Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told
No Limit
Calvin Broadus, now d/b/a Snoop Dogg, is often accounted a major artist because he can drawl and pronounce consonants at the same time--with "flow," mustn't forget "flow." Post-Death Row Records he's been portrayed as the confused victim of his lord and master Suge Knight. "I'm just trying to be a child of God and do the right things and make good music," he told The Source. "I love Puffy Combs. I'm trying to make a song with Puffy." Then he contributed a cameo to the supposed farewell album by his new lord and master, No Limit's Master P. "Snitches" described a rap star he declined to name--but happily labeled a "puff-ass nigga," get it?--spilling his guts in a police car. No wonder people think Calvin's confused.

It would be a pleasure to dismiss Snoop's evocatively entitled No Limit debut, Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, as another piece of lowballing funk off the N.O. Bounce assembly line. Musically, however, this is one of No Limit's strongest albums. The lead "Snoop World" is the kind of track that can make an album, playing a disarming synth-bass hook over a real bass line and under triangles and other high elements that never hint at G-funk keyb tweedle, with a few Master P unngghs for insurance. Over the next few songs, cameos from No Limit's two best rappers, Mystikal and Mia X, clear the way for the unoriginal gangsta bull-roar of P, C-Murder, and Silkk the Shocker.

Sooner than on Mystikal's excellent CD, however, the music runs down, despite considerable input from Mystikal himself, whose deep-Delta bellow tenses powerfully against Snoop's honey-tongued indifference, adding moral weight to the usual professions of "ex-drug dealer" rectitude. And though for damn sure Snoop is just a rapper now, he would no more risk alienating his market than help a Blood's grandma across the street. Da game he's selling is sociopathic violence, and so he commits metaphorical murder, invites thugs to wave their gats in the air, cuts a biyutch improvident enough to suck his dick, and so forth. In short, he proves himself a born liar, and shows all the imagination of an ATM in the process. Anyone who thinks his flow makes him a major artist should give equal time to Mariah Carey's high notes and George Winston's magic fingers.

Spin, Nov. 1998