Coolaid is the first solo hip-hop release from Snoop Dogg in five years and his fourteenth album overall in a career dating back to early 1990’s when he helped propel gangsta rap into the mainstream alongside Dr. Dre on Suge Knight’s notorious Death Row Records. Snoop’s most recent hip-hop record was 2011’s Doggumentary, initially announced as Doggystyle 2 its title was changed when he realised it was never going to match his classic 1993 debut Doggystyle. In the five years since, Snoop has been very busy collaborating and trying out different styles (proving that not all stoners are lazy). Just last year there was the Pharrell-produced, synth-funk effort Bush, but the most well known of his recent ventures was his short-lived 2013 reinvention as a peace loving Rastafarian, Snoop Lion. The resulting reggae-pop album and accompanying documentary, Reincarnation, garnered a lot of attention but was dismissed by some as inauthentic and a marketing ploy rather than a genuine spiritual rebirth.
Snoop’s latest album only serves to confirm that the cynics were right to question his apparent transformation. It was always about selling records, with a reggae-influenced release allowing him play on the stoner persona that he’s cultivated brilliantly over the years, landing him movie roles and advertising deals alongside album sales totalling over thirty-five million. Promoted as a return to his West Coast roots, Coolaid is for the most part the sound of a gangsta rap veteran trying to stay relevant after two decades of rather mediocre studio albums (although he still makes for a decent guest rapper – see You’re Dead! and To Pimp a Butterfly). Coolaid takes a more varied approach than the G-Funk beats which carried his laconic drawl back on The Chronic and Doggystyle, mixing old school and modern sounds in an effort to appeal to the younger generation while still pleasing fans who have followed his earlier work. Swizz Beatz serves as executive producer, contributing alongside other well-known hit-makers like Just Blaze, Timbaland, Rockwilder and long-time collaborator Daz Dillinger.
Coolaid gets off to dreadful start on the bass-heavy “Legend”, with Snoop trying to imitate the aggressive delivery of Kanye West while giving a braggadocious breakdown of his history and perceived status in today’s rap game. With that misjudged introduction out of the way, the album begins to pick up a bit of momentum thanks to some fairly solid production choices. There’s the tight and funky old school feel of “Don’t Stop” featuring Too $hort, the sinister stomp of gangsta anthem “Super Crip”, Snoop surveying today’s hip-hop scene on “Coolaid Man”, and the 80’s electro-influenced “Oh Na Na” featuring Wiz Khalifa. However, after covering J Dilla sampling Gary Numan on the awful “My Carz” the album begins to fall apart, with the surprisingly philosophical electro-funk of “What If” featuring Suga Free and the Gil Scott-Heron and Isaac Hayes-influenced “Revolution” featuring October London offering a rare glimmer of maturity on a record that’s overstuffed with weak filler about the by now exhausted topics of violence, money, sex and weed. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dogg new tricks.
Released: 1st July 2016
Genres: Hip Hop; Gangsta Rap
Label: Doggystyle / eOne
Rating: Strong 4 to a Light 5