Though the mainstream media mostly treats him as a stoner curio, Snoop Dogg’s recent career arc has been deceptively interesting. Whether it’s impeccable guidance provided by management or whether his synapses are so scorched earth that he can’t determine good ideas from bad ones, Snoop has evolved into the most unpredictable veteran in rap. Whereas most of the still-effective 90s rappers have ossified into a trademark style and work to further refine it (Rae, Scarface, Bun B), Snoop’s spent the last few years  hopping from stoner country songs, to Katy Perry pop pablum, to auto-tuned and afro’d KY-Jelly soul. It’s rarely great, but it’s always entertaining, and so he defies the odds of relevancy so stacked against him .

One of Snoop’s more unsung but notable turns was on the intro track to the Gorillaz’ surprisingly excellent Plastic Beach. Over the last decade, he’s forsaken the snarling bark of his early material for the avuncular sing-song flow. The decision is an aesthetic one, and probably has more to do with commercial concerns than loss of ability. When I saw him at Rock the Bells, he was able to seamlessly slip into his old style — and recent tracks like this confirm he can still rappity-rap when he wants. Like Jay, he’s been one of the few ancients to adapt to the times, dumbing down their styles so they all yell holler.

Yet rather than jack the younger generation wholesale (a la Young Chris), Snoop’s lazy drift has been taken as a model. You can’t listen to Wiz Khalifa without noticing the blazed ennui, the melodic cadence, the weed obsession. Devin deserves credit too, but Snoop came first and has been unafraid to experiment with whatever weird idea rises to the top. Marijuana impairs judgment and occasionally, this can be a good thing. How else to explain the invention of spyglass rap as evidenced by this video? Besides, I know of no one else charismatic enough to convince a pilgrim to get high.

MP3: The Gorillaz ft. Snoop Dogg-“Welcome to the Plastic Beach”

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