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Snoop Dogg

The Snoopster is the hip-hop equivalent of late-period Dean Martin. Having long ago established his commercial credentials, he no longer feels the need to break a creative sweat. Once he hires a gaggle of pros to do the heavy lifting, he can cruise through the recording process, leaving just enough of his scent behind to satisfy faithful fans -- not to mention his accountants.

As a result, Masterpiece isn't one, but it's periodically enjoyable nonetheless. "Drop It Like It's Hot," the Neptunes-produced lead single, sets the pace for the disc via a spare soundscape (mouth pops provide the beats) and a tempo so relaxed that Our Hero sounds as if he's talking in his sleep. "Let's Get Blown" keeps the mellow vibe flowing, whereas "Oh No," featuring 50 Cent, finds Snoop effectively faking his old tough-guy rap à la the recent Vibe Awards. And if he treats the average woman like a Dogg in most tunes, he briefly moderates his position in "I'm Threw Witchu," in which he advocates leavin' that bitch instead of smacking her.

This alteration doesn't mean Snoop's a changed man. It's just that physical violence requires too much energy.