snoop Doggy Dogg, the rapper was 20 when Dr. Dre unleashed

him on Dre's 1992 album, The Chronic, one of the most popular and

critically acclaimed hip-hop albums of the decade.

Seven years later, Snoop Dogg still rhymes about women, guns and weed,

but he is now a husband and a father who says he is content to deflect

whatever criticism comes his way.

"My responsibility is my kids and my wife now. ... All that other sh--

that I do on the personal side. If I drink, smoke, get high, go to t---y

bars, do this, do that, hang with gang-bangers -- that's my motherf---ing

business," he said.