At this point in his long career, Snoop Dogg, deservedly, does whatever he feels like doing. The list of his endeavors is long: genre-defining rapper, reggae/funk/R&B artist, actor, author, porn producer, and high school football coach. He’s a fixture on YouTube, where his long-running GGN Hood News show features his alter ego Nemo Hoes cracking jokes, sitting around bullshitting, and smoking weed with celebrities.
He’s come a long way since the cold-blooded killer of his Death Row days. Today he’s America’s favorite rapper, with an image best described as damn near wholesome. And no one’s even mad about it the way they’re mad about Ice Cube, or Jay-Z, or anyone else perceived as having fallen off or gone soft. Snoop even champions endorsements other rappers would never touch. He’s done multiple commercials for Hot Pockets, and he did them with a sly wink that tells us Snoop Dogg doesn’t give a fuck and is doing whatever he wants, so we might as well relax and enjoy ourselves.
Now, in the midst of all the other factions of his empire, Snoop’s latest album, Bush, arrives almost as an afterthought: “Oh yeah, I’m recording with Pharrell.” As much as it seems rote, as if the Doggfather is only making music as an obligation rather than a necessity, it makes sense for him to downplay his music and develop his image independently. In doing so, Snoop has liberated himself from having to be a pimp or a gangsta. He’s free to do whatever he wants. He released reggae and funk albums in the same year. He can be anything; he can do anything.
On Bush, Snoop Dogg’s 13th album, he does exactly that. Fans were in love with the announcement that Snoop would be working with the Neptunes again, and anyone familiar with their collaborations in the 2000s will get a chill up their spine when the album opens with that classic Neptunes drum-and-synth sound—but then it goes unexpectedly off the rails, because the next thing you hear is Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, and the next thing you hear after that is Snoop singing, and it’s not a hook, it’s a verse. And he keeps singing, and then the song is over, and you hear a lot more songs where Snoop continues to sing. Maybe Pharrell croons a little bit, maybe Charlie Wilson drops an “ooo wee” for old times’ sake, maybe Gwen Stefani guests on a song that sounds like the B-52s in all the right ways, and maybe Snoop even raps a couple of lines alongside T.I. or Rick Ross or Kendrick Lamar, but the vast majority of the time Snoop is singing over a slick hunk of butter that sounds closer to Random Access Memories than Doggystyle. Viva Moroder, then.
Bush is best served at a moderate volume, unanalyzed, whenever you’re feeling a little too anxious or wound up. Its chill tunes would be perfect in the background at a Sunday night party where everybody gets a little buzzed and has a good time, but nobody can afford to get wild because they all have work the next morning.
We’re at a point now where a new album from Snoop is more of a novelty than an event in terms of image and direction and impact. It might go unnoticed for any number of reasons. But this type of album should be listened to, because it’s interesting, whether or not it succeeds in the traditional sense. Snoop is doing exactly what an artist of his caliber should do at this point in his career: whatever the fuck he wants.