Tidal Catalog #13: Snoop Dogg

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)

Entrance Point: It’s the Snoop D-o-double-g baby! Very familiar with a large portion of his albums.

Included: Two albums from his group Tha Eastsiderz, his collaboration with Nate Dogg and Warren G under the moniker 213, his collaboration with Dam Funk under the name 7 Days of Funk and the Mac & Devin Go To High School Soundtrack. In addition, when he rebranded himself Snoop Lion – well, that’s here too.

Not Included: Murder Was the Case, Bones and The Wash soundtracks as they are credited to him but he’s not performing on most of the tracks. Same deal with Bible of Love, the gospel record credited to Snoop but is more of a compilation of other artist’s gospel tunes.

All albums ranked on a 10 scale.

  • Doggystyle (10)

Bow wow wow, yippy yo yippy yea, Snoop Doggy Dogg’s in the muthafuckin’ house! If I had put any album other than Doggystyle at the top here, I might as well just have stopped doing these catalogs. What two albums defined the West Coast G-Funk sound more than Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle? Pair this up with Dre’s record and you’ve got a duo of records that defined my hip-hop universe as I was moving from high-school to college and going from a kid to a man. That said, it took many years of being an adult to even partially understand the lyrics about life in the ghetto (and I say “partially” because as a white dude that grew up in the suburbs, I will never fully understand) as I’m sure in high-school I was just listening to “Murder Was the Case” because it was a great song. Doggystyle of course introduced us to “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?)” “Gin and Juice” and “Doggy Dogg World.” But what makes an album a classic is that the non-singles are recognizable as well. “Murder Was the Case” was later made into a movie and released but you know what sticks in my mind? The MTV Video awards where Snoop rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair to perform it. Songs like “Tha Shiznit” “Lodi Dodi” and “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)” might be just as well known as the hits. This is the type of album that takes me back to the time when I was actually listening to it, walking the streets to school, riding my bike around the neighborhood and likely shufflin’ to the beat the same way I still did a few moments ago listening to this album again.

“Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None)”
  • Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss (9.5)

The most amazing thing about Snoop Dogg’s 6th album is that it’s 1:18:59, which if I’m not mistaken, at least at the time, was the maximum length of time a CD could hold, which would make this literally the only disc I know of that’s at full max capacity. There’s also a double intro. The first two tracks are both intros. I really know no other disc that has an intro and I guess an intro-intro. Leave it to Snoop.

After his second record, Snoop left Death Row and signed with Master P and No Limit, which wasn’t really a match made in heaven. So he formed his own Doggystyle label and then licensed this album to Priority and Columbia. With that, his sound changed pretty drastically and shaped the rest of his career. His first two records were g-funk to the max. Then with No Limit he picked up the standard NOLA southern hip-hop sound 0f the label, that you might have heard with artists like Mystikal or Juvenile, while at the same time trying to keep some of the g-funk sound but with producers that simply weren’t Dr. Dre. But Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss introduced the world to a new smooth side, with R&B, singing and more upbeat ass-shaking beats. The very underrated “From the Chuuuch to the Palace” produced by Pharrell was a great first single as it immediately said “welcome to a new era.” And by this point we all know Pharrell’s beats are fun and upbeat. The second single though put Snoop fully back into the spotlight as another Pharrell joint, “Beautiful” went to #6 on the charts which was his biggest hit at the time (before the third single in a row from Pharrell, which of course is hit biggest hit, the #1 smash “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”

But really it’s the Battlecat produced hip-hop/R&B mix “Ballin'” that has Snoop rhymin’ over a laid back smooth beat that really shines a light onto the future of him as an artist. And “Lollipop” featuring Jay-Z and Nate Dogg should have been released as I’m sure it would have been a major hit. There’s also DJ Premiere re-creating the Batman theme song for a duet with the Lady of Rage appropriately called “Batman & Robin.”

So at this point in Snoop Dogg’s career, you know he can go gangsta if he wants to and that him and Dr. Dre are like two peas in a pod. And now you know that he can make more laid back tunes, hold a tune if he wants to sing and rap about chicks and weed all he wants. Plus he doesn’t necessarily need Dre to have a hit. As the years progressed, Snoop would be all over the map so this album really was the start of making him one of the most versatile rappers in the game.

And yet still, the most amazing thing about this album? 78 minutes and 59 seconds and virtually every one of them is enjoyable. There’s no filler (hey, interludes are a part of hip-hop culture) and while I often wondered if it was ever going to end, not once was it because I didn’t like what I was hearing.

“Ballin'”
  • Bush (9.5)

Bush is the soundtrack for smoking weed by the pool with Martha Stewart.

This was an album that should have happened long before it did in 2015. And it was a very surprising record mainly due to the fact that Snoop had just released his reggae album as Snoop Lion and said that he was going that direction moving forward. But how quickly things change. So Bush is a full collaboration with Pharrell and the Neptunes after years of a hit hear and there between the them. And the sound of the record is something that Snoop has never really done before. It’s a very smooth, fun, upbeat and light disco funk record, hearkening back to the 70s while sounding very much like it came out of the Pharrell camp. Snoop only occasionally raps over the course of the record, instead he’s choosing to sing on most of this and is backed by his buddy Charlie Wilson all over the place. I was a bit shocked when I heard this upon release for how different this is for Snoop. But that’s what makes him great.

“Edibles”
  • The Blue Carpet Treatment (9)
  • R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece (9)
  • 7 Days of Funk – 7 Days of Funk (8.5)

This is part of the short period where Snoop just kind of went in any direction he wanted. Early in 2013 he called himself Snoop Lion and put out a reggae record (more on that below) and then soon after that he pared with modern funk artist, Dâm-Funk and called himself Snoopzilla, to create a funk track for every day of the week. So this record rolls back into the G-Funk realm, though more laid back than his early days. Snoop’s smooth flow over pure funk beats obviously works great so the record is enjoyable even if predictable. The only real complaint is just like what happened with George Clinton in the 80s and beyond, some of these tracks are just too busy with instrumentation and sound effects that it can be distracting at times.

“Let It Go”
  • Ego Trippin’ (8.5)
  • Tha Eastsiderz – Tha Eastsiderz (8.5)
  • The Doggfather (8.5)
  • Tha Last Meal (8)
  • Mac & Devin Go To High-School soundtrack (8)
  • Neva Left (8)
  • 213 – The Hard Way (7.5)
  • No Limit Top Dogg (7)
  • Cuzznz (7)
  • Tha Eastsiderz – Deuces N Trayz: The Old Fashioned Way (7)
  • Coolaid (7)
  • Make America Crip Again (6)
  • Snoop Lion – Reincarnated (6)

Here’s an album that I really wish had better execution. In 2013, Snoop decided to rename himself Snoop Lion and put out a reggae record. Looking back, I wish he would have enlisted a true Jamaican reggae producer to work on the disc but instead he went with Diplo and his band Major Lazer. Nothing terribly wrong with Major Lazer overall but this was like going half way for Snoop. The album feels exactly like it should with Diplo producing, an EDM tinged reggae album and Snoop really needed something that sounded a bit more authentic in the end. First single “Here Comes the King” is a decent tune but kind of sounds like an American parody of the genre. It certainly doesn’t help that there’s a song with the decidedly not reggae, Rita Ora and the even less reggae, Miley Cyrus. I really feel that he wanted to go for something like this that collaborating with Miley really wasn’t the way to go. Personally, I would welcome another Snoop Lion record but how ’bout a collaboration with Damian Marley instead?

“Ashtrays and Heartbreaks”
  • Malice ‘N Wonderland (6)
  • Doggumentary (6)
  • 220 (5)
  • Da Game is to be Sold, Not to be Told (5)

Snoop’s music has been all over the map over the years – some is good, some is average but rarely has there been a point where it felt like he was in a true rut. However, if there was one, it was from 1998-2000 when he left Death Row because of the volatile situation there and signed with Master P’s No Limit records. No Limit had its run of hits thanks to Master P’s incredible marketing skills but the reality is that while he was a master of marketing and promotion, he wasn’t much of a rapper and his stable of artists really weren’t that great. Mystikal had his hits, so did Silkk the Shocker but other than that, the label was filled with mediocre rappers.

It was a bit weird at the time for Snoop to be welcomed with open arms into the No Limit stable, as rappers from other crews rarely made such a drastic switch. And that’s really what this was. Snoop went from west coast g-funk, to southern rap. All of No Limit’s records really had the same type of beat, what would go on to be the New Orleans hip-hop sound and that even applied to Snoop coming over to the label after being an established artist. This album not only feels so wrong in his catalog but it’s also extremely long and unlike Paid tha Cost to be da Boss, these songs aren’t nearly good enough to withstand 70+ minutes of it. He ended up creating three records on No Limit and with each one, they tried to incorporate a bit more of the west coast style back in but with almost no success. Credit due to Snoop though for reinventing himself after leaving the label in 2001 as three rough albums in a row would be the death of lesser artists.

“Woof!”

Summary: 23 albums, average 7.6

Adjusted Summary following Update #1: 24 albums, average 7.5

Tidal Catalog #12: Iron Maiden

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)

Entrance Point: Just like the previous full catalog I completed (Rush), this is in tribute to my former roommate, Tony Manero. I mentioned in that one that I woke up to Rush every day and that was true but when Rush wasn’t on, Iron Maiden was. I remember no other artists ever being played by that man. True story, not just my memory failing me. That said though, I was already listening to Iron Maiden way before that but I was never really that into them as progressive metal was never really my thing. Then I did this catalog and realized that holy shit, I had mislabeled them my entire life. Iron Maiden are just simply pure fucking Heavy Metal man!

All Albums ranked on a 10 star scale.

  • Powerslave (10)

Iron Maiden had just come off The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind, two fantastic records but their fifth record in as many years is their crowning moment. In the span of three years Iron Maiden had released 25 pretty fucking amazing songs, which is really hard for any band to do over the course of three consecutive albums, let alone complicated works of art like these in such a short time frame. It should be a blueprint for all bands. When you hit a creative peak, write, write, write, record, record, record. Keep going while those ideas are flowing. And I love that all members of the band brought songs to the table to record and yet the tunes all feel like Maiden numbers, not Steve Harris songs but as if all five members were always on the same page.

As a heavy metal fan, I feel it’s virtually impossible to not jump out of your seat at the start of the record, with the two singles, “Aces High” and the killer, “2 Minutes to Midnight” followed by the amazing instrumental track “Losfer Words.” And if that wasn’t enough, the first side of the record closes with “The Duellists” with Adrian Smith’s and Dave Murray’s guitars playing brilliantly off each other. Then on the backend, the album closes with the monstrously epic, nearly 14 minute “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” After that, you should be drenched in sweat and exhausted but if you aren’t, there’s plenty more music to listen to.

“2 Minutes to Midnight”
  • Live After Death (10)

I’ll have to check back in at the end but I’m pretty sure this is one of only two live records that scored a perfect 10/10 in my catalogs. As I’ve stated many times, I really dislike most live records as they never seem to capture the energy of the band as they would have been live and that’s totally expected. But this one does. Of the massive number of live albums Iron Maiden has, this will always be the essential one. Live After Death was recorded on the Powerslave tour and during the 90 minute set they hit 13 of the tunes from Powerslave, The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind. There are also four tracks from the first two Maiden records, which featured Paul D’Anno on vocals before they iconic voice of Bruce Dickinson made its way to the fold. This was the creative peak of the band and while these guys were non-stop tour-write-record-tour-repeat for years, they were still young and energetic and coming off the best material they would ever put to disc. Everything you’d want to hear is present and blowing out your eardrums – from “The Trooper” to “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Run to the Hills.” I have never seen Maiden live and don’t know if I would have much interest these days but I’ve watched a few concerts on TV and Live After Death completely captures the energy, ferociousness and spirit of the band perfectly. It’s not the only one of their live albums that do this but the collection on this one is simply out of this world.

“Aces High”
  • Somewhere in Time (9.5)
  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (9.5)

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is thankfully the seventh studio record from Iron Maiden, released in 1988. This album was the first one in my mind that truly felt like a progressive metal record. The first two tracks on the B side of the album certainly help this notion along with the nearly 10-minute title track containing quite a few complex time changes and “The Prophecy” changing directions a few times during the duration of the track. The album is notable for Adrian Smith playing keyboards on it, which is the first time an actual keyboard was used on a Maiden record but that keyboard isn’t intrusive in any way, nor does it lighten the sound of the band at all. The record also contained one of their most well known singles in “Can I Play with Madness” as well “The Evil That Men Do” and the awesome, rollicking closer, “Only the Good Die Young.”

“Only the Good Die Young”
  • Killers (9)
  • Piece of Mind (9)
  • The Number of the Beast (9)

Paul Di’Anno was the first lead singer of Iron Maiden on their first two records but when Steve Harris didn’t feel like he could hack it any longer, nor hit the notes needed for the more traditional heavy metal direction he was going in, they replaced him with Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson, who of course has become an icon. The Number of the Beast is Maiden’s third album overall, the first with Dickinson at the helm and the first of many to define the band’s sound. While the band hadn’t hit their full stride yet, this album was certainly a precursor for what was to come. If the killer riff in “Children of the Damned” didn’t suck you in right away, then the title track must have, or Dickinson’s crazy falsetto in the single “Run to the Hills.”

“Run to the Hills”
  • A Real Live One (9)
  • Brave New World (8.5)
  • Death on the Road (8.5)
  • Iron Maiden (8.5)
  • Flight 666 (8)
  • Maiden England (8)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (8)
  • A Real Dead One (8)
  • Book of Souls (8)

My expectations weren’t really high for Book of Souls when it was released in 2015. I had heard the first single “Speed of Light” which feels like a mix of Maiden, punk and hair metal. It was part of a 92 minute double disc, which 16 albums into a career is usually not a good thing – indicating moreso that the band can no longer seem to police itself on length. In addition, the album was delayed because Bruce Dickinson had a cancerous tumor removed. So this record had a lot going against it but apart from that single, it’s got a lot going for it. Guitarist Adrian Smith had left the band for a while and was replaced by Janick Gers but when Smith returned to the fold, Gers stayed on as well making a blistering three-headed guitar attack now. It allowed them to keep the riffs super heavy while adding in some rhythm as well. And the three guitarists were likely essential for this record because they wrote and recorded most of the tracks in the studio to give the album a live feel – and they used mostly first takes of the songs. There’s only 11 tracks on the record, which means that over the course of 92-minutes you have some sprawling tracks, nonemoreso than the longest song in their catalog and the second single, “Empire of the Clouds,” which was written solely by Bruce Dickinson. The song begins with a long passage of piano and strings before guitars get brought in the mix to play off the piano. Every time I listen to the song, I think of a really progressive version of G’n’R’s “November Rain,” as it has a similar vibe to it. Overall, it’s a long record, maybe a bit too long but pretty damn solid for guys that are almost senior citizens.

“Empire of the Clouds”
  • The Final Frontier (7.5)
  • Beast Over Hammersmith (7)
  • Dance of Death (7)
  • En Vivo! (7)
  • Live at Donnington (6)
  • Rock in Rio (6)
  • BBC Archives (6)
  • X Factor (6)
  • No Prayer for the Dying (6)
  • The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (5)
  • Fear of the Dark (5)
  • Virtual XI (4)

I write about this one because I cringed listening to this. At this point, the lead singer of the band was Blaze Bayley – who absolutely didn’t fit Iron Maiden’s style and was so very different from Bruce Dickinson. Virtual XI was the second and final album to feature Bayley on vocals, who seemed more like a metal Meat Loaf at the time, then a metal frontman. Everything is wrong with this album. The drums are buried in the mix, the guitars are flat which takes all the energy out of the record and the first single “The Angel and the Gambler” sounds like it’s recorded by an aging hard rock band performing at your local livestock festival. That alone is a nearly 10-minute beast with nearly the full time being un-fucking-listenable. “The Clansman” is one of the few moments on the record that’s actually passable at Iron Maiden music. Really, what I’ve never understood is that Maiden auditioned “hundreds” of singers to replace Bruce Dickinson and this is who they chose? Blaze Bayley would be a decent vocalist for a dirty punk-metal band or someone like the Misfits but he just didn’t work for Maiden. Thankfully, the experiment only lasted two fateful discs.

“The Angel and the Gambler”

Summary: 28 albums, average 7.6