There’s no question Dr. Dre launched Snoop’s career and gave him the signature sound of his early years, but since “Paid Tha Cost to Be Da Bo$$” scored a monster hit in “Beautiful” it’s clear that Pharrell Williams has become a classic Snoop Dogg collaborator behind AND in front of the boards. Their unique chemistry results in Snoop dropping his “Rhythm & Gangsta” on Pharrell’s Star Trak imprint, where the distinctively quirky production behind “Drop It Like It’s Hot” proved to be equally monster in its crossover appeal. Since they only seem to come back with more and more hits when they work together one has only to ask – why don’t they do it more often?
It seems they agree and “Bush” is the answer. Once again Snoop Dogg (abandoning his Bob Marley-esque Snoop Lion persona) has signed with a label under Pharrell’s thumb, and this time it’s the i am OTHER imprint. Rather than just producing a handful of tracks for the album which tends to result in some of Snoop’s most memorable moments, this time the duo have doubled down by putting his production magic on ALL TEN tracks.
Pharrell’s Neptunes amigo Chad Hugo lends a helping hand as needed, but if you had any doubt that it was about Pharrell you only need to listen to “California Roll” featuring Stevie Wonder. The song is as light and delicious as the cucumber, crab and avocado combo it could reference… but of course this is marijuana loving S-N-double-O-P we’re talking about – so there’s an entirely different “California” he was “rolling” here. Once his amigo P stops singing the chorus, the laconic Snoop Dizzle croons his verses over the instrumental, peppered with Michael Jackson style “WOOOOOO” interjections. The harmonica playing adds a whimsical element, and the big echoing drums that accompany them are vintage Pharrell.
“Let me show you all around
I could show you where all the real get it
And if you wanna go downtown
You might as well roll with a real nigga
I’m not talking bout them fools
I’m talking ’bout me and you”
Snoop is definitely embracing his inner crooner this time around, although on the album’s lead single “Peaches N Cream” he finds a little time to do both. He also gets his Nelly on with some “you can tell the chaffeur he can park it right THURR,” but he’s also channeling his inner George Clinton with sentiments like “freak don’t fail me now” (with a little assistance from Charlie Wilson). The most flattering imitation is his tribute to Rob Base and the late E-Z Rock in the song’s second verse:
“I came to cut right now
Big Snoop Dogg and I came to get down
Yes, I’m internationally known
Libra lovin’ make you moan and groan, yeah”
“Bush” showcases a playful and relaxed Calvin Broadus, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after a successful three decade run in hip-hop. He’s parlayed his musical talent into acting roles on both the big and the small screen, he’s paved the road for other Southern California artists to achieve similar success, and though he has an occasional brush with the law (usually over marijuana possession) he’s settled down with his high school sweetheart (they reconciled and renewed their wedding vows in 2008 after a few years apart) to raise his three kids. That doesn’t mean Snoop has forgotten how to party though, or how to create a clever music video, as “So Many Pros” looks LITERALLY like every 70’s Blaxploitation movie poster EVER.
There are times that Pharrell could use a little more change up to his approach though. “R U a Freak” sounds like “So Many Pros” with the tempo turned up. There could also be more outside collaboration on “Bush,” because Snoop has always sounded good with partners-in-rhyme, but the biggest ones you’ll find are “Edibles” featuring T.I. and the album’s closer “I’m Ya Dogg” where Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar get in the mix.
The drawbacks to “Bush” are few and far between though, and even these complaints are more like minor annoyances. If you’d prefer Snoop to rap a little more and sing a little less I can understand your beef, but with Pharrell producing he can get away with doing it as much as he does. Snoop has a way of being a bridge builder and crosser though, so it only makes sense to hear him doing a pop rap song with Katy Perry (on her album) or Gwen Stefani (on “Run Away” here). He’s not the G he was twenty years ago, but there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.