Malice In Wonderland
is the tenth studio album from Snoop Dogg
--one of the finest rappers of his generation and a huge influence on the entire hip hop genre. With artists queueing up to work with Snoop, it is no surprise that this record features appearances from the likes of The Dream on single "Gangsta Luv", Soulja Boy on "Pronto" and R. Kelly
on "Pimpin' Ain't EZ". With one of the most distinctive vocal styles in the world, Snoop Dogg continues to push himself and produce great rap music.
Snoop’s 2008 collection, Ego Trippin’, saw the gangsta rap veteran – “Pushing 40, still a big deal” – focus on his own rhymes, guests conspicuous by their absence. This tenth album takes the opposite approach, with a wealth of guests on board, but the results are similarly commendable. The rapper’s heyday, where incendiary LPs Doggystyle and Murder Was the Case helped define the gangsta sound, might arguably be behind him, but Snoop’s still exhibiting the singular traits that made his name.
Now chairman at Priority Records – he tells us he’s the boss with no little authority on the Lil Jon-featuring 1800 – Snoop’s extra-curricular business activities have proved much more than flirtatious distractions. He’s invested more than just his money, and while X-rated movies and the man’s own acting abilities are certainly not to everyone’s tastes, they go to show that Snoop has drive and ambition to spare. He dragged himself out of the ‘hood – “I went from a yard to a three-car garage” – and he’s never going back.
Malice…, both musically and lyrically, has enough nods to Snoop’s early releases to have some listeners concluding it’s a ‘return to form’. But the truth is, with only a few exceptions, his albums have been consistently strong. Snoop’s flow has defined him, relaxed but never missing a beat; his talk of being a gangsta is rooted in reality, and he’s genuinely lived the pimp lifestyle. Unlike many of his peers, Snoop’s really told it as it is, and with an enviably starry address book to hand he’s been able to surround himself with the cream of contemporary production talents.
“We need you to move… like, expeditiously,” instructs Snoop on Pronto – really, what other mainstream rapper ever uses that kind of language? The wordplay is slick throughout, and the production sharp and precise, both functional and fresh. Timbaland and Dr Dre earn co-credits on I Wanna Rock and That’s Tha Homie respectively, and their presence, alongside The Neptunes and Teddy Riley, is proof (if any was needed) that Snoop commands respect. Pimping ain’t easy, but Snoop’s evidently still at the forefront of this difficult field.
His eyes have never been off the prize, and while the journey from Dre protégé to today’s multi-media impresario hasn’t always been smooth, it’s certainly been interesting. And Malice… is a fine X to mark this spot in his career. --Mike Diver
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