Friday, July 3, 2015

Revisiting Snoop Dogg's "Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told"

Loyal reader, I'm sure you recall me talking about how much of a No Limit fan I was back in the day, specifically during my 8th and 9th grade (school) years. After that, the albums were no longer a part of my collection, but within recent times, outside of when I did a few posts on the blog several months ago, I've found myself revisiting some of those albums, even adding Young Bleed's "My Balls And My Word" and Mystikal's "Unpredictable" back to my collection for the first time in 16 years. Will I add more back? We shall see.

The album I'm going to cover today, somewhat out of the blue, is Snoop Dogg's debut for the label, the lengthy titled "Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told," but first a little backstory. Previously, Snoop was a part of Death Row Records, and circa 1996, the label was crumbling before our very eyes. Dr. Dre left in the middle part of the year, 2Pac was murdered in September, etc, so this left the once powerful label in straight turmoil, and with Suge Knight being sentenced to prison months later for violating his parole, Death Row as we once knew it was no more. Furthermore, Snoop released his second and last Death Row album, "Tha Doggfather," on November 12th of the same year. To say there was little to no anticipation for the album, unlike his debut "Doggystyle," would be a total understatement, for a variety of reasons. Needless to say, it was time for Snoop to take his career to the next level or the end (to his career) would be near. And then Master P came calling, who was able to get him out of his Death Row contract and onto the tank (and removing "Doggy" from his name in the process). Prior to his signing, Snoop made a few guest appearances on No Limit albums, which you can check out below:

Looking back, was it inevitable that Snoop was going to sign with No Limit? That's a very interesting question that has never been asked until now and quite frankly it could've went either way. Although this album was first promoted in the insert of Fiend's "There's One In Every Family," I first saw it while flipping through an issue of The Source magazine, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing because I literally had no idea he had signed. From there, he made more No Limit guest appearances, all leading to his third album. I haven't played this album in SUCH a long time and it'll be very interesting to see if it has aged well or not. Let's get right to it!

Release date: August 4, 1998

All songs produced by Beats By The Pound, except where noted
*Produced By DJ Pooh
**Produced By DJ Darryl
***Produced By MP (Master P)
#Produced By Meech Wells
$Produced By Snoop Dogg
^Produced By Soopafly

1. "Snoop World"
Featuring Master P
Produced By KLC

 This opener would've had that much more impact had Snoop not made any previous guest appearances and instead this would've been the very first thing you heard since his signing, but you know what, either way it's all good. Snoop sounded at home over the southern styled, thumping beat provided by KLC, plus he was already embracing No Limit hip hop home. Oh yeah, P's verse was not needed, as this opener should've just been Snoop by himself.
*3.5 out of 5*

2. "Slow Down"
Featuring Mia X, O'Dell and Anita Thomas
Produced By O'Dell

 The first of many interpolations on this album comes from Loose Ends classic "Slow Down," which gave this one a smooth feeling from start to finish. 
*4 out of 5*

3. "Woof!"
Featuring Mystikal and Fiend
Produced by Craig B and MP

Only Snoop can sound so laid back alongside the rowdy/amped stylings of Fiend and Mystikal. This joint has always been called one of the best songs on the album, and who can argue with that. Tight stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

4. "Gin & Juice II"
Produced By Carlos Stephens

Ok, let's talk about this one for a moment. If anything, I've always heard this song completely dumped on because Snoop needlessly, according to some, attempted to remake one of his classics. First off, in no way was this even remotely a remake, this is more of an ode than anything else. Of course it holds no candle to its predecessor, but if you accept it for it is/was and nothing more, it comes off as a good song.
*4 out of 5*

*5. "Show Me Love"
Additional Vocals By Charlie Wilson

Although Snoop and Mr. Wilson would go on to make better songs than this one, what we got here was not too bad (in terms of a song for the ladies), but not too memorable either.
*3 out of 5*

6. "Hustle & Ball"
Produced By O'Dell

"What's my name? Snoop Dogg? And what I like to do? I like to hustle and ball!" -Snoop

Well, those lines above tell you all you need to know about this song, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*

**7. "Don't Let Go"  

 It seemed like Snoop was going for a message here, but it simply turned into just another song, another decent one, nothing more honestly.
*3 out of 5*

8. "Tru Tank Doggs"
Featuring Mystikal
Produced By KLC

Man, the way I BUMPED this joint back in '98 you would think it was a banger, but revisiting it now, it's good but not great. Then again, if this was Mystikal's song (by himself), it would've been that much better in my view. My rating for this is largely due to Mystikal's verse and KLC's beat; Snoop's verse was ok.
*3.5 out of 5*

***9. "Whatcha Gon Do?
Featuring Master P

This totally could've been left on the cutting room floor and with all due respect to P, this seemed like an excuse for him to make another guest appearance. It won't be his last on this album.
*2 out of 5*

#10. "Still A G Thang"

I've always thought this was a dope first single and I have the same views like "Gin & Juice II." This doesn't come anywhere close to the classic "Nuthin But A G Thang," but as an ode to a classic, Snoop does a fine job over Meech Wells' production, probably the second best song on the album after "Woof!." In a nice touch, I like how Snoop reached out to Dre at the end of the last verse and their reunion would take place, albeit a year later for Dre's "2001" album.
*4 out of 5*

(Pardon me for the mistake, but Dre and Snoop did reconnect months before the "2001" album dropped. Dre was behind the boards on 3 songs from the "No Limit Top Dogg" album. And yes there was more to come.)

***11. "20 Dollars To My Name
Featuring Fiend, Soulja Slim and Silkk The Shocker

In one of the most creative No Limit songs you'll ever hear, Snoop, Fiend, Slim (R.I.P.) and Silkk talk about what it's like to be down to their last $20 and their plans with said money, but looking back, these cats had paper so it'll be hard to imagine them coming down to their last few dollars. All involved dropped good verses, and yes that does include Silkk.
*4 out of 5*

#12. "D.O.G.'s Get Lonely 2"
Additional Vocals By Jon B.

Snoop comes through with another one for the ladies. It's not bad, but not that good either. And did he really say "I'm not that much of a rapper" in the middle of the song??? Come on Snoop. Let's move on shall we.
*2 out of 5*

13. "Ain't Nut'in Personal"
Featuring C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker
Additional Vocals By Crooked I (Steady Mobb'n)
Produced By Craig B

 "Ain't nothin personal, it's all about respect" -Crooked I

Nino Brown once said in "New Jack City," it's always business, never personal, and in even in the No Limit way, that applies here. Snoop and C-Murder work Craig B's track like a charm, while Silkk did the complete opposite, even sounding like he had a cold or something. Now when I think about it, a combination of Snoop, C and Magic, who didn't appear on this album, would've been better for this one.
*3.5 out of 5*

14. "DP Gangsta"
Featuring C-Murder
Additional Vocals By Eddie Griffin

The only issue I had with this song is that Eddie Griffin's words added nothing to an otherwise very good song. Snoop assumes Ice Cube's role and C plays Eazy-E, effectively creating the No Limit version of N.W.A.'s classic "Gangsta Gangsta." Craig B, the most underrated member of Beats By The Pound, now known as the Medicine Men, effectively reworked Dre (and Yella's) original beat 10 years later.
*4 out of 5*

15. "Game Of Life"
Featuring Steady Mobb'n
Produced By Carlos Stephens

Crooked I and Billy Bathgate, collectively known as Steady Mobb'n, had been with No Limit since 1997 at this point, and coming from the Ghost Town section of West Oakland, California, the connection with Snoop (representing Long Beach) was all but imminent. Featuring a (slightly) bass driven track with an interpolation of Whodini's "Five Minutes Of Funk," another classic, this was a West Coast winner, by way of the South.
 *4 out of 5*

#16. "See Ya When I Get There"
Featuring C-Murder and Mystikal

We have all heard songs like this before, with artists making a dedication to those who are no longer with us, family and friends, and when done right, they're usually very good and we get that here. Mystikal said "this thing we call life ain't nothin but a phase."
*4 out of 5*

$17. "Pay For P...."
Featuring Big Pimp'n

Clocking in at 1:43, I'm sure you remember Big Pimp'n from the Death Row days. He has some "pimpin" words for us all.

18. "Picture This"
Featuring Mia X
Produced By Craig B

This Mia X assisted song was both hard and smooth at the same time, especially due to the beat provided by Craig B.
*4 out of 5*

19. "Doggz Gonna Get Ya"
Additional Vocals By Mac
Produced By KLC

Snoop did a damn good job remaking BDP's classic "Love's Gonna Get Ya." KLC equally reworked the 1990 styled track with a '98 touch. Good stuff here.
*4 out of 5*

20. "Hoes, Money & Clout"
 Scratches By Daz

This was the only song on the album that had the most "West Coast" sound of all 21 songs. The title itself would tell you the subject is nothing new for Snoop. An ok song.
*3 out of 5*

21. "Get Bout It & Rowdy"
Featuring Master P
Produced By KLC

I appreciated an updated version of "Bout It, Bout It," in terms of the beat, but this was somewhat of an anti-climatic closer, and the yelling from P (you know what I'm talking about) didn't help this song at all.
*2 out of 5*

Ok, before I get to my overall thoughts on this album, I want to address a few things first, starting with Snoop's move to No Limit. Now, based on what I remember, the reaction to it, while a major story at the time, was largely mixed. With hindsight being 20/20, when you think back to where his career was as '96 ended, this was a move that Snoop had to make. I mean, where else was he going to go? Aftermath with Dre? Possibly, but it took a while for Dre's label to take off the way it did, and really that happened when he signed Eminem. So if you ask me, signing with No Limit, even for a few years, was a good move in retrospect. He made more appearances on other No Limit albums that were released in the latter part of '98, dropped the excellent "No Limit Top Dogg" in '99 and his last No Limit album, "Tha Last Meal," in 2000. Overall, his tenure at the label was a success, and even if Snoop was a little too laid back for No Limit, he still made it work.

And finally, my thoughts on the album. I've often heard this referred to as Snoop's worst album, with some citing it being recorded in 3 weeks as justification, and after revisiting it, I respectively disagree. While it holds NO candle to "Doggystyle" and is probably not even better than "Tha Doggfather" (another revisit?), I'd take this over anything he's done after "Tha Blue Carpet Treatment" (then again nothing on this album can touch "I Wanna Rock" from the "Malice N Wonderland" album, as well as the remix). The first half was up and down, but it really picked up steam in the second. This 3.5 star album, up from my initial 3 stars, confirmed that Snoop was able to take his largely laid back, smooth West Coast sound and merge it effectively with the bouncy workings of the South, and it deserved the success it achieved (it moved 520,000 units in its first week, 246,000 in the second, leading to a double Platinum certification later in '98). Very good album here and it's not as bad as you may have been led to believe.

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