Daz.jpgAs a member of Death Row’s Tha Dogg Pound, Daz Dillinger found himself embroiled in the rap wars of the mid-’90s. That was followed by an intense legal battle with Suge Knight and a brief beef with his partner Kurupt. After dropping a few respectable independent projects, the West Coast don relocated to Atlanta, where he linked up with Jermaine Dupri. Ready to make more hits than headlines, Daz returns with So So Gangsta, his first major label solo release in nearly 10 years.

His zip code may have changed, but Dillinger definitely still reps for the West as he kicks that gangsta shit on the synth-infused “Rat A Tat Tat.” He continues to throw his dubs up on the Ice Cube–assisted “Strizap,” and reps for his set on “DPG fo’ Life” featuring Soopafly and Snoop Dogg. While Left Coast grooves are Daz’s comfort zone, the No ID–produced “Thang on My Hip” is the album’s standout track. Supported by thematic pianos and pounding drums, Daz defiantly barks, “We could do whatever/Nigga, I been around/I ain’t been up to shit/I rose from the underground.”

Gangsta’s few low points actually come at the hands of JD, who occasionally waters down Daz’s sound with tender creations that fall flat. The plodding drums of “Weekend” do little to raise the bar, and “Badder Than a Mutha” is just another sloppy chick record. Dupri fares better with the Jagged Edge-–guested “The One.” Powered by stirring violins and banjos, Daz delivers a heartfelt story of true love (“Anything that I desired, my boo, she made it happen/The backbone of my gangsterism to keep me balanced”).

Lyrically, Daz is still dat nigga, but he rarely expounds upon anything other than clichéd themes here. Although Gangsta’s a welcome return for the OG, a little less gun talk and more substance would have broken up the monotony and saved the CD from just being so so.—PAUL CANTOR