Available on: Priority CD

In a recent post on his Guardian blog Simon Reynolds read the last rites to hip hop, declaring the genre “stalled”, “sapped”, and ultimately “a deadening force”.

By rights hip-hop should have checked out in a fog of blunt smoke and a hail of Glock bullets; blood, baby oil and crunk juice spattering the leather upholstery of its stretch Hummer. Sadly, based on the evidence of Snoop Dogg’s latest effort, much of hip-hop’s mainstream side is currently slumped in a chair at the retirement home, rambling incoherently about “the good old days” while dribble runs down its chin. Hip-hop is arthritic, impotent and its colostomy bag needs changing.

It’s rarely a good sign when the list of guest artists on an album runs into double figures, less still when one of those guests is kiddy-fiddling basket case R Kelly. It suggests that Snoop has lost confidence in his own abilities and requires an army of auxiliary talent to compensate for his diminished muse. The only other notable rap albums with a supporting cast as large as this have been some of the most recent additions to Tupac’s discography. And Tupac, of course, is actually dead.

Snoop Dogg has previously distinguished himself from his peers with his uniquely laconic sing-song delivery, and the elastic bounce of the productions he has rapped over. From the low-slung G Funk of 1993’s Doggystyle album, to 2004’s Pharrell-produced ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, Snoop’s tracks have been consummate party music, albeit subversive enough to provoke wild-eyed hysteria amongst the British press.

Malice N Wonderland is uninspired from beginning to end. There are few tracks that would have sounded innovative had they been released five or even ten years ago, which hardly seems relevant when they are all such irrevocable stinkers. At its best, Malice is simply forgettable: the beats unimaginative, the bass non-existent. At its worst, the album is quite breathtakingly awful. ‘1800’ is particularly gruesome, Lil Jon pointlessly repeating the last words of Snoop’s couplets like a gleeful, autistic Chewbacca. ‘Pronto’, featuring Soulja Boy, is a nauseating confection of auto-tuned vocals and hideously gauche Euro trance, while ‘Different Languages’ features the sort of chipmunk vocal sample that Kanye tired of years ago.

While Snoop maintains the gangsta posturing and constant misogyny of old, his rhymes are delivered without the glint in his gimlet eye that previously made them so compelling. It no longer sounds like he is having any fun, and the result is simply tiresome. Malice in Wonderland is a depressing record; the whole exercise reeks of contractual obligation, but fails most of all because Snoop sounds like he has entirely lost faith in his own music .”Fuck this rap shit”, he says during ‘2 Minute Warning’, “shots fired, suspect down.”

Colin McKean



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