Snoop Dogg - Tha Last Meal (2xLP)
Throughout the 1990s, Snoop Dogg proved that the phrase "old rappers" doesn't have to be an oxymoron, and that it's possible to age gracefully within the genre. But as he made the transition from lethargic gangsta crony to mature thug uncle, Snoop the icon soon outstripped Snoop the rapper and his output became spotty, leaving questions of whether his talented tongue was lost to time.
On Tha Last Meal, Snoop proves that all the glitter isn't gone from his golden throat. He's so secure that he even dips into crooning on the so fresh and so clean "Leave Me Alone." But Tha Last Meal largely achieves its smoothness through worn-leather raps delivered with pimp savoir-faire and production--supplied by Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Meech Wells, and others--that swaps the charisma-free bounce of Snoop's last two albums for an uptempo, newly enthused sound. The glee is echoed in Snoop's rhymes.
"I'm in a three-piece suit looking too cute," Snoop gloats on "Stacey Adams." "Go Away" serves as the Dogg's new position statement, on which he belligerently proclaims "I'm too young to retire, I'm having fun with it / See, when you learn what to do with it, I'll be done with it." Indeed, it'll take a nation of haters to keep Snoop down, something that Snoop nods to on "True Lies," which features the boldest player of all, President Bill Clinton. With even the prez doing dirt, it's clear the game still isn't to be told. --Jon Caramanica