It’s been an interesting time to be a Snoop Dogg fan of late. 2013 saw him release a documentary and album under his new reggae moniker Snoop Lion, the same year he dropped an electronic album under the name DJ Snoopadelic. Next came 7 Days Of Funk, his funk-duo album with Dam-Funk, and there was talk that Snoop Dogg the solo act was retired for good. While Bush has arrived and appears to be that Snoop solo album, this is just as much a Pharrell Williams joint as it is the Doggfather’s.
As a singles producer, Pharrell can be a righteous shot in the arm for any artist, but give him an entire album to work with and everything starts to sound the same. Just look back over Common’s Universal Mind Control, Madonna’s Hard Candy or even his own G.I.R.L for an embarrassment of enjoyable-but-mediocre riches. As exec producer on BUSH, Pharrell isn’t doing anything his hasn’t done with Snoop before, with nothing here as addictively brilliant as ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Drop It Look It’s Hot’, nor as experimental as the paranoid Gameboy blips of ‘Pass It Pass It’ from 2003’s R&G or the incredibly aggressive ’10 Lil’ Crips’ from 2006’s Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, all of which were co-produced with Chad Hugo, his partner-in-crime in all-but-now-defunct The Neptunes.
Hugo actually makes an appearance here on early single ‘So Many Pros’, a track with one of the most sublimely catchy bridges of Snoop’s – or indeed any rapper’s – career, which is then almost derailed entirely by one of his most irritating choruses. Still, it remains head and shoulders above the other two other singles released so far; ‘Peaches ‘N’ Cream’ is all ’70s disco whistles and a BPM so laid-back that you’re surprised Snoop managed to stay awake long enough to deliver his verses, while ‘California Roll’, featuring Stevie Wonder on vocals and harmonica, is perfectly simpatico with getting clam baked in your car on your way to the beach to catch the sunset.
Other guest appearances are pretty much a who’s who of who Pharrell has produced for recently; Gwen Stefani duets on the glitchy, most dancefloor-ready track ‘Run Away’, T.I. hangs around for whatever the minimum amount of time is to get his ‘featuring’ pay-cheque on women-as-drugs-metaphor anthem ‘Edibles’, both Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar arrive for album closer ‘I’m Ya Dogg’ – the latter of which wins the award for the grossest lyric (‘There’s a trophy in your pussy and I’mma cum in first place’) – while Snoop stalwart Charlie Wilson appears on just about every track. All of which combines to further testament of the lack of inspiration or originality there seems to have been brought to the project.
Early interviews had Snoop talking about how this album was going to be unlike anything he’s ever done before, but if anything this is both Snoop and Pharrell playing it safe in a wheelhouse they know too well to do anything new or interesting in. Having said that, Snoop and Pharrell at 50% are better than most artists and producers at full blast, and when you happen across a track like ‘Awake’, which wears it’s George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic influences proudly on its sleeve, or ‘This City’ with echoed synths and one of Snoop’s pure rap-verses on the album, it all kind of snaps into place.
Thirteen albums in, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with an artist just wanting to sit back and have a little fun, but this was Snoop’s (and Pharrell’s, let’s be honest) chance to retake the hip-hop crown. To a certain generation, the D-O-Double G is just that guy from that Katy Perry song, and Pharrell is just that ‘Happy’ guy. Lacking in any kind of pure-fire single, this is no burning bush.