Wednesday, October 28, 2009
TBG Beats: Snoop Doggy Dogg – Death Row – The Lost Sessions Vol. 1
(Most of the links below are NSFW. Don't say I didn't warn you.)
Me and Snoop go way back. In 1993, I copped his debut album (Doggystyle) during a midnight release at VIP Records in Long Beach, California. For those not impressed, I reiterate: midnight at VIP Records – on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and…Martin Luther King Boulevard! At midnight!
For the next 15 years, I bought every one of his albums. I remember half-heartedly defending 1996's Tha Doggfather to my boys in the dorms before eventually admitting how awful it was. I remember thinking Snoop would never, ever recover from 1998's Da Game is to Be Sold… abomination. I remember how excited I was over Snoop's reunion with his producer/sidekick Dr. Dre in 1999 and how it led to just a handful of so-so cameos on each other's albums.
I remember Snoop's last few releases and accept that 1993 was a long time ago
Snoop's old label – Death Row Records – is now owned and operated by an outfit in Canada. That's a story even longer than Snoop's, but the upside is that (1) gangsta lampoon Suge Knight is no longer involved with the company and (2) the new owners are determined to clear out the catalog by releasing obscure tracks, outtakes and never-before-heard cuts.
Last month, the label included seven previously unreleased tracks with their re-issuing of Dr. Dre's seminal LP The Chronic. A few weeks back, they dropped this CD from Snoop (Doggy) Dogg featuring material from his six years (1992-1997) on the Death Row.
Soldier Story (Intro) - A lonely horn wails in the distance as Snoop wistfully mumbles on about Dre's departure from Death Row Records and the passing of Tupac Shakur. It's funny to hear Snoop – in a cut from 1997 – proclaim himself as the label's savior. Especially, since his 1996 Doggfather album did as much to kill Death Row's momentum as anything other than…well, Dre leaving, Pac dying, etc.
Doggystyle - This one's been making the bootleg(!) circuits since 1993 and it's still a great track. Originally recorded for Snoop's first album, its pop-tinged funk – while catchy – would not have fit in there. The Funkadelic sample mixed with background vocals by George Clinton and Jewell holds up just fine today. 5/5
Fallin' Asleep on Death Row - Another "unauthorized" staple from assorted west coast mixtapes, this one's more notable for its Dr. Dre beat. I don't believe it was ever re-used with other material. Keep an ear out for The D.O.C. right at the beginning and lyrics from Snoop that eventually ended up in the third verse of Nate Dogg's Never Leave Me Alone. 2/5
Eat a D*** - There's all kinds of surreal going on here. Take the beat from Doggystyle's Serial Killa – with, believe it or not, an even MORE annoying hook – and add some first draft lyrics from "Doggy Dogg World". Dre n' Snoop must've been smoking the same stuff as this guy when they thought up this track. 1/5
Hoez - Snoop released a bootleg album called Smokefest in 1998 which included this awful, unlistenable cut. Daz and Kurupt mail their verses in right along with Snoop. 1/5
Keep It Real Dogg - Slow, meandering beat that was used in a skit on Doggfather as well as on "Change Gone Come" from the Smokefest album. Priest Brooks was an underrated producer for years. These are not his finest five minutes. 1/5
O.G. (Original Version) - Love the bouncy, up-tempo beat by Daz, which was quite the departure from Death Row's flaccid 1996-97 sound. This one made it on to Daz's pretty solid solo album – 1998's Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back - but the original is just Snoop and Nate Dogg doing what they do. 4/5
One Life to Live - This track references 1994, but it sounds a lot like an early attempt at 1993's "Murder Was the Case". Parts of Snoop's verse ended up in the much, much better Midnight Love song. Lady of Rage has a nice guest spot here. 2/5
The Genie - An otherwise forgettable effort that only merits mention for the appearance of Bo Roc from The Dove Shack rap group on the hook. C'mon, y'all…Dove Shack! The group that brought you Summertime in the LBC and This is the Shack! Those guys! Hey, they were hot for two weeks in 1995. Dove Shack! 2/5
Funk with Ya Brain (Interlude) - Funky.
Caught Up - The producer is listed as "unknown", but the inclusion of Charlie Wilson's tired guttural tones puts this one squarely in 1996. Oddly enough, Snoop appeared on the soundtrack to the 1998 movie Caught Up on a song called Caught Up, but it wasn't this one. (The Caught Up soundtrack was actually pretty nice. Scoop it up if you can find it on the cheap.) 3/5
Put It In Ya Mouth - This one is without a production credit, too. The obnoxious drum machine beat could've come right out of 2009, though. Some of Snoop's lyrics here ended up in Head Doctor. And, some of Snoop's lyrics should've stayed "lost": She wasn't from America, so she didn't speak English. I whipped out my **** and she spoke 'dinglish'. 2/5
Gravy Train - An obvious outtake from the recording of Me and My Doggs (Tear 'Em Off) - one of the worst tracks from Doggfather. The beat's not as bad here, but the "growling" sound effect negates whatever marginal gains came from the production. 1/5
Life's Hard (Dedicated to 2Pac) - Wow. I'm legitimately torn on whether or not Snoop regurgitating Tupac's verses – word for word – from tracks like "Starin' Through My Rearview" and "Made N****z" is actually a tribute. Snoop's obviously sincere and the K-Ci & Jo-Jo hook ("Just to diiiiiiiiiie up on some stupid sh**") is unintentional comedy at its finest. 3/5
The Root of All Evil (Outro) - A Teena Marie cameo?! And, damned if she doesn't own this one with the few words she was given.
Quite Obvious - These last three tracks are "Best Buy exclusives". Nice beatwork by Soopafly Brooks, as Snoop test drives the hook he'd later use for Pop Lockin'. Surprise MVP of this cut: Rappin' 4 Tay. Seriously! He kills it on this one. Seriously! 4/5
Once Again - Unpolished and probably unfinished, this one still works on the basis of an effective – albeit familiar – G-funk synth. Snoop is actually ahead of today's rap game here, as he teases a new dance ("The Paper") as the song fades out. If only we knew then how "introduce a new dance" rap would ruin the world 12 years later. 3/5
Got to Do Wrong - We wrap things up with more whispering Doggfather Snoop. I actually dug the whole "angel on one shoulder, devil on the other" concept – even if Dr. Dre and Eminem did it a ka-bazillion times better. 3/5
Verdict: Lost Sessions actually grew on me after a few listens. Like every other Snoop Dogg album from the past ten years, it features a handful of solid tracks and a little too much filler, but considering the source material and the potential for dated concepts and sounds, this one's a solidly "alright" entry into Snoop's discography.