Release Date: Jul 15, 2016
Record label: One Music
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
Maintaining relevance by remaining open to new ideas is a key to longevity and respect, a concept Snoop Dogg has a keen knack for at this point. Last year’s snoozed over LP BUSH was the overdue culmination of collaborations with long-time benefactor Pharrell Williams but the world’s most recognizable rapper returns to form having outlasted practically all of his peers with Coolaid, his fourteenth solo album. The cover shows his well-known animated likeness pouring cups for youth from jugs labeled Swag, Style and Lingo, as he puts on a 77-minute crash course in self-celebration while setting out to prove he deserves consideration amongst today’s elite.
On a 2014 episode of Snoop Dogg‘s YouTube show, GGN, Snoop and 50 Cent mock the ubiquitous flow of rappers like Migos and Future. In less than 30 seconds, the West Coast legend brilliantly illustrates the flows that have homogenized mainstream rap. That continues on Coolaid, Snoop’s highly anticipated 14th studio album.
Coming just about a year after his Pharrell Williams-helmed album Bush landed as a conceptual, dank disco triumph, Snoop Dogg returned with this 2016 back-to-basics effort, Coolaid, which is as comfortable as it is cool. Without the crip walking and crime bossing of his early years, the varied and mainstream LP falls right in line with Snoop's 2004 effort R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, offering a cavalcade of stars and numerous radio-worthy party tracks. Swizz Beatz is the album's executive-producing anchor and surprisingly helms one of the album's most G-funk-sounding cuts, the grinding "Let Me See Em Up," which sounds like an old-school anthem combined with massive post-dubstep bass.
Let’s be honest: Snoop Dogg hasn’t put out a brilliant album since Tha Doggfather. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For an artist who’s transcended music and become a cultural icon, it makes sense that he would choose to spend more time on narrating National Geographic documentaries and appearing on talk and game shows than writing rhymes in a studio.
With 14 studio albums and 24 years of rapping under his belt, is there anything left for Snoop Dogg to prove musically? Other than winning his first Grammy, there isn't much. "Always be a legend, a motherfucking legend," he raps on the hook of Coolaid's opening track (titled "Legend," naturally). Aware that his status as a hip-hop icon is all but cemented, it doesn't stop the Doggfather from showing he still has some bite.
Last year Snoop Dogg abandoned his unconvincing and brief Snoop Lion rasta persona to go back to basics for Bush, a model of what an old man rap album should be. But Coolaid finds him pivoting again, replacing avuncular barbecue charm with Snoop’s most aggressive delivery ever. The first half has him snarling over gnarly beats to mixed effect: Let Me See Em Up and Just Blaze’s irresistible DJ Mustard impression on Super Crip go legitimately hard, but Snoop needn’t and shouldn’t imitate Kanye West’s hyper-intense bark, as on Legend.
Over the decades, we’ve watched Snoop Dogg go through nearly as many costume changes as Madonna. Gangbanger Snoop, No Limit Southern-rap Snoop, pop star Snoop, “Drop It Like It’s Hot” Snoop, “Sensual Seduction” Snoop, “Snoop Lion”—sometimes those sonic and aesthetic remixes have worked, other times not so much. With Coolaid, arguably Snoop’s first real hip-hop album in half a decade, we find his reinvention back into “Rapper Snoop” to be a bit wobbly.
Any way you slice it, Snoop Dogg is one of hip-hop’s ultimate veterans. He is a true pioneer of contemporary rap music and has without a doubt birthed the style, flow and careers of countless MCs who have come after him. His legacy in the game can never be defamed but the second half of his career’s narrative is far from flawless. A couple flopped albums and two separate, unusual self-reinventions (Snoop Lion and Snoopzilla) have ultimately tainted his history of rap royalty.