Snoop Dogg has never really done it for me. While I realise that he forms part of a great legacy of hip-hop and, along with Tha Dogg Pound and Dr Dre, played a formative part in the definition of 90s rap, his more recent emergence as pop culture figure for all occasions, trotted out readily by any ‘youth’ brand, television show or aspiring RnB singer looking to tap into a broad base of readymade fans with a TV spot, a brief appearance or a feature verse, has taken some of the sheen off. Where once his tagging ‘izzle’ onto the end of every truncated word was funny and new, it has since grown old and stale. Where once his raps had some weight to them, they are now light and fluffy like the ghost-writers who so often pen them. In recent years, it has only been on songs engineered by others where others steal the show (Charlie Wilson and Justin Timberlake on ‘Signs’, the beat on ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’) and where Snoop plays a bit part that his value beyond those the halcyon days has really been apparent.
‘So Fly’, then, is Snoop back at his best. It is post-2000 to be sure – off the group’s 2004 debut ‘The Hard Way’ – but sees Snoop somewhat hemmed in by his longstanding friends and all the more effective for it. 213, begun in 1990 and named after the original area code for Los Angeles, is Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The straight-talking Warren G, of ‘Regulate‘ fame, plays a good foil to Snoop’s sometimes loose rhyming while G-Funk pioneer Nate Dogg, who died last year after complications from multiple strokes, is a flawless crooner, taking things mellower still. The beat, sampling 60s and 70s RnB group The Whispers, is solid but here matches, and doesn’t outdo, strong vocal performances. It unfurls daintily, dwells languorously as Snoop and Warren G beckon their respective lovers and then turns back on itself playfully in stabs of strings, mimicking the advance and retreat of those girls being told that their men are ‘fly’.
While 2003 might be remembered for the war of words that played out across singer Eamon’s ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)‘ and his supposed ex-girlfriend’s response ‘F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)‘, ‘So Fly’ is itself a parody of RnB singer Monica’s release that same year, ‘So Gone‘. Produced by Missy Elliott, that song played into the theme of empowered women taking relationships into their own hands, initiated popularly by Destiny’s Child with ‘Say My Name’ and ‘Independent Women’ in 2000. 213’s response cheekily disavows the problem relationship depicted by Monica, instead charming listeners with nonchalance, fueled, presumably, by inherent ‘flyness’. Over ten years in the making, ‘The Hard Way’ is the only long-player output from a group known more for individual successes. Separately, Snoop often floundered, Warren G faded from view and Nate Dogg required assistance to flesh out his sweet choruses. Together, riffing on the theme most hip-hop artists do best – self-congratulation – they are a suave force to be reckoned with.
213 – So Fly