With samey-sounding discs rolling off No Limit's assembly line practically fortnightly, even hardcore fans must admit that the label's output resembles one stultifyingly long album from gangsta hell. Which is why it gives me moderate pleasure to report that Top Dogg, Snoop's fourth effort, is arguably the strongest recent hour-plus patch on No Limit's metaphorical CD without end.
Snoop sounds immeasurably more confident than he did on last year's Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, fluidly rapping about what he knows best weed, women, and wild times. His old mentor Dr. Dre resurfaces with three Doggystyle-style tracks, while other producers (including Ant Banks and DJ Quik) wisely follow Dre's lead, crafting smooth-but-tough, synth-laced tracks to complement Snoop's mellifluously profane vibe. Of course, the usual platoon of guests cut into Snoop's mic time (''Ghetto Symphony,'' built around a snatch of Otis Redding's ''Hard To Handle,'' showcases six other rappers). But when our hero cuts loose, as on ''B Please,'' he sounds like he could spin droll, unruffled rhymes forever: ''Dre said, 'Ain't no limit to this/As long as we drop gangsta s ---.''' Dre just may be right. B