Snoop Dogg, "Neva Left" (Doggy Style Records/Empire)
There's a strong whiff of the past on Snoop Dogg's new album, starting with the cover: A throwback photo of the young rapper taken almost 25 years ago in front of a Route 187 sign in Los Angeles. The title is a nod to his endurance: "Neva Left."
The D-O-Double G may be spending time on talk shows, designing soccer cleats or cooking with Martha Stewart, but he still seem to have lots to prove on his 15th studio CD, a deeply chaotic album that reflects hip-hop's constant changes swirling around our ever-fixed Snoop.
The West Coast rap legend is aided by almost 20 guests, including KRS- One, Redman, Charlie Wilson, Method Man, Wiz Khalifa and up-and-coming October London. Whoever comes, Snoop keeps up.
"Go On" is an R&B treat and "Bacc in Da Dayz," which samples early Tribe Called Quest, was clearly designed to make your car shake so hard the mirrors might fall off. "Big Mouth" doesn't just sound like a blast from the past — it's like listening to the Big Bang of rap.
The two public sides of the rapper are on show — the strapped thug ready to bust your door down as well as the pleasure-seeking host of hazy summer pool parties. His nasally voice is characteristically unrushed and distant, his lyrics precise, his flow coolly menacing.
It wouldn't a Snoop album without at least one ode to weed and "Neva Left" actually has two — the club-friendly "Mount Kushmore" and "420 (Blaze Up)." But there are a few lazy songs among the 16, including "Trash Bags," ''Swivel" and "Moment I Feared."
Snoop, from his throne, doesn't seem to like what he hears these days: "The party don't rock like it used to rock," he says. So the hip-hop kingpin, now a grandfather, is showing us how it's done, once again, like he's always done it. He never left, after all.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits