I don’t like Snoop Dogg’s debut 1993 release, “Doggystyle. I thought I would; I assumed that I would enjoy a west-coast rap/g-funk album released less than a year than before Warren G’s “Regulate… G Funk Era” (1994), and yes while the albums can sound similar they feel worlds apart. Where Warren G delivered feel-good laid-back vibes that feel honest and down to earth, I feel like Snoop Dogg is selling me something. There’s this persona that Snoop is pushing, that people know who he is, and that he’s dangerous and cool – but that he pushes that angle so hard is off-putting. I accepted that Warren G was awesome because he didn’t force it, and if you’re so cool I’ll figure that out without you telling me that Snoop Dogg, thanks.
While not all about Snoop, the album is either about chronic, sex, or murder. Not exactly things I’m itching to hear about, especially in the vulgar, immature-sounding choices of vocabulary that are on display in “Doggystyle.” Aside from the problems I take with the content of the album, I suppose I don’t have many criticisms for Snoop Dogg. You might not be surprised to hear that Snoop Dogg has impeccable rhythm, that he sounds cool, or that there’s a catchy flow to most of the songs on the album. “Gz and Hustlas” stands out as one of the few songs on the album where the beat is so fine that I don’t care what Snoop Dogg is rapping about anymore, I’m just enveloped in the music and I can’t be bothered by what stupidity the lyrics might be.
While I liked songs on the album, I couldn’t get over the thematic bump that “Doggystyle” presents to me. Songs about chronic, sex, and murder can be what I’m in the mood for- but not while I’m doubting if the character of the man delivering those songs. For a man who probably shouldn’t have to try that hard at all, Snoop Dogg tries too hard to establish his credibility and the album suffers for it.
I’ve never heard of A Tribe Called Quest before, not until a friend recommended that I check it out for the blog. So going into “The Low End Theory” (1991) I had no idea what to expect. I’ve ever heard anything that sounded quite like this album; there are perhaps some similarities to Warren G’s “Regulate… G Funk Era” (1994) in regards to the themes and positive vibes, but A Tribe Called Quest lays their relaxed lyrics over bass guitars and old-school drum beats instead of the funky synths of G-Funk.
Wikipedia throws this album in a genre called “Jazz Rap”, and while I’m no expert on musical classification I would agree that “Jazz Rap” accurately describes what I heard on “The Low End Theory.” It’s really easy to lose yourself in the rhythms of each song; the drums, the bass, and especially the vocals act like a force of current bringing you down an incredibly relaxed, down-tempo state of mind. The album also has a tight aesthetic, as all of the songs deal with down to earth themes and tend to play with the same musical elements. The occasional scratch of the turntable is perhaps a little out of place, and breaks this mental image I have that I can only describe as coffee house rap. The old-school drums are simple and just sound right, and the bass, touch of keyboard, brass, guitar – they all sound part of this beautiful aesthetic, and the presence of turn tables is a little weird – like a hint of cubism in an impressionist painting.
I loved “The Low End Theory” and I experienced this incredible worlds-meeting moment listening to “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and realizing that it was the basis for the chorus of the Beastie Boy’s “Sure Shot” (1994). I suppose that’s who A Tribe Called Quest reminds me of the most, the Beastie Boys. Regardless, A Tribe Called Quest seems an important piece of musical knowledge to have while trying to assemble the 1990’s musical landscape.