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When Dr. Dre decided that it was time to jump ship from Death Row Records, it proved to be the most damaging split of a super-star producer and a label since Marley Marl cut ties with Cold Chillin’. Without his golden goose to produce Snoop Doggy Dogg’s follow-up to the incredibly popular Doggystyle, Suge Knight turned to LA rap veteran DJ Pooh and Death Row ‘inmates’ Daz, Sam Sneed, and Priest ‘Soopafly’ Brooks to handle the beats. Seeing as though DJ Pooh had an impressive resume at that point—having produced for King Tee, Ice Cube, Threat and Yo-Yo—and the fact that Daz had been heavily involved with The Chronic, in theory, this should have been a decent solution to filling the giant shoes of Andre Young. 19 years later to this day, I thought I’d listen to Tha Doggfather in full for the very first time and attempt to assess its merits free from the weight of expectation that weighed it down in 1996.

A collection of sound bites to remind everyone that Snoop beat that murder charge in 1995. *golf clap*

I guess Daz deserves credit for being the first rap producer to get Gap Band vocalist Charlie Wilson to sing a hook, but it’s hard to get excited when the execution is as pedestrian as this. Snoop sounds as if he’s on autopilot, lacking any of the wit or hint of menace that made his earlier work so captivating. The only noteworthy line is another reference to how he was found not guilty at his trial. Is this going to get mentioned on every second song from now on? All signs point to ‘yes.’

‘Ride 4 Me’
A skit where Snoop orders one of his weed carriers to go and shoot someone while Faze-O’s ‘Riding High’ plays in the background. Standard issue for a mid-nineties rap CD.

‘Up Jump Tha Boogie’
Snoop and Kurupt trade verses over a solid Zapp/P-Funk style beat, reminding me of the ‘good old days’ of LA rap. The Doggfather also has a little fire in his belly on this one, as he goes off at fake gangsta rappers who are ‘as predictable as Rambo’.

‘Freestyle Conversation’
Addressing the elephant in the room, Soopafly questions the Dogg on the rumours that his ‘beats gonna be delicate since Dre done shook the spiz-ot man.’ His reply? ‘Man, I don’t give a fuck about no beat!’ Snoop then starts spouting a stream-of-consciousness-style rap where he basically ignores the track and just talks fast. It’s an interesting idea but sounds terrible.

‘When I Grow Up’
This is a Public Service Announcement type of skit where Snoop tells a young fan not to look at him as a role model. It’s unclear if this was part of a court order or whether it’s a genuine sentiment, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt here.

‘Snoop Bounce’
Another track that sounds like a throwback to the pre-Chronic sound of LA rap, which I personally preferred to the G-Funk live instrument style. That being said, it’s hardly memorable. Murder case reference number three: ‘What I look like in jail and can’t get on the mic?’

‘Gold Rush’
An entry into the well-worn sub-genre known as cowboy rap (other examples include Kool Moe Dee’s ‘Wild, Wild West,’ Intelligent Hoodlum’s ‘Posse’ and Fu-Gees’ ‘Desperados’). Thanks to vocal contributions from Kurupt and the LBC Crew, this actually one of the more interesting songs so far.

‘(Tear ‘Em Off) Me & My Doggz’
There is absolutely nothing about this song that is noteworthy. I doubt Snoop can even remember recording this.

‘You Thought’
Too $hort and Soopafly join Mr Broadus to trade pimp talk. The tempo is a little outside of $hort Dog’s comfort zone, but he still finds time to relieve one of his conquests of her rent money. Aww, bless.

A predictable follow-up to the remake of ‘La Di Da Di’ from his debut, once again Snoop simply inserts some west coast slang words and changes a few names from Biz Markie’s classic tale of proving your doubters wrong.

I assume this is supposed to be this album’s version of ‘Ain’t No Fun’? Worth a listen for Nate Dogg’s crooning, it’s a mildly amusing reminder of better songs from this crew.

A lot of talk about ‘Gangsta haters’ but no explanation as to why this is called ‘2001.’ Another perfectly serviceable but unexceptional track.

‘Sixx Minutes’
It sounds like Snoop is just making this up on the spot, and not in a good way. The only thing worth mentioning about this is that the hook is another Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick throwback (from ‘The Show’).

‘(O.J.) Wake Up’
Over the drums from Run-DMC’s ‘It’s Like That’ and some vaguely Middle-Eastern strings, Tay Dee and Snoop don’t rap about anything in particular. Here I was hoping that he was going to compare his ‘Not Guilty’ verdict to the OJ Simpson trial, but it was just another dick joke.

‘Snoop’s Upside Ya Head’
The lead single from Tha Doggfather LP, this song is a lot less catchy than it thinks it is. As much as I hate to admit it, I’d rather hear Snap’s remake of the original if I had the choice.

Sam Sneed delivers that sinister sound that the Dogg Pound were known for, making for a superior posse cut. While Snoop seems to be leaning toward a kinder, gentler Dogg on this album, the LBC Crew, Kurupt, and Daz have no qualms about sticking to the classic recipe.

‘Traffic Jam’
Another dick joke skit, natch.

I’m getting sleepy.

 ‘Downtown Assassins’
Who wants to hear the worst Tony Montana (Scarface) impersonations ever? Anyone? This actually makes T La Rock sound like Al Pacino by comparison. As for the raps? This is Snoop, Tray Dee, and Daz playing dress-ups as old-style mobsters.

A snippet of Snoop and his buddies on stage. Thrilling stuff.

 Verdict: After sitting through Tha Doggfather, I assumed that Snoop Dogg was simply going through the motions and fulfilling his contractual obligations to Death Row Records (i.e. doing whatever he had to do to not be repeatedly hit with an aluminium baseball bat in the studio), but according to Snoop he was actually really proud of the album and felt that it was a rebirth for him as far as making more positive music. This only goes to prove that one man’s ‘positive gangsta rap’ is another man’s ‘audio sedative.’

There isn’t a single track on this album worth revisiting, and if you were to compile a retrospective of classic Snoop songs from his 13 solo albums, you’d be safe to skip this LP altogether. It isn’t so much the lack of Dr Dre that makes Tha Doggfather as dull as dishwater, it’s Snoop himself. Doggystyle worked because it played as “The Chronic Part II”, but as his career since has demonstrated, Snoop Dogg will be remembered as a ‘singles’ artist—known for classics such as ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, ‘Sexual Eruption’, ‘Beautiful’, and ‘Gin and Juice’. Doggfather lacks any such great singles and, as a result, is merely a footnote in the Dogg discography.

 Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.

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