I'm trying my hardest to say something about the new album from Tha
Eastsidaz, but, unfortunately, I feel like I haven't heard it yet. Sure,
I have a copy and listened to it even grooved to it but
there's something here that's preventing me from really hearing
Tha Eastsidaz, and that's what I am hearing: namely, a whole lot
of Snoop Dogg.
Of course, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. After all, not only
is Snoop Dogg Presents tha Eastsidaz the first release on Snoop's
Dogghouse Records, but he also executive-produced it and appears on nearly
every track. The group seems to consist of rappers Tray Deee and Goldie
Loc (along with a gang of guest rapper/singers), but Snoop's pawprints
are all over this tight collection of P-Funk-fueled gangsta rap. In fact,
this album may well prove to be a historical hip-hop turning point, where
the big-name-producer/rapper-guest-star trend began to result in artists
being mere visitors to their own albums. And, having said that
damned if this isn't a fine Snoop Dogg album.
Tha Eastsidaz have clearly been raised on a steady diet of The Chronic
and Doggystyle, but at least they picked the right textbooks. True,
you couldn't come up with a more stereotypical g-funk sounding album if
you tried, but you probably also couldn't come up with a better sounding
one unless your name was Dr. Dre (who indeed pops up on the intro
track to give his blessing). "Now We Lay 'Em Down" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "Balls of Steel" are built on the same thick bass
and wheezing electro-synths Dre and his followers have been putting out
since the early '90s, bitches continue to get no love ("Pussy Sells" and
"Tha Mac Ten Commandments"), and Snoop's LBC neighbors get mad props on
"LBC Thang" and "Tha Eastsidaz." Nothing new here, but as there isn't a
beat or rhyme out of place, there also isn't much to complain about.
Moreover, there are a few things worth crowing about. "Big Bang Theory"
excerpt) has an electrically infectious energy, with fine guest
turns by Xzibit, Kurupt, CPO and Pinky. It's rare to find a song with so
many guest rappers that actually works, but this one's got the right
balance of the rough, the smooth, the witty and the stereotypical.
Meanwhile, "Take It Back to '85" (RealAudio
excerpt) gives Kurupt, Snoop and singer Butch Cassidy (the Nate
Dogg of Dogghouse Records) a chance to reminisce about their more innocent
teen years over a driving horn loop, as Snoop claims he was just a quarterback
at the age of 14 and it would be a good five years before he bought his
first 1/4 sack. See, kids, there's still time!
Which is exactly what I'd like to say to Tray Deee and Goldie Loc. They
don't embarrass themselves rhyming alongside veterans such as Jayo Felony,
Suga Free and Rappin' 4-Tay and, while Snoop may overshadow them, they've
made an album that any grooveaholic g-funk fan would enjoy. So, gents,
there's still time to show you've got skills and sounds of your own.
Admittedly, not much, though: hip-hop is fickle that way.