Doggy Style Records
Doggy Style Records

Any way you slice it, Snoop Dogg is one of hip-hop’s ultimate veterans. He is a true pioneer of contemporary rap music and has without a doubt birthed the style, flow and careers of countless MCs who have come after him. His legacy in the game can never be defamed but the second half of his career’s narrative is far from flawless. A couple flopped albums and two separate, unusual self-reinventions (Snoop Lion and Snoopzilla) have ultimately tainted his history of rap royalty. The Snoop that gave us timeless G-Funk put down the gin and juice and picked up a beanie, which was hardly well received. But now, after the reggae rebrand and the brief funk undertaking, the Doggfather is back with Coolaid, his most hip-hop album in years.

Based on the classic cartoon cover art alone, Snoop is bringing it back to the basics. The illustration, reminiscent of his 1993 debut LP cover for Doggystyle, features Snoop mixing up a concoction of equal parts “swag,” “lingo,” “hair,” “style” and, of course, “G." Although Coolaid is Snoop’s 14th studio album, it truly feels and sounds like a follow up to 2004’s Rhythm & Gangsta: The Masterpiece.

Instead of bouncing all over the map with production that hits as often as it misses, Coolaid employs the kinetic genius of Swizz Beatz to handle a healthy chunk of production -- just as R&G used The Neptunes’ innovative sonics to curate the album. High-profile producers like Just Blaze, Timbaland, J Dilla and Jazze Pha all lend beats to a couple cuts on the album but its Swizz’s sounds that stand out most.

“Let Me See Em Up” is perhaps the most raw, unfiltered track with lots of motivational ad-libs from Swizz and slick Snoop lines about “sittin’ on my throne” and “livin’ the boss life”; all of which makes for a very supercilious four minutes. He also declares his well-deserved OG status on the Cardo-produced “Affiliated,” stating that he “don’t hang in my hood but I bang in my hood, I’m affiliated.” It’s an honest line that’s refreshing to hear seeing as Snoop now spends most of his days coaching football in Beverly Hills instead of hanging in the hood.

What Snoop gets right on Coolaid is his ability to adapt to today’s modern sound without losing sight of his strengths. The Jeremih-assisted “Point Seen Money Gone” has all the makings of a modern day hit (a moody and melodic chorus, rolling trap drums, hoppy claps) but instead of copping out and hitting it with the laziest Auto-Tune-laced verses, Snoop keeps it incredibly real with his signature West Coast twang. Lines like “Mula, fetty, you not ready/I'mma get the cheese but the bread was spaghetti/Letti said he can play with them broads/Opportunistic I stay on them hoes” glide across Bongo’s lush beat just as slick as he did back in 1993.

“Feel About Snoop,” produced by Rockwilder, is the most creative and age appropriate track on the album. The track is a playful self-reflection on his career and the way people feel about him. Of course it’s cool to hear Snoop rap about smoking weed, pimping hoes and pouring up but we’ve all heard that a million times before. He has become such a G-Funk master that those gangster lyrics ooze out of him so naturally it must be hard to totally switch it up. But when he raps lines like “And there ain't no doubt about it/Regarded as the freshest, by the way that I live/All the songs that I did, and givin' back to the kids/ I mean I done been everywhere that you wanna go” it feels way more refined and timely.

Snoop is creeping up on 45 years old with a 23-year career under his belt and one hell of a story to tell. Coolaid would have gained top marks if he put some of the old school gangsta filler on ice and let us know what it’s like to be one of rap’s most accomplished veterans.

Given Snoop’s varied catalog, Coolaid actually stacks up fairly well against his 13 other releases. We get a strong dose of the old school Snoop we love and know while getting a little taste of the more distinguished Doggfather who we hope will eventually provide tracks filled with more wisdom and less weed. Don’t count on the latter though.

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