In the 14 years since Dr. Dre's The Chronic sent shock waves through popular music, Tha Dogg Pound's indefatigable glamorization of gang-banging has gone from transgressive to irrelevant to borderline adorable. Listening to Cali Iz Active, the group's Snoop Dogg-executive produced comeback album, it's easy to see Daz, Kurupt, and Snoop as overgrown adolescents. Aw, isn't that cute, they're into wearing matching blue outfits! And they can't stop talking about their little club The Crips! Even the Pound's misogyny feels like an extension of the schoolyard libel that girls are dangerous cootie-disseminators.
Much has changed since Daz and Kurupt first rode Dr. Dre's coattails to multi-platinum sales, but gangsta rap remains a fountain of youth for its diehard acolytes. Active's infectious title track is a musical wake-and-bake that gets the album off to an appropriately sleepy, blunted start. Just as West Coast gangsta rap is increasingly defanged, second-generation producers like Battlecat—who produced many of the album's best songs—have removed the menace of Dr. Dre's production with airy concoctions as sunny as an afternoon at the beach.
Daz and Kurupt mostly stick to orthodox G-funk here, but there are a few winning digressions. On "Sittin' On 23's," the rejuvenated Swizz Beatz offer up a highly caffeinated cross between manic East Coast aggression and Dirty South crunk, while Diddy lends his inimitable presence to "It's Craccin All Night." For the first 10 tracks or so, Cali Iz Active qualifies as a surprisingly solid comeback effort, but the disc starts to drag well before it reaches the end of its 68 minutes. Tha Dogg Pound throws a laid-back gangsta party here, but part of being a good host is knowing when to call it a night.