Think of Snoop Dogg’s The Algorithm as good housekeeping. Even legendary brands like Def Jam occasionally need revitalization. The label may be decades removed from its late Nineties renaissance when giants like Jay-Z, DMX, and Ja Rule ruled the universe. But when the Doggfather announced in June that he was onboard as an executive creative and strategic consultant, it reminded folks that hey, Def Jam still exists. It’s more than just a trademark at the bottom of a Justin Bieber album.
Alas, The Algorithm doesn’t make an overwhelming case for Def Jam as a relevant movement on par to Quality Control Music remaking Atlanta rap or Griselda leading a new golden era. It’s not a full-fledged Snoop Dogg album, either – instead, he serves as a host, appearing on most but not all 25 tracks. His first major signee, Benny the Butcher, only shows up once on the bruising, superior posse cut “Murder Music” alongside Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss. Same with YK Osiris of “Worth It” fame, who croons alongside Snoop on “Applying Pressure.” Boldfaced Def Jam stars like Kanye West’s GOOD Music team, Logic and YG are nowhere to be heard. (Dave East dutifully clocks in, rhyming alongside Fabolous and Snoop on the strip-club bop “Make Some Money.”) Instead, there’s “Big Subwoofer,” a decent albeit somewhat mediocre banger from Snoop, Ice Cube, E-40 and Too Short’s OG supergroup Mount Westmore. Redman and Method Man reunite on “Alright.” Meanwhile, “New Oldie” finds Usher wistfully crooning alongside Eric Bellinger, “This is a new oldie…later on I’m a look back and say that this was my jam.”
Perhaps “New Oldie” defines Snoop’s strategy: building a bridge between Gen-Z and old heads increasingly making their presence felt through the upcoming Universal Hip-Hop Museum, Verzuz streams and LL Cool J’s fledgling Rock the Bells empire. He invites prospects like melodic rapper Blxst (a Red Bull Records artist best known for 2020’s “Chosen”); as well as singers Malaya and Nefertiti Avani. The veteran songwriter Jane Handcock gets three tracks, more than anyone else save Snoop. Her track “I Like My Weed” has a nice, bluesy flow reminiscent of BJ the Chicago Kid.
And what about the man of the hour? Snoop conjures a familiar G-funk bounce for “No Bammer Weed,” claims he’s “known to get the party shakin’” alongside Larry June and October London on “Qualified,” and floats alongside Mary J. Blige over the disco-boogie of “Diamond Life.” It’s all modestly pleasant to listen to. But if he wants to resurrect Def Jam as a true cultural force and not just a legacy imprint in the UMG galaxy, he’ll have to bring stronger smoke than The Algorithm.