“I have always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated.” This was Snoop Dogg – or rather Snoop Lion – on his new direction ahead of his debut album under the reggae genre, 2013’s Reincarnated. While his 12th studio album was certainly a departure, his grand assertion that he was in some way a modern version of the reggae legend was some way off the mark – even if the record somehow managed a Grammy Award nomination.
The mixed reviews that met Snoop Dogg’s new venture largely suggested that while the American had made a reasonable attempt at reinventing himself, it was far from convincing. Ultimately, Snoop Lion was not really what people wanted – or needed to hear. Two years on from that peculiar adventure, Snoop Dogg is back doing what he does best and with some familiar friends in tow.
Bush sees Snoop team up with producer extraordinaire and longtime friend Pharrell Williams, who has helped the rapper create some of his biggest hits. The Neptunes-produced Beautiful – featuring Charlie Wilson and Pharrell – was the standout track from Snoop Dogg’s sixth album Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Boss, while Drop It Like It’s Hot gave him his first number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.
This fruitful partnership continues on Bush, where Snoop’s smooth vocals are complemented by Pharrell’s slick production throughout its 40-minute runtime. Lead single Peaches N Cream, which also sees the return of Charlie Wilson, is a perfect example of what they can achieve, with its skittish guitar hook creating a retro-funk anthem for Snoop Dogg to deliver his effortless rap: “She’s too fly for words/ and where I’m at now I’m too high for birds/ shorty what you think about my return?”
It may not possess the widespread pop appeal of Pharrell and Snoop Dogg’s previous collaborations, but Peaches N Cream is an instant summer classic that will have you grooving your way to the dancefloor. The same can be said of the funky pair R U A Freak and Awake, which sound like trademark, feel-good Pharrell productions – complete with clapped beats and subtle, but effective, jaunty guitar riffs.
In fact, it’s safe to say that Bush will help brighten up even the darkest of days. Opener California Rolls – featuring an ultra soulful contribution from the legendary Stevie Wonder – sets the pace for the rest of the record, with Snoop’s vocals so laid back he sounds like he is delivering them while chilling on a beach in Los Angeles. The record’s chill factor is further emphasised by So Many Pros, which cruises along almost nonchalantly.
As the record moves into its final third the guest artists come thick and fast, something that is both a blessing and a curse. Edibles features one of Bush’s strongest collaborations, with fellow American rapper T.I. delivering a strong rap during an otherwise unremarkable track, while Gwen Stefani’s appearance on Run Away provides a fun call-back moment with Snoop Dogg.
Yet the best looking collaboration on paper, I’m Ya Dogg – which includes man-of-the-moment Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross – actually ends up being one of the record’s weakest moments. It also highlights one of the main issues with Bush; namely, that on a number of occasions Snoop Dogg almost fades into the background by either playing second fiddle to Pharrell’s production or the guest artists.
That said, Bush is still Snoop Dogg’s best album in years and a vast improvement on Reincarnation. When it is at its best, the record thrives on the combination of Pharrell’s accomplished production and the veteran rapper’s distinctive vocals. It may not be the most ambitious of albums and Snoop Dogg possibly spends more time singing than actually rapping, but the end result will ensure that he remains as relevant as ever.