Snoop Dogg is a little like Woody Allen. His projects regularly promise exciting new directions, only to deliver the same old, same old. The big difference is that late-period Snoop still delivers the goods via killer singles and solid (though padded) albums. Though it shares its predecessors' bloated length and quality-control issues, Snoop's newest, Ego Trippin', largely justifies the new-model Snoop hype. Snoop surprised and delighted fans with the single "Sensual Seduction," a rapturous quiet-storm ode to the female orgasm and that trendy robo-voice-modulator used by Akon and T-Pain. It even came with an ingeniously lo-fi video that re-imagines the world's cuddliest Crip as a bargain-basement Prince with serious Jheri Curl issues.
DJ Quik and New Jack Swing mastermind Teddy Riley, who mixed many of the tracks, give Ego Trippin' a cohesive throwback '70s/'80s Sunday-afternoon-barbecue vibe in spite of the usual preponderance of guest producers. Snoop Dogg steps away from gangsta posturing in favor of channeling LL Cool J and drawling goodtime party rhymes. He even gives country a whirl on the shockingly not-terrible "My Medicine." There have always been innate contradictions in the concept of the superstar gangsta rapper, but standout tracks like "Sensual Seduction" and "Deez Hollywood Nights" find Snoop comfortably inhabiting the role of straight-up entertainer, while the neo-soulful "Waste Of Time" with Raphael Saadiq and "Neva Have 2 Worry" highlight a more introspective Snoop. Ego isn't exactly tight, but Snoop's silky sonic seduction proves awfully irresistible.