“Ego Trippin’” might be the messiest and most delirious record of Snoop Dogg’s career. Amazingly, it’s also one of his best. This isn’t a typical Snoop Dogg album, though. The style’s familiar, but there’s something else in here, something new. It could be his voice: If you can believe it, he isn’t half bad when it comes to carrying a tune. (“I just want to be the Marvin Gaye of rap,” he says in Billboard.) This kind of material may be an acquired taste for long-time fans, but hey – thugs can rap about cops and robbers for only so long before it gets old.
He’s not the same rapper who lashed out at the Source Awards and picked a fight with the East Coast some 13 years ago. He’s mellowed out a little: “I’m the nicest rapper in the world,” he says. He’s evolved, in other words. In fact, that willingness to change might be what’s kept him going all these years.
Or maybe it’s his personality – there’s no crime in being effortlessly charming. That’s the way his music works: He’s funny and inviting, but he still manages to keep it gangsta. It’s harder than it sounds.
The first single, “Sexual Eruption,” became an improbable hit. (The radio version’s been edited to “Sensual Seduction.”) It’s catchy and flamboyant, but it’s also one of the most important singles he’s ever done. Nobody sings funk ballads like this anymore – but Snoop gets away with it. We should credit rappers who still manage to take a risk and work in another direction. (Kanye West did it on the “Graduation” album when he sang “Drunk and Hot Girls,” but even he thought it was too odd to be a single.)
On the other hand, there’s a few tracks on here that simply don’t work. The words from “Neva Have 2 Worry” are at right angles to the music, like a dirge with clever lyrics. The country vibe on “My Medicine” isn’t all that credible, either: “Grand Ole Opry, here we come!”
Otherwise, the album’s great. Snoop performs “Cool,” a cult favorite first recorded by The Time; Pharrell makes a strong appearance on “Sets Up”; wonderful soul samples chime in on “Deez Hollywood Nights” and “Those Gurlz.”
Now for a confession. I judged Snoop too harshly when I told you he’s not the man he used to be. “Critics wonder if I’m trying to be the old me,” he says on “Can’t Say Goodbye.” “But if they think the old me ever left, then they don’t really know me.”