Faced with the decision of making the promised Doggystyle II or a more traditional project, Snoop Dogg came to the proverbial fork in the road and went straight. Doggumentary is a concept album that allowed fans a multi-media glimpse at the Long Beach superstar’s creative process, and just how he has been able to churn out relevant albums for the 18 years. The campaign was complete with bachelor party songs to Royalty, Wiz Khalifa smoke-out sessions and a slew of endorsements, but in the end all of those activities may have trumped the actual album itself.
Doggumentary isn’t a frustrating listen because of shortcomings, as many of them that there are; it’s frustrating because there are some real glimpses of late-career genius on it that Snoop continues to neglect. The album opens strong with the expertly produced “The Way Life Used to Be.” Veteran producer Battlecat’s subtle head nodder of a beat exudes with G-Funk sounds, while Snoop’s laid-back delivery lets the listener walk a mile in his house shoes growing up in sunny C-A. The song serves as the perfect companion piece to the cautionary tale of “Peer Pressure,” which finds Snoop side-stepping preach inclinations in favor of his experiential wisdom.
The album continues on with a series of top-notch cuts, from west coast throwbacks (“Wonder What I Do,” “We Rest in Cali”) to gleefully ignorant guilty pleasures (“My Fucn House” , “Take U Home” ). Calvin is in rare form at this stage in the LP, blending his LBC roots with his two decades of musical experience. The guest list alone, although perhaps too expansive, finds Snoop perfectly balancing his DPGC brethren like Daz Dillinger and Goldie Loc with newfound friends like Wiz Khalifa and Young Jeezy. Even the legendary Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Boosty Collins throws his top hat into the ring, bringing a level of authenticity to Snoop’s return to G-Funk form.
Unfortunately, an onslaught of flaccid club bangers and inept crossover hits take a Louisville Slugger to the album’s kneecaps. Fans have heard Snoop reaching for the lowest common denominator before (remember his No Limit days?), but Doggumentary finds him slumping to all-new depths of mediocrity. Tracks like “Boom” with T-Pain and “Wet” are inane excuses for singles, while the Lex Luger-produced “Platinum” is a vacuum of blandness with its farting basses and nondescript ambient synths. The only thing more devastating than Snoop’s attempts at radio relevance are his ill-fated genre-bending experiments. He sounds strained working with the Gorillaz (“Sumthin Like This”), and his country western duet with Willie Nelson (“Superman”) has barely enough life in it to even induce cringing. But perhaps the biggest offender on the album is Kanye West, whose meat headed rock production on “Eyez Closed” is a rare missed mark for the hit-maker.
Even some of the gangsta-related material that one would expect Snoop to ace somehow falls short. “My Own Way” and “Raised in Da Hood” do little to make Snoop’s thug stories any more interesting the eleventh time around, while plodding production from David Banner and THX on “It’s D Only Thang” and DJ Khalil on “I Don’t Need No Bitch” drown Snoop in a wash of cacophony. Even when Snoop is handed a competently produced beat, like Jake One’s excellent “Gangbang Rookie,” he wastes it on caricatured gangsta platitudes and less-than-adept protégé Pilot.
Despite its few splashes of greatness, Doggumentary is a grave disappointment from a west coast iconoclast. Guests and events surrounding an album may bring people to the event, but the music offered here will not keep them.