It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Calvin Broadus lost his relevance: Some will have you believe that his limp releases under No Limit Records signaled the beginning of the end for the erstwhile G-funk frontiersman, while others maintain that it took three disastrous albums under the Geffen banner to hammer the final nail in his coffin. Doggumentary had originally been touted as a sequel to Snoop Dogg’s barnstorming 1993 debut, Doggystyle, perhaps in some sort of desperate attempt to curtail his growing insignificance, but the album only heavy-handedly panders to the rapper’s heyday.
Thematically, Doggumentary offers recycled yarns on getting high and getting laid, peppered with hackneyed pseudo-gangster musings. And sonically, Snoop Dogg’s 11th LP is a clusterfuck of assembly-line club numbers and numerous crossover-attempt misfires. Any time Snoop Dogg happens to push the envelope and deliver a genuinely interesting idea here, it feels like it’s happened by accident.
“Sumthin Like This Night” is the foremost case in point, a syncopated reggae number produced by Gorillaz that should wonderfully complement Snoop’s breezy flow. The warped horns, understated percussion, and interstellar synths set a languid tone, one you think would be tailor-made for Snoop, but he sounds awkward and uncomfortable. His prose is riddled with clichés (“Take a look in my eyes/Hold on tight, enjoy the ride” or “Hey, DJ, play my song…all night long”), and he pitches these rhymes in a jarringly coarse tone. Moreover, a front-porch duet with Willie Nelson, “Superman,” is a charming idea that’s left woefully undercooked, with neither artist giving the track the gusto it deserves. “Eyez Closed” finds Snoop dipping his toes in the perennially risky gray area between rap and rock, enlisting the services of John Legend and Kanye West in what is unquestionably the album’s most star-studded track, but Legend’s refrain is passable if a tad ill-suited, West’s verse is forgettable at best, and Snoop sounds too aloof.
Given that Doggumentary clocks in at a Sisyphean 79 minutes, perhaps it’s to be expected that Snoop sounds a little breathless throughout. Unfortunately, so many of these 21 tracks are so hollow and slapdash that they conspire to relegate the album to mixtape status. “My Fucn House,” “Platinum,” and “It’s D Only Thang” are merely three of the many deplorable club bangers, waterlogged by basslines that throb just for the sake of it. There are moments here that hint at brilliance of the West Coast veteran’s early G-funk staples, which only underlines the fact that a more faithful sequel to his magnum opus would best serve his fans and his legacy. Doggumentary is far from that, its major player distracted by his desire to replicate modish hood-bangers and experiment in areas too far from his comfort zone. Revisiting the mindset of one’s creative acme worked for Dre, and more recently for Raekwon, so the least Snoop Dogg can do is give it an earnest try.