Snoop Dog sends mixed message

The world of rap changed forever in 1992 when Calvin Broadus, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, made his mainstream debut on The Chronic, an album by his friend and fellow hip hop legend, Dr. Dre. When Doggystyle, Broadus’ solo debut album, came out the following year, he sealed his place as one of the most talented and famous rappers of all time. Fifteen years later, playing “Gin and Juice” at a party will still have people cheering and singing along.

Last week, Snoop Dogg released his ninth album, Ego Trippin’. The release was an accomplishment in itself, since most artists from the early ’90s have gone the way of Vanilla Ice and Kris Kross.

Ego Trippin’ is a lengthy album. At nearly an hour and a half long, it features a whopping 21 tracks. Unlike many rap albums, only one track is basically just Snoop talking, instead of an actual song. Snoop collaborated with more than a dozen producers on this record, but Teddy Riley was the most prominent contributor.

Riley is a stud in his own right, with credits on hundreds of tracks over the past 20 years, including songs by artists such as New Kids on the Block, Keith Sweat and Michael Jackson. Every track on Ego Trippin’ was mixed by DJ Quik, a musical virtuoso who’s worked with Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston and Talib Kweli, just to name a few.

His abundance of talent and Snoop Dogg’s evolution as an artist are apparent on his newest release. Songs like “Gangsta Like Me,” “Ridin’ in My Chevy” and “Staxxx in My Jeans” will definitely appeal to his long-time fans. These tracks hold true to the form that made him famous in the first place: a seemingly effortless flow of lyrics set to an aggressive beat. The content of these tracks is reminiscent of the old school Snoop Dogg as well. They’re basically all about partying, gang violence, smoking marijuana and having lots and lots of casual sex with supermodels, every single day.

Unlike Doggystyle, though, this doesn’t constitute the entire album. Songs like “Why Did You Leave” and “Waste of Time” are all about heartache and loss, set to bittersweet R&B melodies. Snoop’s rapping is still top notch on these tracks, proving that, musically, he isn’t getting out of his depth.

“Sexual Eruption” and “My Medicine” are the biggest deviations from Broadus’ usual program. The former is set to dance music, and Snoop actually sings instead of rapping. Overall, it’s like an X-rated Backstreet Boys song. The latter, and more successful, anomaly is still a rap, but it’s set to Whitey Ford playing country music on his guitar. At the beginning of “My Medicine,” he dedicates the song to Johnny Cash.

During an appearance on The View, Snoop Dogg was asked if he’s trying to change his image. He’s a cool, witty guy, and he responded frankly that he isn’t trying to change his image – he’s just getting older and becoming more of an adult. He called it a “natural evolution,” and then had the audience in stitches as he affirmed his fondness for marijuana.

So, musically, Snoop Dogg is still going strong. He’s maturing as an artist and keeping it fresh after 16 years. But there’s a little bit more to his public persona than that.

His appearance on The View was entertaining because he mainly talked about his music and his personal life as it pertains to his art. However, he’s walking a very fine line when he starts going on shows like Larry King Live. What possible reason could a gangster rapper have for going on a topical news show and talking about politics? It’s unfortunate to see a talented musician spouting campaign catchphrases about Democrats listening to “the people,” and the country “needing change.” Does a guy who raps about killing police officers, beating women and doing drugs have any reason to espouse his generic political beliefs on television?

It’s also strange to see someone who was once so subversive to have so many sponsors – for example, Nissan presents Snoop Dogg’s Pepsi Smash on Yahoo! Live, brought to you by AT&T. And how can Snoop Dogg – a gangster rapper with nine arrests on his record – play football with inner city kids and claim to “Be a leader/mentor, giving advice and guidance?”

If he’d really changed his life, fans could accept these things, but his lyrical content is just as explicit, and he doesn’t claim to have quit doing drugs.

It’s hard to believe that his lyrics are coming from the heart when he talks about loving his wife and kids in “Can’t Say Goodbye” and the very next track on the album is about sleeping with millions of women.

Ego Trippin’ is a good album, but the best rapping on earth won’t make Snoop Dogg a political pundit. He needs to stick with his strong suit: music. Time will tell how this transition affects his career, but for now he seems a little bit confused.