While the
name of So So Def’s newest signee
has had multiple variations–Daz, Daz
Dillinger, Dat Nigga Daz
–his credo hasn’t. Ever since his days with the
historic Death Row Records and the Snoop Dogg-headed Dogg Pound crew, Daz has
laced the same bassline-heavy beats and spewed the same West Coast gangsta
flows that he helped originate. So, understandably, Daz’s alignment with Jermaine
notably crossover-friendly So
So Def
Recordings had a few fans of the West Coast legend raising their
eyebrows. But with his So So Def
debut, So So Gangsta, Daz maintains his place in the West
Coast gangsta scene while gaining new ground.

It’s clear
from the opening bars of “Thang On My Hip” that Daz hasn’t lost a step in his California strut. “We can do whatever, nigga I been around…I rose from the underground,”
a hungry Daz spews over an ominous No I.D. production. Daz is still gangsta, and he’s still
quick with the tongue. “Dangerous,” “Rat A Tat Tat” and “Dat’s Dat Nigga”
feature Daz going for dolo,
energetically spitting the hardcore rhymes he built his career on with equally
tough soundscapes. It’s also fun to see Daz
working with old friends: both the “Money On My Mind” and “DPG Fo’ Life”
reunions with Kurupt and Snoop Dogg, respectively, steams of old
school G-Funk, while Daz competes
with Ice Cube for best verse honors
on the hard as nails “Strizap.”

pleasant surprises on So So Gangsta
appear through Daz’s surprisingly
natural chemistry with Jermaine Dupri.
In return for Daz substituting the
gangsterisms for light-hearted rhymes every once in a while, the producer/mogul
deftly navigates various collaborations with mainstream-friendly artists to
perfection. Daz and pusher-turned-emcee Rick Ross trade bars over infectious
flutes and trombones on “On Some Real,” while Dupri’s sultry strings on “The One” flawlessly back Jagged Edge’s vocals and Daz’s surprisingly potent ode to ups
and downs with a significant other. Along with more high-scale collaborations, Dupri also offers tantalizing backdrops
on “All I Need” and “Weekend,” each of which Daz easily adapts to the situation and spits appropriate rhymes and

So So Gangsta isn’t perfect; minute-plus long
intros before many of the tracks get annoying (separate interludes would’ve
worked fine), and while “Badder Than A Mutha” is a decent track, it doesn’t
live up to the rest of the LP. Still, So
So Gangsta
swiftly delivers the best of both worlds: satisfying doses of
both JD’s trademark So So Def production and Daz’s signature gangsta flow.