From an early age, Calvin Broadus learned the benefits of wearing multiple masks. A childhood fascination with Peanuts cartoons earned him the endearing nickname “Snoopy,” but he played up a Joe Cool persona on the football field. He sought acceptance on the streets as a nascent gangbanger, but a brief incarceration steered him toward another avenue: rapping. Under the tutelage of producer Dr. Dre, he ascended quickly and staked his claim in the national hip-hop pie. His 1993 debut, Doggystyle, followed his mentor’s gangsta gangsta blueprint but decoded formerly exclusive gangsterisms into inclusive g-funk. The newly christened Snoop Doggy Dogg never looked back, leading the commercialization of gangsta rap as an underage Doggfather, a gold-bedecked pimp, a pimp-with-a-heart-of-gold and, most recently, a born-again gangsta. Indeed, with so many personalities, it must be hard to be Snoop D-O-double-G. But such is the nature of this career: celebrity, where one must be what everybody wants one to be.
So, when Snoop announces a “return” to his gangsta on his eighth solo album, the audience in effect knows which carpet to unroll. Not that the message of Blue Carpet Treatment is unclear: By reigniting the LA and donning the blue bandanna again, he harkens his first album street glory (in a rare show of levity, even his record company stopped short of draping the entire album in Crip imagery. But, over a decade later, no thirty-something artist can reasonably reenact a hedonistic adolescence-“Ain’t No Fun,” anyone? However, Snoop has moved progressively from gangsta-gone-wild to gangsta-gone-grown’n-sexy (a quality best articulated in 2004’s Rhythm and Gangster), a strangely more articulate and “mature” (if you can call it that) quality that has garnered him mass appeal. Now, the big boss tries to step to the altar of the older G in his latest G-boy stance.
The effect is, simply, convincing. Snoop does what he does best-stylize personas-as a gangbanger (“Vato,” “10 Lil’ Crips”), theologian (“Conversations”), pimp (“That’s That,” “I Wanna Fuck You,” “A Bitch I Knew”), hustler (“Crazy”), and club connoisseur (“Like This,” “Which One of You”). The production is the most pliable and dramatic he has been gifted with in recent memory; relative newcomers like Fredwreck (“Crazy”), Nottz (“That’s That”), and Rick Rock (“Candy”) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with big-time veterans Dr. Dre (“Imagine”), Timbaland (“Get a Light”) and Pharrell (“10 Lil’ Crips”). Though the synthesis of an entertaining star and a consistent nod factor seems to be a minimum standard for quality, in Snoop’s case this is a remarkable occurrence. Part of the reason is because his discography is marred with middling full-lengths. Mind you, like everybody’s favorite thug poet Nas, Snoop Dogg does not write albums so much as pull together collections of entertaining and/or engaging ideas that feature a consistent vocal presence; Illmatic and Doggystyle are heralded as classic albums, because each track (minus the interludes) is single-worthy. That neither has had an album that meets the standards of their respective debuts is unrelated to their talent or growth.
However, Blue Carpet Treatment is also notable as a coherent reflection of Snoop Dogg’s ever-shifting persona. Never before has he been able to place pop trash like the Akon collaboration “I Wanna Fuck/Love You” alongside verbose reflections like “Think About It” in comparative relief. On Blue Carpet Treatment, contradicting personalities make sense coming from this one personality. Certainly, the album, like so many of Snoop’s past releases, could be edited down to a more reasonable fifty-something minutes-this is his sixth album to push twenty tracks and seventy minutes. However, Snoop sounds exceptionally comfortable, perhaps even reinvigorated. Seems only now that he has finally grown into the myths he created for himself: the Boss, the Player of the Game, the Doggfather. Way to go, Calvin.