Snoop Dogg

Once the baddest rapper around, Snoop Dogg, on his last few discs, has shown what happens when you try to plug a G-funk algorithm into the No Limit formula: You get a slew of crappy albums. Tha Last Meal, however, finds the Doggfather returning to what he knows best: laying down creamy-smooth rhymes over old-school bass lines. The songs show a mix of Snoop's trademark gangsta swagger and pimp smoothness. Tracks like "Hennessey and Buddah," with a great vocal hook by Kokane, should rock plenty of systems. "Stacey Adams" flows over a cool piece of laid-back funk. Plenty of tracks sound like they should accompany a slow-motion montage from an early '90s ghetto movie like Boyz N the Hood.

While Dre and a crew of sound-alike producers have brought back Snoop's beats on this disc, Last Meal also shows that Snoop himself has grown since he emerged from the LBC eight years ago. "Loosen Control" is Snoop's answer to "I Need Love," a surprisingly sincere song about the hurt of a relationship gone bad, especially from the man who practically invented the bitches-and-'hos stereotype. "Issues" deals with the highs and lows of Snoop's career and ensuing fame (or infamy). The only complaint: with 19 tracks, the record feels padded. Holding back a couple of the weaker tunes, like "Set It Off" or "Go Away," might have helped to make this a leaner album with more momentum. Tha Last Meal finds Snoop back on the top of his game, as sharp as he has been in years. It also shows more depth and thoughtfulness than one might expect. Snoop is still as tight a wordslinger as ever, but now he's also older and wiser.

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