All dogs may go to heaven, but the normally sure-footed Snoop Dogg has started limping on his way to the Pearly Gates. The Long Beach rapper has endured more ups and downs than the stock market during his tumultuous career, and his fifth album, "Tha Last Meal" (due in stores Tuesday), finds him in somewhat of a rut.
The 19-cut collection is way too long and features several throwaway tracks. In fact, Snoop's limited vocabulary and increasingly narrow, gangster-centric vision often keep him from adding anything fresh or interesting to his music.
He's best served when collaborating with others, as he does on the album's strongest moments, the stern "Lay Low" and the funky "Set It Off." Even the production from Dr. Dre, Timbaland and others is remarkably average.
Snoop's lyrics are far superior on the recently released "Dead Man Walkin'," a collection of material the rapper recorded before leaving Death Row Records in 1998. But there's still an ingredient missing: cohesion. Many of the vintage vocals are matched with new beats. The results are sometimes enjoyable, but they often sound forced, empty and disjointed. Snoop's two best albums, 1993's "Doggystyle" and 1999's "No Limit Top Dogg," dwarf the latest collections from hip-hop's premier canine.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.