With his fifteenth studio album Neva Left, Snoop Dogg joins the ranks of too many old school rappers who have tried and tried again to leap back into relevancy with outdated and mediocre throwback albums. Like the Game’s 2016 album 1992, Neva Left leans on references to old school hip hop culture and recycled reinterpretations of classic tracks – it’s a project whose only real appeal is hardcore fans of West Coast hip hop or those who have become complacent with Snoop Dogg’s uninteresting recent output.
Don’t let the title fool you – Neva Left isn’t a return to the golden age of g-funk. If anything, it’s a hastily put together selection of boring off cuts. The project opens with the title track Neva Left, and although it somehow doesn’t butcher it’s appropriation of Wu-Tang’s classic C.R.E.A.M, it becomes lethargic and dull just like so many tracks on this thing. Snoop’s signature laidback flow is here too, but rather than coming off cool and casual, he seems lazy and uninterested in his own bars.
It’s not just the title track that relies on pigeonholed throwback to nineties classics – not only do songs like Neva Left and Bacc in da Dayz (sampling A Tribe Called Quest’s Excursions) rely on half-hearted references to vintage hip hop, but even the features here seem out of touch. Old heads like KRS-One and Too $hort combine with new schoolers like Nef the Pharaoh and K CAMP, but in the end, none of these performances are even close to exciting. BADBADNOTGOOD and Kaytranada dropping in for Lavender (Nightfall Remix) provide not only the most fresh and refined production on this project, but also the center stage for Snoop’s best performance.
420 (Blaze Up) is a diamond in the rough, taking obvious influence from Terrace Martin’s school of clean modern g-funk. Snoop, Devin the Dude, and Wiz Khalifa all deliver relaxed but memorable verses as they glide between vocoded hooks and glitzy electronics – the kind of performances that tracks like Big Mouth and I’m Still Here would benefit from. It’s not Snoop that falters, but his production team too. Moment I Feared and posse cut Mount Kushmore feel like shoddy attempts at imitating YG’s reinvented West Coast sound, and there’s even a straight trap beat on Trash Bags. The production is indecisive at best, not just between tracks – even the instrumentation on some tracks is all over the place, and not in a funky sort of way.
Neva Left follows in Koolaid’s footsteps – another money grab put together at the last minute by Snoop to capitalise on the West Coast revival. It’s sloppy, falling apart at the seams, and totally slack. For anyone who hated Snoop’s 2015 soul experiment Bush, Snoop has only gotten messier.