With each passing year, Coolio's soundtrack-derived success with "Gangsta's Paradise" looks more and more like a one-hit-wonder fluke. Popping up every couple of years on a different small indie no one has ever heard of, Coolio isn't a pop-culture punch line on the level of Vanilla Ice or Hammer, but there's nothing on The Return of the Gangsta that's going to put the Compton native anywhere within sniffing distance of the charts. Indeed, the thin and primarily electronic production not only lacks the smooth '70s funk bounce of Coolio's early sound, its brittle sparseness inadvertently showcases Coolio's weaknesses as an MC. The rhymes are lazy and predictable, and the topics are played out. (Were you aware that Coolio is a gangsta? Never fear, he reminds us of this factoid roughly every second verse.) Even Snoop Dogg's cameo sounds phoned in on the single "Gangsta Walk." Far from a return to form, this is just further evidence of the diminution of a once-promising talent.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
feat: Snoop Dogg