Is Snoop Dogg even a rapper anymore? The LBC mogul who once dropped Doggystyle has gone soft. Maybe it's the peewee football. Or Girls Gone Wild. Whatever the distraction, Ego Trippin' (Doggystyle/Geffen) plays as an R&B album set to spoken word, Snoop taking the easy road rhyming "hiz-erb" with "biz-ird" on the Isley Brothers-sampled "Press Play." The Doggfather delicately remembers gangsta rap's glory days ("Neva Have 2 Worry") and fades the 12-bar Johnny Cash tribute "My Medicine" into "Ridin' in My Chevy," a Houston spot more dribble than drip. It's been eight years since his last album, but Del the Funky Homosapien's kept busy with Gorillaz and Deltron 3030 sessions with Dan the Automator. Eleventh Hour (Definitive Jux) pits the verbose Bay Arean, hyping his game and disrespecting others over the morose "Naked Fonk" and stagnant loops dragging "Slam Dunk" and "Back in the Chamber." Typically on the frontier of hip-hop's creative, Del stays a good distance from the borderline this time around. Legendary Pete Rock remembers Mecca & the Soul Brother ("The Best Secret"), but NY's Finest (Nature Sounds) can't capture the magic he cut mid-1990s with C.L. Smooth. Instead, Rock features Wu swordsmen Raekwon and Masta Killa for "The PJs," while "Questions" samples the flügelhorn in Miles Davis' "Concierto de Aranjuez." With highlight "Don't Be Mad" coming from DJ Green Lantern's stock, Finest is like Michael Jordan suiting up to score 15 on layups and jump shots.
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