If it were stripped of its context, perhaps Snoop Dogg’s new record might sound better than it does. But you can’t ignore the times when they’re a-changin’, and the fact remains that Bush has been released in the same year as a slew of great albums produced by relatively fresh faces – Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar. Compared to the game changing records turned in by those young stars, Bush feels shockingly old hat. It’s not a bad record: it’s just overwhelmingly mundane.
Bush has been produced by Pharrell Williams – a fact that is proudly announced on the meta This City – and the global superstar’s deft hand does help the proceedings a little bit. For all its faults, Bush is certainly well polished, and at times its glean satisfies, albeit in a slightly reductive way. Tracks like So Many Pros and Awake may be auto-tuned and glossy, but they’re fun while they last.
Snoop Dogg’s vocal delivery is serviceable, but it never lives up to the tongue in cheek delight of the rapper’s best work. He sounds best on California Roll, a track that benefits from a Stevie Wonder guest spot, but even the highlights of the album are distinctly less impressive than the low-points of Snoop’s masterpieces, Doggystyle and Tha Last Meal.
R U A Freak is the worst of a not particularly impressive bunch – it’s radio-friendly to the point of being simpering, and ultimately feels as slick as a puddle of baby oil. There’s just not much going on: the groove is toothless; the lyric content barely registers; and Snoop’s delivery reeks of uninvolved indifference.
Here’s the rub, too: despite the fact he now sounds decidedly dated when compared to them, Snoop’s work is a direct influence on a number of 2015’s great rappers. Kendrick Lamar even guests on Bush’s I’m Ya Dogg, another of the album’s more forgettable numbers. It’s strange that a rapper whose music is tangentially responsible for inspiring an album like To Pimp A Butterfly has turned in a record this toothless and passive.
The game is certainly not over for Snoop Dogg – his track record has proven that the artist can make records much better than this one. Bush isn’t the beginning of a downward slide then: it’s more like a minor dip in the rapper’s discography. At least, we hope it is.