Snoop Dogg

Ego Trippin'

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The original idea behind what Snoop Dogg considers his ninth album -- ignoring all those pesky and shoddy fringe releases -- was that the title represented a truly solo effort with no guest shots. As the street date grew closer, the rapper flipped the script and decided that Ego Trippin' referred to how he "let" people write songs for the album, songs Snoop could rap and sometimes, shockingly, sing. The leadoff good-time single "Sensual Seduction" -- or "Sexual Eruption" on the explicit album -- proved the latter wasn't a bad idea at all, with Snoop crafting a hooky bedroom track using both a smirk and a throwback Zapp feel. It was a perfect flagship release for an album that tries numerous things but never tries too hard, plus one where the nostalgia is plentiful and perfectly chosen. At the heart of it all are the "overseers" of the album, QDT Muzic, a production crew formed by Snoop along with new jack swing legend Teddy Riley and West Coast hero DJ Quik. This fascinating mix of veterans somehow handles everything from the crooked, crip-walking "Gangsta Like Me" to an unbelievably faithful and fun cover of the Time's "Cool" with Snoop singing and strutting just like Morris Day. Throwaway moments like the country song -- for real -- "My Medicine" are balanced by rich and honest moments like "Been Around tha World," where the rapper reminds listeners he's actually married and delivers a heartfelt "I'll be home soon" number. It's the one time his words are the focus, and while it's never clear how much Snoop actually wrote, the ghostwriters he's admitted to hiring have the thug script down and rarely disappoint. What is disappointing is the woefully long track list, the redundant numbers, and the trimming required to keep from drifting off before the majestic closer, "Can't Say Goodbye" with the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson, rolls around. Put a quarter of this loose, hangout session to the side and you've got a great argument that Snoop's transition from hungry gangster to laid-back celebrity and idea man is going much better than expected.

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