Album reviews: Snoop Dogg – Algorithm, and Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic

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Snoop Dogg (Supplied)
Snoop Dogg (Supplied)

Snoop Dogg – Algorithm

★★★★★

“What is a algorithm?” Snoop Dogg asks in the intro of his new album. A robotic voice answers with the dictionary definition. It’s a red herring, designed to make you expect something cold and clinical. What follows, in fact, is a rambunctious party at which Snoop embraces his role as benevolent hip-hop godfather – “the host with the most” – celebrating with Def Jam artists past, present and future.

Algorithm, the 50-year-old’s second full-length project this year, arrives after his appointment as Def Jam’s executive creative and strategic consultant. He’s clearly taking the role seriously. Algorithm rolls out the creme de la creme: veteran stars such as Mary J Blige, Redman and Jadakiss, and more recent signings including Mississippi-born gospel singer Camino. It all fits seamlessly together, a rich tapestry of weed-toked slow jams, woozy psychedelic infusions and pimped-out west coast joyrides.

It opens on the gin-soaked “Alright”. Redman snarls and snaps his bars, before handing the mic to Method Man; their gruff tones are tempered by the siren-voiced Nefertitti Avani and a sweetly shining synth line. “Anxiety” seems to interpolate the bass riff from Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and feels more like a tribute to New York’s jittery backstreets than Snoop’s native California. “Big Subwoofer”, though – a joint effort from supergroup Mount Westmore – bounces up and down like a lowrider driving around Long Beach. It’s a thrill to hear Mary J Blige dealing out self-love affirmations on “Diamond Life”. She’s followed by the Bay Area’s finest ghostwriter, Jane Handcock, who enjoys some much-deserved time in the spotlight as lead vocalist on “Whatever You On”. Snoop winds things down at track 25, the outro – “You have reached your destination” – yet this record never takes a wrong turn. It’s a trip.

Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic

Silk Sonic: Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars (Josh Esparza)
Silk Sonic: Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars (Josh Esparza)

★★★★☆

Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars want to put you in a certain kind of mood: think red wine, satin PJs, roaring fire. Together, they are Silk Sonic, a playful but lovingly crafted tribute to Seventies funk and soul. Mars, long since established as the king of retro crooning, goes full-blown pastiche here. “We’re making music to make women feel good and make people dance, and that’s it,” is how he sold it to .Paak, the “Come Down” rapper explained to Rolling Stone. But the attention to detail is just as magnificent; they are as loyal to the music that inspired them as they are to that “feel-good” ethos.

For .Paak, this is an opportunity to let loose. Until 2018’s Oxnard, executive produced by his former mentor Dr Dre, he’d captivated fans with his drolly colourful albums Venice (2014) and Malibu (2016). Oxnard, by comparison, felt hard and hollow, built on a bravado not even .Paak himself sounded convinced by. Now he leans into the welcoming grin of “Leave the Door Open”, laying down Marvin Gaye-style harmonies that glisten like butter on hot toast. There are bright jabs of piano, twinkling synths and lyrical gems: “I’m sipping wine (sip, sip) in a robe (drip, drip)/ I look too good (look too good) to be alone (woo-woo).”

“Fly As Me” is a James Brown shakedown. It bounces along a jaunty little guitar riff, woozing and grooving with wah-wah licks and sassy piano rolls. Both Mars and .Paak take their cues from the master and use their voices for additional percussion, throwing in grunts, “umphs” and “yowwwwwwws!” like their lives depend on it. They have fun hiding easter eggs, too, referencing Prince’s “Purple Haze” and enlisting the real deal, Bootsy Collins, to do the introductions on a sultry trilogy: “After Last Night”, “Smokin Out the Window” and “Put on a Smile”. Yes, it’s all cheesy as a vat of fondue. But it’s also a lot of fun.

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