If Disney were to open an X-rated amusement park in Times Square, Snoop Doggy Dogg would surely be one of the young crowd’s favorite characters, serving gin and juice, passing out blunts, rapping to big-booty women and entertaining tourists with his comical gangsta caricature and tales of jurisprudence. Arriving fully strapped with unassailable street cred and hip-hop fame — thanks to a murder indictment (for which he was subsequently tried and exonerated) and his collaborative role on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic — the former Calvin Broadus paid off on the hype with Doggystyle, furthering the work begun by Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E in N.W.A with a distinctive landmark album that gave the West Coast a real leg up in the rap race and placed Snoop at ground zero in the subsequent political controversy over family values and the sound of music.
Working over a slow-rolling platter of Dre’s finest funk, strung together as a radio broadcast and punched up with skits (the classroom bit in which a young Snoop announces his adult ambition is pretty funny), the rapper flips the script on roughneck hardcore style with a quietly inveigling sing-song, musical breadth and playful persona. Dispassionately obsessed with death, Snoop shifts easily from tales of heartless nut-busting and pot-smoking to caps-busting as if they were all of equal consequence. He issues rote threats of violence in “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” and elsewhere shoots a rival over a woman. The surrealism of Snoop-ness becomes manifest in “Murder Was the Case,” which begins with a drive-by shooting that leaves the narrator in a coma, discussing the afterlife with a supreme MC. Ultimately, though, Snoop’s favorite target is women, who are repeatedly treated to outrageous abuse. “Aint No Fun (If the Homies Cant Have None)” — with Warren G, Nate Dogg and Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound taking turns being crude on the mic — describes an especially offensive communal sexual ethos. A compelling artist whose private sensibilities are impossible to gauge, Snoop Doggy Dogg plays both sides of the reality fence, inviting listeners into his house and then rubbing their noses in his shit.
Using Snoop’s album track as the blueprint for a short film he directed, Dre put together Murder Was the Case, a full-length soundtrack album (In beloved memory/Calvin Broadus, 1972-1994) that starts off with a drastic remix of the original song and follows it with the appallingly violent and topical Ice Cube/Dre collaboration “Natural Born Killaz” and “21 Jumpstreet,” a new Snoop tune (with Tray Dee). The rest of the record turns a sonic spotlight on other posse rhymers. Sam Sneed’s intelligent “U Better Recognize” is a nostalgic dose of MC boasting, but the other blasts of violence, misogyny and vulgarity have all the charm of a crummy exploitation movie.