J.D. Considine
November 29, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

Tha Doggfather

Current Status
In Season
Snoop Dogg
Death Row Records, Interscope

We gave it a B+

That Snoop Doggy Dogg wants to shore up his claim to the gangsta rap throne is obvious in Tha Doggfather, an album that finds him ready to assume the role of rap’s Don Corleone. Although given what has gone down in the last couple months — the murder of Tupac Shakur, the incarceration of Death Row chief Suge Knight, and a federal investigation into the label’s purported gang ties — it’s anybody’s guess how much acting is involved.

There’s not much to love in the album’s attitude toward sex, drugs, and first-degree murder. ”Groupie” features a skit in which one of Tha Doggpound is told to ”slap this bitch”; ”Downtown Assassins” spins an elaborate fantasy of drug dealing and power grabbing; and ”Ride 4 Me” finds Snoop instructing one of his minions to blow a rival away. There’s so much rough stuff that when Snoop implores a young fan not to be like him, it’s like Joe Camel warning a kid off smoking.

But if the words are difficult to defend, the music is impossible to deny. Even without Dr. Dre behind the board, Snoop and his studio team concoct an intoxicating blend of old-school funk and gangsta cool. ”Snoop Bounce” and ”Snoop’s Upside Ya Head” are as fresh as the grooves (drawn from Zapp’s ”More Bounce to the Ounce” and the Gap Band’s ”Oops Upside Your Head”) are familiar, while the rapping in ”Doggyland” and ”Freestyle Conversation” boasts a stunningly sophisticated flow. Obviously, tha Doggfather knows what he’s doing. Just don’t ask him about his business. B+

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