The success of Tha Eastsidaz' Snoop Dogg Presents Tha Eastsidaz and its first single, "G'd Up," continues the resurgence of funk-driven, laid-back, psychedelic West Coast hip-hop after several years of decline, radio programmers on both coasts said on Wednesday (Feb. 9).
And they said it further solidifies Snoop Dogg's status as a gangsta-rap superstar.
"There's no refuting the West Coast, period," said Ramona DeBreaux, music director for WHAT-FM in Atlanta. "As long as it sounds good and tells a story, who cares about the lyrics? It just feels good out there." The station is playing "G'd Up" (RealAudio excerpt) four times during its night shift and plans to play it more.
"It's a big West Coast album," said Travis Loughran, music director for KBOS-FM in Fresno, Calif., which sits about 220 miles from the group's hometown of Long Beach, Calif. "It was sold that way and it was produced that way."
The album, the group's debut effort, sold 100,325 copies last week and will debut at #8 on this week's Billboard 200 albums chart. That makes it the week's highest debut.
The album allows Snoop, 27, to unveil two of his protégés 21-year-old Goldie Loc and 33-year-old Tray Deee.
Snoop (born Calvin Broadus) began his own career as a protégé: His work with former N.W.A member Dr. Dre who is generally credited with taking West Coast rap into the pop mainstream helped make Dr. Dre's 1992 album The Chronic a hip-hop classic.
Tray Deee (born Tracey Davis), who first met Snoop in 1994, said he and Goldie Loc felt pressure to match their veteran partner on the microphone.
"He laid the groundwork," Tray Deee said last month from Los Angeles. "Snoop, he's already established. Me and Goldie really had to establish ourselves."
The newcomers try their best on "G'd Up," produced by Battlecat with a mid-'70s electro-funk feel. "Don't act for a minute like yo' ass surprised/ Just recognize the way real gangstas ride," Tray Deee rhymes at the end of the first verse. Goldie Loc offers this nugget: "Now you want to be a friend/ But you gonna make me unload and slap the other clip in."
Snoop, later in the song, takes the boldest stance. He assumes the persona of "a Long Beach, East Side mad-ass lunatic" who promises "you'll never see me looking R&B." The song is littered with references to guns and marijuana, too.
"G'd Up" doesn't pour on the West Coast funk influence so heavily as other songs. "Take It Back to '85" (RealAudio excerpt) is built on a thick, agile bassline and on trumpets and robotic keyboards nestled down in the mix. It sounds more like a Lionel Richie dance-pop outtake than modern hip-hop.
"Now We Lay 'Em Down" (RealAudio excerpt) is simple. Its beat is a thunderclap drum part with a short but heavy keyboard groove. The singers on the chorus are tragicomic, almost as if they're damning the violent, drugged-out lifestyle the group raps about in the verses ("You're so high you can't get over it") while singing in exaggerated, dirgelike voices.
The love of dance-party funk is part of the Southern California rappers' charm, DeBreaux said. She said songs by Warren G, Kurupt and Dr. Dre in recent months have re-energized fans who moved on to other music in the seven years between The Chronic and Dr. Dre 2001, this week's #3 album. With Dr. Dre out in front, everything else has followed, she said.
"It was just time for everyone out there to say, 'Make some hits,' and come back and hit them with something harder," DeBreaux said. "I don't know how we would have received the new Dr. Dre if we had heard him before now. It's easier to appreciate him [after so much time]."
"Those are really our only stars," Loughran said. "We don't have a ton, and honestly, they're putting out the best stuff."
Later Loughran cautioned, "But the West Coast is going to have to evolve and compete with the perception that in hip-hop there needs to be a change to something else. The gangsta stuff has to evolve into something else eventually."