What exactly happened on dance floors in the ‘70s?
That’s a question many musicians and club-goers could probably ask themselves about one of music’s most decadent (and unfairly maligned) decades. But go ask Daft Punk, a newly re-formed Chic, and now Snoop Dogg: Something profound took hold in that era, where incandescent soul got handsy on a club floor with disco, funk and electronic experimentation.
“Bush” is Snoop Dogg’s return to his old moniker after a stint in reggae as the Rastafarian-inspired Snoop Lion. But instead of a return to the gangsta rap of his early career, “Bush” is actually more akin to his 2011 collaboration album (with the L.A. producer Dam-Funk) as 7 Days of Funk. He’s singing about three-quarters of the time here, and with favored collaborator Pharrell Williams helming the project, “Bush” sends Snoop into the disco era, which also happens to be where a lot of club music’s best minds are looking now.
It’s no coincidence that Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson and Kendrick Lamar all show up on “Bush.” The album’s 10 graceful yet bawdy songs find the through-line between ‘70s session-band genius, ‘90s Compton swagger and the modern pleasures of a dark club booth. “Peaches N Cream” and “So Many Pros” move like the best of Patrice Rushen, Zapp or Gap Band and fulfill the modern-funk vision hinted at by Williams’ N.E.R.D. project.
Snoop’s not a powerhouse singer, but his natural charisma and reedy, lecherous croon translate well in this setting. The percussive guitar stabs of “Edibles” and “Run Away” are an old trick, but when paired with Snoop’s buttery new vocal presence, it all feels sincere.
Even in the Death Row Records era, Snoop’s hardest threats as a rapper rode atop a velvet delivery indebted to electro-funk finery. There aren’t many ‘90s rappers who could credibly settle into a sound like this, but Snoop is an excellent student of his formative musical era. Even though “Bush” looks backward, it proves he is once again ahead of his time.
Doggystyle Records / I am OTHER
Three stars (out of four)