Friday, November 17, 2006

"Brothers is whack by popular demand"
Snoop declares at the opening of track 21, Conversations with Stevie Wonder. Some of the twenty other tracks on Snoop's new album may not be this charming. But a number of them are quite excellent, deepening Snoop's groovy sound to some new places, and covering more intellectual ground than even I expected. Snoop delivers so many positive messages on this album that I don't think anyone could disrespect him if they listened to the whole thing. Unfortunately the first single, Vato, may obscure his perfection as a role model from those unfortunate who don't get to hear the full record.

A few weeks before I just recently heard about this release, I had been thinking that Snoop Dogg was a hero because he taught people to say what they think and never be embarrassed. I feel vindicated, because he lays down such a wise manifesto on this new platinum-rimmed effort that I think it will now be far easier for everyone else to see what I meant. He offers the best of himself to pretty much everyone, including his former rival gang, if my reading of his repeated mention of 'blood' in My Peoples is right. Its juxtaposition with 'cuz', a name that, like 'uncle' and 'nephew', Snoop frequently uses to express affection, is the main reason I'm unsure; blood could be referring to generalized kinship, as if Snoop treats his friends just as well as his family, or refuses to let familial prejudgement prevail. It doesn't always work out, and there is some violence on the album, but its always in the vein of self-defense, emphasizing the code of respect that is too absent in our culture. And to clarify his stance on real-life violence, Snoop assumes the banner of Tookie Williams in The Real Talk.
I'm more than a general/
no longer a criminal/
me and Tookie Williams for real/
we were identical/
he took me to the pinnacle/
[brief Schwartzenegger dis]...
you heard what I said/
you thought that he was better off dead/
but his teachings and doctrines is what I'ma spread/
I love leading those/
who love to be led and I love feeding those/
who want to be fed...
In the memory of/
we gon' educate the kids

Snoop even addresses issues of sexism, suggesting that he sometimes does have feelings for women, and doesn't entertain conventional biases about arbitrary things like race and appearance. Far from the cold-blooded exploitation detailed by other rappers, Snoop gives credit to women who respect themselves, claims to enjoy talking with and appreciating women, and his appetite could be interpreted as a salute to the gentle sex. "We been drinking, having fun, me and you, one on one, doing things, holding hands, makin plans, I'm your man", from Which One Of You, may be pretty tame for a pop song, but for the rap genre, this is quite an admission. Snoop consistently demonstrates that he doesn't fret about what anyone thinks, and he'll treat you great if you don't give him a pressing reason not to. He has a high standard of respectful behavior, and he's earned the blessing he gets from Stevie at the end of the Conversations (you did listen to it by now, right?).

Interestingly, one of the last tracks I downloaded was Intrology, in which I've just now heard the lines
Whenever I'm making a record I'm getting into my character and I'm tryin to portray something that I'm feelin's where the whole world can believe in it.

So it would appear I'll have company in my claims, ha ha. That's okay. It's always okay to agree with my posts. But do treat yourself to this album, even if you're not accustomed to rap. Almost all the lyrics are easy to understand, and the backing music is beautiful and doesn't suffer the cliches of the genre. Also check out his new book.

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