You're probably wondering what the HELL is going on. No, this album is for real. We all know that Snoop Dogg left Death Row and joined No Limit Records - under what we all assumed to be a smooth transfer of contracts and monetary funds. In other words, Master P bought out his remaining years and unreleased records. Lately though, Death Row has been crying foul and accusing Snoop of being a traitor - leaving his labelmates to rot while he lives it up. While Snoop's once flagging career has been on the rise since departing, Death Row's fortunes seem to be shifting in the other direction. Since Death Row has gone so far as to claim on record that Snoop is scared of Suge Knight, some have interpreted this record's release as an outright threat. It is called "Dead Man Walkin" after all; and on the backside of the CD's jewel case is a shot of Snoop laying in a coffin - presumably from his "Murder Was the Case" video when he was still on Death Row.
Legally speaking, there's probably nothing Snoop Dogg can do. These songs were clearly recorded while he was still on Death Row (he references the label throughout) although they weren't released for one reason or another. Death Row owns the songs and probably even owns the rights to use the Snoop Dogg name. Snoop clearly did not authorize it, nor does he have any messages for his fans or his producers in the liner notes. It's possible though that Snoop doesn't WANT to fight this album. If Death Row is legally obligated to pay him for selling his records, he can clearly either expect a check in the mail or file a lawsuit if one isn't forthcoming.
The fans aren't interested in these issues though - they want to know if Snoop released another bomb the caliber of "Doggystyle" or "No Limit Top Dogg." Well, this album falls somewhere between the two. The production team behind Snoop's vocals includes Big Hutch, Dat Nigga Daz, DJ Pooh, Kurt Kobane, L.T. Hutton, Soopafly and Snoop Dogg himself. With such a mixed stew of people in the booth, you can expect the quality varies. "May I" lives up to Snoop's lyrical promise to "funk this motherfunker right on up" with a smooth groove, and Kobane serves a pimpish sounding Snoop nicely on "Head Doctor." "Gangsta Walk" is produced by Daz and features Daz and Kurupt; Tha Dogg Pound - yet more artists who have left Death Row. Daz also produced and appears on "Tommy Boy" - a cut that sounds like it came straight off The Lady of Rage's "Necessary Roughness" in terms of it's snappy tempo and funky piano/synth chords. Daz and Hutch collaborated on the jailhouse rap "County Blues" but the coldest track is probably Hutch's "C-Walkin" - a track on which Snoop talks about his past life's gang affiliations. Since Snoop has never been very overt about his crip past, it may be a reason this track hadn't released the light of day. It's some classic smooth-flowing Snoop shit though.
By contrast though, Hutch also produced "My Favorite Color" and seems to not have known what to do with it. He tried to provide a funk vocal for Snoop, who to his credit is kicking some aight lyrics - it's just that he delivers them at barely above a weeded-whisper. This song brings back memories of why his Snoop's Death Row album "Tha Doggfather" was for the most part a dud. You can see where Snoop was going with "Too Black" but his lethargic delivery here just can't be helped; no matter how hard L.T. Hutton talks, people won't listen. Somehow the normally superior DJ Pooh is less than stellar on his "Hit Rocks" contribution. It's too repetitive (musically and lyrically) to remain interesting; Snoop even borrows part of his rap from his "Doggfather" single.
Almost all of these tracks seem to start with or include some snippet of movie dialogue, and I suspect the one on the album's closer "Me and My Doggs" is from the movie "Gang Related." While it may have been recorded for this soundtrack since it was on Death Row, it's all this song and the film have in common. On the song he's not talking about his homies either; talking about his REAL dogs - his pitbulls. It's semi-interesting, but only to a Snoop fan. Ultimately, that's the impression this whole album leaves you with - it's not all wack, it's not all dope, it's just some unreleased Snoop material that Death Row compiled together to juice Snoop's fans. The new raps Snoop is recording these days are just as good if not substantially better, but you may still want to pick it up. It's up to you to decide if Snoop's being ripped off.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: November 8, 2000