Snoop Dogg might be one of the elder statesmen in hip hop, but over the past few years he's strayed from the style that made him a star. In 2013, he released a reggae album as Snoop Lion and an old school funk album with DâM-FunK. Now, Snoop has continued his funk explorations with super-producer Pharrell on BUSH, a 10 song 41 minute LP reminiscent of classic funk from Parliament, The Gap Band, and Zapp.
Fittingly, Snoop and Pharrell enlist The Gap Band's dynamic lead singer, Charlie Wilson, on four standout tracks: "Peaches N Cream," "So Many Pros," "R U A Freak," and the album closer "I'm Ya Dogg," which also features Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross.
Another high-powered guest spot is Stevie Wonder on the opening track, "California Roll," which introduces BUSH as a feel-good dance album. Pharrell's sonic signature is all over the record, with layered polyrhythmic arrangements coming together in ways that expand and intertwine the orbits of funk, R&B, disco, electronic, and pop.
While Snoop's verses straddle the line between rapping and singing throughout BUSH, the only song on the album with rapping is the closer, "I'm Ya Dogg," featuring the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar and Rick Ross. Considering Kendrick's enormous talent level and social awareness, this song is a missed opportunity. "I'm Ya Dogg" could have reinforced the album -- and Snoop's career as the true dogg-father -- but instead it feels like a forced afterthought that might be the weakest song on the record.
Back in 2004, Snoop Dogg and Pharrel struck gold with "Drop It Like It's Hot." That was a complex groove, but there was a simplicity and airiness to the song that made it an easy listen. There was also a sense of drama on the hook. The complex arrangements are what makes Pharrell a special producer, but it's also what makes BUSH a little tiresome. Layer upon layer of synths and percussion don't always enhance the groove, and the hooks aren't quite as rewarding as the best Snoop and Pharrel are capable of. If you just wanna move your feet and shake your ass, this is a fine album... but it starts to feel stale at a certain point if you're looking for more than that.
Other highlights include the Southern-infused "Edibles" featuring T.I., and the N.E.R.D-esque "Run Away" featuring Gwen Stefani. Snoop has called Pharrell "tri-coastal" and this album shows that versatility and ambition as it stretches across a very wide range of music while staying basically true to a single vision.