Snoop Dogg is a rapper who will collaborate with anyone for the right price. But unlike, say, Gucci Mane, his tossed-off verses appear on more than miscellaneous cuts by random regional street rappers. Snoop’s musical promiscuity has led to surprisingly unlikely songs like “Lavender,” a track he made with Canadian jazz band BadBadNotGood and producer Kaytranada. Earlier this month, their video generated national headlines by depicting Snoop pointing a toy gun at a Donald Trump impersonator, resulting in an angry tweet from the president himself.
“Lavender” may be the most prominent example of how Snoop Dogg has extended his reach beyond the confines of urban pop. He’s delved into L.A.’s indie funk and electronic scenes by working with Dâm-Funk—on 2013’s underrated 7 Days of Funk—Adrian Younge, and Flying Lotus, appeared on Run the Jewels’ willfully bizarre remix project Meow the Jewels, and worked with adult soul veterans like Goapele and Kindred the Family Soul. On most of these tracks, the 40-something rapper genially plays the Uncle Snoop role, a celebrator of fine women and good smoke, while tactfully avoiding the vocal aggression that occasionally creeps up in his street-rap cameos (his “Lavender” verses against the president are a notable exception). He can come off as corny but he knows how to fit in, as memorable songs like his duet with Gorillaz, “Sumthin Like This Night,” prove.
Among Snoop’s generation of late-‘80s/early-‘90s solo rap stars, there are precious few who still release commercially viable work: E-40, Too $hort, Dr. Dre, Nas, and JAY Z come to mind. Amidst that increasingly short list, Snoop’s role as West Coast ambassador for everyone, and not just the pop music industry in particular, is important. And the fact that he’s used his position to make intriguing digital funk gems like Flying Lotus’ “Dead Man’s Tetris” is a big plus.