For all the fauxlosophical treatises scrawled on “Trapped in the Clost, the “Ignition Remix,” and his certain unforgivable character traits (DEFINE UNDERAGE), R Kelly’s gifts can be distilled to a pretty simple arithmetic: melody + voice + comedy + charisma. Or as he would say, “swag like a lighter.” I’m not even sure what that phrase means, but it infects my waking consciousness. The kids say swag. Kells has swag like a combustible blend of oil, plastic, and metal. Somehow, the combination of Snoop spitting sinuous double-time raps, Kells, and a beat from Lex Luger has been mostly overlooked by the blogosphere. Thankfully, radio has continued to wage the national war to have every beat on the dial be by Lex Luger (we are roughly six months away from smooth jazz stations playing Kenny G comeback tracks produced by young Lexus — so flute trill).
Despite being as overexposed as Charlie Sheen (his latest collaborat0r) Snoop’s new album “Doggumentary” is deceptively strong. Not all of it, of course. Sampling Yazoo with T-Pain is a slithery flail at the pop charts. While lyrically, Snoop has been in a holding pattern since the days of “Deep Cover.” But like Kells, he blends charm with great comic instincts. As J-Treds once said, the man has more presence than attendance in a class of schizophrenics. My full review is up at the Times, but don’t be deceived by the blithe stoner persona. For all his fried synapses, Snoop is a serious student of music and his latest album finds him going heavy into modern funk, while sharing drugs with everyone from Willie Nelson to Bootsy Collins to Jake One — the latter’s evolution into token underground nod on overground albums is a very welcome trend (see also: T.I.’s “Salute.”)
Five years ago, I might have written off Snoop as another legacy artist destined to lapse into irrelevancy and repetition. But his recent collabos with Dam-Funk augur well for his trajectory. In his own singular way, Snoop’s evolving into the rap equivalent of a “Computer Games”-era George Clinton. Except that the lighter is incinerating only herbal forms of medicine.