Listening Booth: Snoop Dogg, “Ego Trippin'”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

As everyone learned in Freud 101, the oft-controversial psychologist believed there are three egos in each of us: the Id (which focuses on our most basic desires — namely, food and sex), the Super Ego (which provides our moral center, our conscience), and the Ego (which tries to satisfy the two). Though it is not this dissection of the human psyche to which the title of his new album refers, Snoop Dogg could make a case for Freud’s theory with his ninth album, Ego Trippin’.

Originally, Snoop Dogg chose the title Ego Trippin’ because he had intended for this to be a truly solo album, performed entirely by him. However, the idea was scrapped and as is standard for rap albums, it features a bevy of guest appearances, though none of them are from his original aiming-high list, which had names like Madonna and Mick Jagger.

Snoop Dogg, “Press Play” (download)

As soon as the second track, “Press Play,” begins, it’s obvious that Snoop Dogg hasn’t changed. He’s laid back, rapping about pimps, hoes, smoking, tossing in those trademark -izzles. It’s a basic “rapper with a big ego” (or perhaps in the case of Freud, “rapper with a big Id”) anthem about how great he is and how no one else’s skills even come close to his, aside from maybe the people he name-drops. Any number of songs carry on this way: “SD Is Out,” “Gangsta Like Me,” “Life of Da Party”… close your eyes and point at a track name, and chances are it’s something along these lines.

But lest anyone forget, Snoop Dogg is married. And has kids. With those things comes the nagging of the Super Ego: role-model this, marriage that. Though the number of songs about casual sex with bitches and hoes remains high, there are two songs that mention his wife (“Been Around Tha World” and “One Chance (Make It Good),” one song about loving his daughter but being frustrated with her mother (“Waste of Time”), a song about other women who “don’t mean a thing” (“Those Gurlz”), and a sentimental piano and synth number that asks, “Why Did You Leave Me?” It’s a whole new emotional territory outside of Snoop’s standard, and it shows that he’s not quite comfortable with it. Some of these seemly heartfelt numbers are hardly sustainable, whereas others feel honest but a bit awkward. He’s most relaxed in the middle, like on “Been Around tha World,” where he raps about how great his wife is and how great he is.

Snoop Dogg, “Been Around tha World” (download)

It’s not just a new emotional ground that Snoop Dogg explores on this album: he branches out musically, as well. The hit first single “Sensual Seduction” (changed to the hysterical “Sexual Eruption” on explicit editions) is an impressively smooth ’80s throwback, complete with talk box. It actually is seductive — or at least, it is in its edited version. The uncensored version could make over-the-top innuendo king R. Kelly jealous. New remix, anyone? (Kells’ agent, if you’re reading this, I want a cut.)

Speaking of ’80s throwbacks, he also rather deftly covers The Time’s “Cool.” And if going two decades back doesn’t seem to be enough of a genre stretch, there’s “My Medicine,” an attempt at a country song with Everlast, which he dedicates to “Johnny Cash, a real American Gangster,” and kicks off with the words “Grand Ol’ Opry, here we come!” The song turns that into a laughable boast, but that’s what he gets for collaborating with Everlast instead of a legit country artist. Then again, an Alison Krauss pairing probably would have been funnier.

The downside of bringing all of these personalities together is that Ego Trippin’ feels crowded. As integral as they are to most rap albums, some of the most swaggering tracks feel like they’ve been done before, either by Snoop Dogg himself or someone else. At least five of the 21 tracks could have been edited out on charges of boredom inducement. Then again, there is that album name to consider. A small ego isn’t going to trip anyone.