One of rap's ultimate survivors, Snoop Dogg has headed back to the old neighborhood to cut a record with old friends and declare that neither fame nor money has changed him a whit.
To Dogg, who was born Calvin Broadus and has dropped ''Doggy'' as a middle name, ''Tha Eastsidaz'' (Dogghouse Records) is a favor returned. Seven years ago, he strode into the business with help from Dr. Dre, who handed him cameos on three hit singles on 1993's ''The Chronic,'' which stands as one of rap's most influential discs. From there, Dogg launched a multi-platinum solo career, becoming one of hip-hop's most reliable moneymakers and, these days, a one-man multimedia onslaught. His autobiography, ''The Doggfather'' -- in which Dogg cops to being a God-fearing family man -- is in bookstores now. Movies are on the way.
With ''Tha Eastsidaz,'' Dogg is playing mentor to his own proteges, creating a mixed bag of dense, languid West Coast rap. The 22 tracks are an uneven, though always exultant, house party of an album.
Dogg falls back on the basic elements of his solo career, laying down a thumping bass line, adding some funk-flavored frills and then rapping nonchalantly over the concoction. There's a droopy-lidded, fluid ease to his verse. When in ''G'd Up'' Dogg claims his secret is ''sticking to the script and not changing up,'' you assume he's kidding. ''Script'' sounds a little too formal for him.
Tray Deee and Goldie Loc claim to be members of rival Crips factions in Long Beach, Calif., so Snoop brokered some peace to bring the pair together -- and it seems to have worked. The proceedings get an upbeat, promising start on ''Now We Lay 'Em Down,'' which borrows from ''One Nation Under a Groove,'' a Funkadelic classic that harks back to funk's sassiest days. Dogg uses the taut melody as a foil for his trademark breezy delivery.
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