A TRU Tank Dogg: Prime Cuts from Snoop Dogg’s Albums on No Limit Records

Pete Hunt takes a look at Snoop's time riding in the golden tank by mapping out the highlights.
By    January 29, 2019

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Pete Hunt gets no rap with that tore up khaki suit.

A few years back, I excitedly emailed some colleagues to announce I’d created a playlist featuring the best songs from Snoop Dogg’s No Limit albums. From monitoring the “Friend Activity” sidebar on Spotify, I knew that this group regularly revisited The Chronic, Doggystyle, and 2001 and I was sure they’d be thrilled to dive into this carefully curated mix from the same period (or at least the back half of it). I may have even made a comparison to “Bowie’s Berlin trilogy” in my fervor.

Alas, the response was muted—which is to say I never even received an autofill “Thanks for sharing!” reply.

This poor reception shouldn’t have been surprising. These were, after all, albums recorded in the wake of the underwhelming (although arguably slightly underrated) Doggfather, which left many listeners… well, at least skeptical about Snoop’s merit as a solo artist without Dr. Dre behind the boards.

No Limit Records launched out of Richmond, and did start off offering a facsimile West Coast sound—but one that was already bending towards Master P’s hometown New Orleans bounce. And while Dre was known as a sonic perfectionist, No Limit proudly offered “Beats By the Pound” along with a sprawling catalog of artists you’d never heard of releasing overstuffed albums you’d never purchase (or purchase and sell back after dubbing the four good songs).

The deal with Master P was a marriage of business convenience, not natural musical stylings. And while the clash between Snoop’s breezy flow and No Limit’s sledgehammer sound did produce several interesting moments—like the C-Murder collaboration Kanye sampled for “Blood on the Leaves”—Snoop always sounded like a tourist on these cuts, even when they were on his own albums.

The best songs from this period were rooted firmly within the fertile soil of G-Funk, tended to by producers like Meech Wells, DJ Quik, Battlecat, Jelly Roll, Soopafly, and especially Dr. Dre. Snoop tells the good doctor to “holla at me” near the end of the Dre-less Da Game is to be Sold, Not to be Told, and he prescribes absolutely stellar beats on the next two albums. This is Dre in his “Deep Note,” high fidelity prime, and any of these cuts would have fit seamlessly on 2001

Snoop, meanwhile, was still a nimble rapper with authenticity and edge—the guy who popped up to Bogart a joint in Half Baked, not the pervy uncle leering at Katy Perry in “California Girls.” His best verses here offer a dexterously delivered distillation of his Doggystyle essence, with elements of playful braggadocio, vivid street life, and copious drug-and-alcohol intake.

If you’d forgotten how good some of these tracks were, it’s only because you vividly remember the half-inspired No Limit numbers that surrounded them. But once you excise The Tank from the frame—like an inverse Garfield Minus Garfield—it becomes easier to visualize the Artful Dodger who rolled around Long Beach on the handlebars of a bicycle and once effortlessly demolished the New York City skyline.

So without further ado…

“Snoop World (featuring Master P)”

Produced by KLC

Snoop’s first No Limit album, 1998’s Da Game is to be Sold, Not to be Told, was mostly a gaudily packaged dud (all praise to Pen & Pixel) that seemed to affirm the diminished expectations around the rushed release  But the “Snoop World” album intro gets things off to a rollicking start via KLC’s brilliant pairing of live bass and stoned xylophone. Tracks like this are evidence that the Beats collective—KLC, Mo B. Dick, Craig B, and O’Dell—were certainly capable of making great beats when they had more than twenty minutes to finish them. Snoop’s verses here are workmanlike but fun, and even guest Master P seems to be having a good time.

“Hennesey N Buddah (featuring Kokane)”

Produced by Dr. Dre

We skip ahead to 2000’s Tha Last Meal, which was a deliberate throwback to Doggystyle, from its Joe Cool-illustrated cover art (great idea) to its Timbaland-produced sequel to “What’s My Name” (the less said, the better). This is an absolute top-shelf Dr. Dre production driven by a P-Funk-inspired groove and Kokane’s best George Clinton impression. Snoop, meanwhile, reminds you that he was once a good enough writer that other people paid him to write their bars: “I live the fast life where ya keep ya cash tight / In broad daylight walkin’ wit ya flashlight / Adding up what ya brought in from last night / She mad tight with mad bite is that right.”

“True Lies (featuring Kokane)”

Produced by Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo

Nothing takes you back to the year 2000 like topical humor about Bill Clinton and fellatio. This is another Dre track from Tha Last Meal, but one that takes some production cues (especially the haunted keyboard sounds) from the Aftermath compilation. The spacey vibe works here, though, because Snoop and Kokane are more comfortable on this type of track than, say, KRS-One and Nas ever were.

“Just Dippin’ (featuring Dr. Dre and Jewell)”

Produced by Dr. Dre

Another banger from the good doctor, this time from No Limit Top Dogg. Although he isn’t credited as a songwriter, the ghostwriting spirit of Hittman sure seems to haunt Dre’s verse and delivery.

“Don’t Tell (featuring Warren G, Nate Dogg, and Mausberg)”

Produced by DJ Quik

Snoop Dogg + Warren G + Nate Dogg + marital infidelity? Friends, that’s a winning combination, especially when it’s laced over a smooth DJ Quik beat. This track also features a rapper named Mausberg who tragically passed away in 2000. Not much to say about his solid verse here, other than I’m quite certain that the line “no more blessings for your twat” has never appeared in another rap song—or, really, in any other music from the Western canon, period.

“Doin’ Too Much”

Produced by DJ Quik

A playful track built around a drum sample from “Zoom” by The Commodores. Quik is second to only Dr. Dre and The Neptunes in getting inspired performances from Snoop, and it’s a shame the two have never collaborated on a full album.

“Buck ‘Em featuring Sticky Fingaz”

Produced by Dr. Dre

 

“Bitch Please (featuring Nate Dogg and Xzibit)”

Produced by Dr. Dre

Two No Limit Top Dogg cuts that preview the stripped-down, ultra-polished sound Dre would debut on 2001 later that year.  “Bitch Please” was, of course, revisited on The Marshall Mathers LP, but to diminishing returns. Mel-Man is credited as a producer on the second version, though, so it’s likely he was somewhere behind the boards for the original as well.

“Lay Low (featuring Nate Dogg, Eastsidaz, Master P, and Butch Cassidy)”

Produced by Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo

The first half of this one is a stand-out cut from Tha Last Meal featuring a trademark hook from master of ceremonies Nate Dogg. Alas, the second half is a series of awful verses from the Eastsidaz which veer deep into toxic (and possibly criminal) misogyny. Master P’s Jed Clampett/Bill Clinton stanza at the end is almost a welcome palate cleanser. It’s outside of the scope of this article to delve into the, well… problematic aspects of Snoop’s music from this period, but if somebody could throw an Eastsidaz-less version of this on Megaupload or whatever the world would be grateful. [Ed note. We celebrate the Eastsidaz in all their glory in this house]

“Party with a D.P.G.”

Produced by Jelly Roll

According to WhoSampled, “Party With a D.P.G.” is the one millionth track to sample Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” And if we’re ranking them, this one is probably well behind De La Soul’s “What Yo Life Can Truly be” and Brand Nubian’s “Word is Bond.” But Jelly Roll still does a nice job with this flip, and Snoop’s verses and delivery here are fun and quotable. Are you old enough to remember when people would memorize “Gz and Hustlas“?

“Buss’n Rocks”

Produced by DJ Quik

 

“Leave Me Alone”

Produced by Battlecat

 

“Hoes, Money And Clout”

Produced by Soopafly

These three cuts are more… well,  “experimental” might a stretch (this isn’t free jazz), but improvisatory and unconventional than the album singles. “Buss’n Rocks,” in particular, hints at the playfulness of his more recent work with Dâm-Funk and even the Diplo-helmed Snoop Lion reggae cash-in.

 

“Still a G Thang”

Produced by Meech Wells and Master P

The first single from Da Game is to be Sold seemed underwhelming at the time, especially as its title and sampled vocals scratches invited unfavorable comparisons to classic Chronic and Doggystyle cuts. The track received a second-life, though, when it was sequenced between “Get at Me Dog” and  “It’s Alright” in the middle of The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 2 compilation. Meech’s beat here is solid, although like the rest of the Da Game the production does sound slightly unmastered. The most memorable part of the song is Snoop’s shoutouts to the Dogg Pound and Dr. Dre near the end, which set the stage for more fruitful collaborations in the future.

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