Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Maria Jean Sullivan and Caitlin Carter chat about Snoop Dogg' new album BUSH. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.
Caitlin Carter: Snoop Dogg's new Pharrell-produced album BUSH has arrived. Although he adopted the monikers Snoop Lion andSnoopzilla for his past few projects, he's back as Snoop Dogg for this effort, despite the fact that album isn't very rap heavy. With Pharrell helming the production, I was expecting a sound closer to "Beautiful" and "Drop It Like It's Hot," however Snoop turned BUSH into a tribute to the funk and R&B of the '70s and channeled the spirit of an OG. I applaud the album for its cohesion, but only a few songs really grabbed me. I definitely see this as more of a background album for chilling out than for getting hyped or dissecting lyrically. What did you guys think?
Carolyn Menyes: To me, BUSH played as one 41-minute long song. There's album cohesion, and then there's recording basically the same song over and over again 10 times. Snoop has always had a sing-song style of rapping (as far as I know), so for him to finally just go through and sing throughout a whole album isn't that shocking. The hand of Pharrell is heavy on this album, and I actually couldn't really discern a lot of the time who was doing what. I assume it's mostly Snoop, but he sounds so much like Pharrell (with a slightly deeper voice) that it was sort of confusing.
That being said, what if instead of this being a '70s funk tribute this was paying tribute to '90s rock band Bush? Now, that's an album I want to hear!!!
Maria Jean Sullivan: Snoop D-O-Double G can basically do anything he wants. If he wants to make a vapid summer anthem produced by Pharrell, he can. If he wants to smoke weed in public at the Hot 97 listening party for Bush, he can. And if he wants to smoke weed at the White House he not only can, but apparently did. I just want him to keep collaborating with Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar and ditch Gwen Stefani.
CC: I would describe BUSH as a feel-good record. He's just high and wants you to get on his level. Just throw the record on, and zone out. He's also making music that he is probably nostalgic for, being from that '70s era. Speaking of collabs, though, Kendrick Lamar brings it as usual on "I'm Ya Dogg." It's definitely not a flow I'm used to hear him using, but I think he did a good job of writing his verse with Snoop' style.
CM: Haha, it's funny that you can't really mention Snoop Dogg without talking about his love affair for weed. it's be like talking about birds without mentioning wings or something. Of course, he pays tribute to his favorite herb on "Edibles," which gives that classic Musical Youth single "Pass the Dutchie" the obvious weed-flavored meaning that it probably always had to begin with.
But yeah, this album definitely seems intended for summer days, rolling down the street and smoking indigo (and such). But, isn't that the point of most Snoop Dogg music? He seems to be the king of feel good, kick back music, at least as long as I've been cognizant of him.
Other than Pharrell, who I seriously feel is all over this record, the collaborations are sparse. Kendrick, of course, shines and I love the actual '70s touch of Stevie Wonder on "California Roll." But, Gwen Stefani just never needs to rap. I don't know when she'll learn. "Run Away" is a real stinker in an otherwise fairly decent if not forgettable album. I thought she'd know to run far away from spitting rhymes when "Spark the Fire" absolutely bombed, but alas...
MJS: Her good years always were and always will be the No Doubt era. The beat in "The City" is sick and super reminiscent of that spaced out (as in actual Space) feel on In Search Of...N.E.R.D.'s debut. It's just peppy enough to be dance-able yet ready for a good chillax session. I can see this being played poolside on a neon boombox in suburban hometowns across America. "R U A Freak" has that disco funk of N.E.R.D too.
CC: Snoop Dogg told The New York Times magazine that the reason he went for that sound was that "there's a void for that style of music." But I would argue that almost everything Pharrell has touched in recent memory has been influenced by that style and on top of that has made it into the mainstream. As Carolyn pointed out, I think this album is as much of a Pharrell album as it is a Snoop Dogg album. However, the thing about BUSH is that most of it isn't as punchy as the other '70s-inflected songs Pharrell's been working on lately, despite being a deliberate attempt to bring back that funk. It's almost as if better songs come out of being influenced by the style rather than trying to recreate it. What do you guys think?
CM: No, I agree. I felt like he was just trying to emulate G I R L here and it didn't really work out. And if Snoop Dogg is saying that there's a lack of funk and '70s-inspired music on the charts today... umm... I have some news for him. Has he not heard "Uptown Funk?" It literally has funk in the title and it was No. 1 for 14 weeks. So...
You're right though. When compared to Mark Ronson or even other Pharrell products from the last three or four years, this album is just FORGETTABLE. We're obviously very much in the middle of reviewing this and the only song I can remember the title of is "California Roll," because I think it has a wonderful pun for a title and I happen to love sushi. But, yeah, the great and interesting thing about pop is that it's cyclical. So, children of the '70s and '80s are largely making music now so we're seeing that influence. But, you're right, at the end of the day the influenced music is more interesting than just raw recreations.
One thing I wonder about -- and maybe you have some insight into this Maria -- is Snoop Dogg having an identity crisis? Like, he did reggae and now funk. Does he not want to rap-rap anymore or does he just not care?
MJS: That's quite a line to give to The New York Times magazine considering there's like one maybe two tracks on here I would characterize as funk. I would say he just does not care. His reggae was actually reggae but BUSH is certainty not funk. George Clinton is funk. Early Beck records are funk. This is just chill beats and vapid lyrics for the backdrop of a sugar coated lifestyle, again poolside bleak background noise. The closest he comes to actual funk is on "California Roll" obviously thanks to Stevie Wonder. But even "California Roll" isn't funk through and through. What are those overused snare taps in the intro, Snoop?
If anything I would dub this disco over funk, especially on "R U A Freak".
CC: What were your thoughts on the lead single "Peaches N Cream?" I think that song sort of encapsulates the whole album, which I'd describe as retro-futuristic, which I guess is an oxymoron. I think "Peaches N Cream," "I'm Ya Dogg," and "California Roll" and "This City" were the standouts for me. The rest just seem like those songs rearranged. And I totally feel you on the snare taps, Maria.
CM: You have a very valid point, Maria. I think Snoop and Pharrell took the inherent groove that there is in funk music and rolled it into this album and it does roll along well with disco. This is just very '70s to me. You're also right that there isn't much to dissect lyrically in this album. It's all about "champagne wishes," partying like a pro and smoking weed. This album to me is like the epitome of background music. It's really easy to just fade out and just hang out to. I think this would be a great, harmless pool party soundtrack. But it lacks any sort of major gripping single or hook to pull out and be a commercial success.
As far as "Peaches N Cream," I think this song has the closest we have on this album to anything regarding a big hook. However, it feels TOTALLY lifted from Justin Timberlake's debut solo album Justified. There something so similar to "Like I Love You" and "Senorita" in the cadence, and SHOCKER, Pharrell produced that album as a part of The Neptunes all those years ago. RECYCLED.
And speaking of Beck, he did "Peaches & Cream" way better. Aww yeeeeeeeah.
CC: OH MY GAWDDDDD Beck's version is so sexy! Yea this song is such an anthem for a bunch of college kids back home for the summer at the local suburban club. I expected more from the title, honesty. This could have been a really smooth rendition of the original "Peaches & Cream", the 112 version that is. Now it's more like a tricked out tease to listen to the whole album. Which I can not, I literally skip "Run Away" every time it comes on.
MJS: Another Snoop party banger (?) album. Most of the use you will get out of this is recreational white noise perfect for pool side puff puff pass sessions. Way to go Snoop, you can literally do anything and get payyyyyyed.
CM: This, to me, is a little more than a background album, but I think it's pretty good for soundtracking like a pool party this summer. But, as far as anything else, I don't think this album is very good or memorable. I foresee myself even forgetting that BUSH exists in two months.
CC: I agree with both of you. Not much to see here, but it's a good soundtrack for when you're in a certain mood. I don't see any of these songs becoming Snoop classics, but I didn't hate it either.