THE HARD WAY
Good old-fashioned West Coast gangsta rap has never been a magnet for broad social acceptance, but its A-list players certainly know how to work the angles. Guys like Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg stay famous because they let people inside the game -- they choose to be approachable instead of scary.
So it's no surprise that "The Hard Way," the trio's debut as the hip-hop supergroup 213 (as in the Los Angeles area code), is an easy ride, one that sells the lessons of the street more than the actual sounds of the street. And Professors Dogg, G and Dogg have been delivering those lessons for more than a decade: Take what's yours, and then some; love women, but don't trust them; get high; make a little time for God and your kinfolk. It's politics as usual.
Like the rhymes, the grooves on "The Hard Way" are far from revolutionary, but their radio-ready classiness is undeniable. From the reliable Parliament-Funkadelic-inspired bassline of the single "Groupie Luv" to the ribald '80s electro-funk of "Joysticc," the men of 213 repeatedly recycle familiar R&B sounds that obviously still have some life in them.
Some songs do a lot with that formula, though, including "Another Summer," where producer-of-the-moment Kanye West masterfully drops a soulful and sneakily complex backing track, and "Run on Up," which has a sparse synth groove, a speaker-rattling baritone chorus by Nate and some of Snoop's better lines. "The hood ain't got no Geneva," he says, perhaps not knowing just how common that experience is.
-- Joe Warminsky