January 19, 2010

Tha Dogg Pound - Dogg Food (October 31, 1995)

In the short time that it was relevant, Death Row Records managed to release some bonafide classic records under the guidance of CEO Marion "Suge" Knight. Hip hop purists will, of course, lean toward Dr. Dre's The Chronic, one of the most influential albums of any genre, and Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle, the zenith of solo debut albums, one which aspiring rappers all still strive to be. Annoying bandwagon jumpers who are out of touch with reality will name 2Pac's All Eyez On Me without hesitation: conspiracy theorists may go with Pac's alter-ego Makaveli and his The Don Killuminati: The 7-Day Theory for the replay value alone. Shit, even folks that dig hip hop soundtracks will name Death Row's Above The Rim and Murder Was The Case discs as examples that set new rules in quality control for projects that were usually seen as quick cash-grabs by other record labels and film studios.

I submit another Death Row project that not many people seem to be aware of today: Tha Dogg Pound's debut LP, Dogg Food.

Now, I realize that it isn't as though Dat N---a Daz and Kurupt the Kingpin are unheralded, starving artists: Dogg Food was released to mild critical acclaim and pretty good sales. But it's hard to be seen when you're in the shadow of the label's boss: at this point, Suge Knight had fully stepped out from behind his desk and was about to become as ubiquitous as Sean "Puffy" Combs. The project's perceived violent content even caused some mild controversy prior to its release, causing the label to have to hold the disc for three to four months, hence the Halloween release date. But my observation is that Dogg Food is all but virtually ignored whenever discussions abound regarding gangsta rap, which is a fucking shame.

Dogg Food was recorded under the guiding hand of Dr. Dre, if not by him directly: the man himself did not produce anything on the entire record, leaving Daz Dillinger to prove his mettle behind the boards, but he mixed the entire project down, making this the most spit-polished gangsta rap since his own record. Daz and Kurupt, under the wing of Snoop Doggy Dogg, were encouraged to follow in their leader's footsteps with California laid-back tales of violence, debauchery, and living a life that is actually worth living.

Not that Daz and Kurupt are motivational speakers or anything: lest we forget, they are gangsta rappers under the umbrella of one of the most successful gangsta rap labels in history. So while there are occasional positive messages sprinkled throughout, the majority of Dogg Food is about how Kurupt is a much better rapper than you, how Daz can fuck you up as needed, and how they will leave the house party with your girlfriend after smoking several bowls and pistol-whipping your ass in the driveway, leaving you laying amongst the oil stains and the urine that will inevitably puddle around you as the drunken melee continues.

Well, at least the music behind the lyrics will put you in a great mood.

Short and sweet.

On a lesser rap album, this introductory track would have been combined with the actual rap album intro. Over a banging Daz Dillinger instrumental, Kurupt tears shit the fuck up, while his rhyme partner manages to keep both himself and the listeners entertained. The WBALLS skit at the end is offensive, homophobic, and ridiculous all at once, which is quite a feat.

Although he didn't produce any of the songs on Dogg Food, Dr. Dre introduces this track as a show of good faith. Daz's G-Funk hits all the right notes, and both Kurupt and Daz sound pretty fucking fantastic over this undeniably West Coast creation. The song runs on much longer than it absolutely needs to, though: if Kurupt can, as he claims, “fuck your bitch after [he kicks] just one line”, then shouldn't this have ended over five minutes ago?

Ah yes, the infamous East Coast dis track. Except that this song doesn't disrespect New York in the least fucking bit. Kurupt simply rhymes his ass off (at one point he even dictates that he will “vocally void your whole molecular structure”, which just sounds cool) in one of the finest performances he has ever committed to wax, while Snoop handles chorus duties and Dat N---a Daz runs off to get a taco from the truck in the parking lot across the street, as DJ Pooh handles the production. The video, on the other hand, is a bit iffy with the crew's intentions, as it features Snoop kicking New York skyscrapers to the ground, but that was more of a proclamation of hip hop dominance at the time, not so much a “fuck every rapper in NYC” statement, although other rappers obviously took it to that other level. (They filmed a lot of the clip in Times Square: The Notorious B.I.G. infamously told his fans to run up on the production crew while giving an interview on the radio.) Sadly, this song still played a vital role in the East Coast/West Coast feud that left two rappers dead. When taken as the piece of entertainment it was supposed to be, though, this is still pretty good today.

I have my concerns regarding Kurupt's placement in the fabled hip hop supergroup The Four Horsemen (I say fabled because they have yet to release an official album together), because Killah Priest, Canibus, and Ras Kass maintain a lyrical nutrition plan that Kurupt always seems to ignore entirely. When you hear him over this underrated DJ Pooh instrumental gem, though, you totally get it: Kurupt sounds fucking awesome on this shit. Snoop even sounds excited to be in the same recording studio as his young protegees. This song is the balls. Hard to ignore the fact that this is the second track in a row on which Daz contributed almost nothing, though.

We all knew the honeymoon wasn't going to last forever; I'm just surprised that we've gone through four really fucking good tracks before the first slip-up. This song, with a Snoop-performed hook that was sort of inspired by some of Dr. Dre's lines on N.W.A.'s “Parental Discretion Iz Advised”, has a decent enough instrumental to work with, but Daz and Mr. Malik (formerly of Illegal, famous for appearing on both Snoop's “Pump Pump” and Warren G.'s “What's Next”, on which Warren proved that he is incapable of hiring a spellchecker) come through with only average verses, and Kurupt, who may have been a bit winded by his previous performances, turns in a pedestrian effort. Oh well, they can't all be winners.

This was never one of my favorite Dogg Pound tracks: back in the day, I was prone skipping ahead two tracks to “Let's Play House” (more on that later). I still don't love this, but in listening to Dogg Food today, nearly fifteen years removed from its original release date, I concede that this shit is laid back to the fullest. Daz, surprisingly, does a better job with this than Kurupt the Kingpin (the alias I will always prefer over the insipid name Kurupt Young Gotti), but that may only be due to the fact that Daz has more lines than his partner.

A sequel to a Dogg Pound track from the Above The Rim soundtrack, utilizing the same instrumental (which still rocks), but this time around only featuring Big Pimpin' Delemond and nobody else. This is just a glorified interlude that isn't labeled as such, and you won't need to hear it more than the once, but the music laid underneath just kicks ass.

The first video from Dogg Food (but not the first single; at least, around my way, “Respect” garnered radio airplay first), which I remember debuting on MTV late on a Wednesday or Thursday night. I also remember being excited, because this meant that Dogg Food was an actual album that would be released to stores. (Back then, I was naive enough to think that every song that a video was shot for would eventually make it onto an album of some sort. Boy, was I wrong.) Because of the memories of the discovery of the video, I never seemed to formulate an opinion on this actual song back then. This Death Row union (Tha Dogg Pound front and center, Snoop hovering in the background, Dr. Dre introducing everything (again), Dre's baby mama Michel'le and Nate Dogg crooning the hook) sounds better than most radio piffle today, and I remember the video being packed full of attractive women, but the song itself isn't very good. But I imagine both Daz and Kurupt knew this at the time.

Being signed to Death Row Records meant that you got first dibs on a Nate Dogg chorus, well before the rest of the industry realized that he was terrific at them. Daz and Kurupt attempt a serious track, tackling the topic of getting paid legally versus illegally, and while the end result sounds alright, I cannot remember any of it.

The radio stations around my way actually played this album track (albeit in a heavily censored form) often, a testament to how popular Death Row Records was back in 1995. Kurupt, Daz, and The Lady of Rage, who was probably just thankful that she had nothing to do with “Let's Play House”, all hold a lyrical clinic over a simple instrumental that keeps shit moving. And yes, I said “lyrical clinic”: even Daz sounds like one of the best rappers ever on this barely-concealed freestyle session. Kurupt quickly justifies his solo career with his two verses, and Rage proves that there was a reason that Dr. Dre sought her out for the label.

I've always wondered if Rage was happy that her verse on “Do What I Feel” led directly into a goofy interlude-slash-song that focuses solely on fucking random promiscuous women in group-sex situations. This isn't the best track in the world (hell, this isn't even the best track written about fucking random promiscuous women in group-sex situations), but Daz checks in with a free-form style behind the boards, and the interplay between Snoop, Daz. And Kurupt is entertaining, even if half of the world's population will be incredibly offended by the song. I could have done without the visual of Snoop actually having sex at the end of the track, leading into...

...one of the goofiest moments ever captured on compact disc: Snoop faking an orgasm. (I have to give him credit for committing to the bit, though.) True story: I once dubbed a copy of Dogg Food onto cassette tape for my younger brother, and at the behest of my parents, I left off the two song “sex suite” better known as “If We All Fuc” and “Some Bomb Azz Pussy”, and I always felt bad about it, not because of the censorship (he was only eleven at the time, he probably didn't really need to hear these songs), but because “Some Bomb Azz Pussy” contains what will ultimately become Dat N---a Daz's finest instrumental ever, as it lends a hallucinatory vibe to the the rote concept of fucking on a gangsta rap record. No, seriously: the beat is that good. The lyrics are all terrible: no, I have never wanted to scream “Dogg Pound” after fucking, and I would bet money that none of you two have, either. But the beat trumps everything else on here, hands down.

Had “Dogg Pound Gangstas” never been recorded, this would have been a perfect replacement as the introductory track. This track, with a title hijacked from Dog Day Afternoon, an Al Pacino flick that's really fucking good, consists of straight spittin', with Kurupt ruling the roost once again, while Daz resorts to diversionary tactics such as sing-songy lyrics and misdirection, but they work together very well. That's kind of the story behind the entirety of Dogg Food, if you think about it.

Over a beat that comes across as a West Coast approximation of what they thought East Coast rappers should be rhyming over, Daz and Kurupt rip shit, and then graciously pass the mic to Tray Deee, one of Snoop's boys who, sadly, had a falling out with him recently. But when Dogg Food was released, it was all love, and Tray kicks an impressive-as-hell verse. They let the instrumental run on well after they've all left the booth, though, which makes this still-really-good track longer than it needs to be.

This was boring as shit. That's all I got.

Eschewing the example provided by Dre and Snoop (ending their albums with a harsh, banging beat, such as “Bitches Ain't Shit” and “Pump Pump”, respectively), Tha Dogg Pound stitch up a smooth instrumental to cap off the evening. In the span of this one track, Dat N---a Daz and Kurupt the Kingpin manage to evoke the feel of a time when Death Row Records was just the hottest hip hop record label out, not one that was in danger of imploding because of the interference of the CEO: in hearing this today, I almost wish that the label didn't disband, even though I admit that would be a fucked-up way of treating the original lineup of artists. Runs a bit too long, but this was still an excellent way to end things.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Tha Dogg Pound's Dogg Food is an unheralded gem, buried in a discarded Converse shoebox in the backyard of the West Coast. Since labelmates Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg were fielding all of the attention, Dat N---a Daz and Kurupt the Kingpin weren't pressured into keeping up with the Joneses, and as a result, they did so anyway. Unencumbered by Dre's perfectionist ways, Daz handles the majority of the production with a steady hand, bringing listeners his interpretation of G-Funk, one which fits Tha Dogg Pound like a glove, specifically Kurupt, who lyrically shines on Dogg Food like the reflective surface on the mirror that you snort your lines off of. Listening to Dogg Food will allow you to revisit a simpler time in hip hop, before two of the major players were murdered and everything went to hell in a handbasket (whatever the hell that expression means). It isn't a perfect album, and a few of the tracks (especially the two-song “sex suite”) are incredibly difficult to listen to with a straight face, but, at least for this one album, Tha Dogg Pound got it right.

BUY OR BURN? If you're a fan of gangsta rap that actually contains a heavy dose of lyricism, then you should buy this shit. If you're a hip hop historian tracing the careers of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and their extended family, then you should buy this shit. If you're at the grocery store picking up some milk and tampons, then you should buy this shit.

BEST TRACKS: “Reality”; “Dogg Pound Gangstaz”; “New York, New York”; “Smooth”; “Respect”; “Do What I Feel”; “Sooo Much Style”; “A Dogg'z Day Afternoon”; “Some Bomb Azz Pussy” (instrumental only, let's be honest)



  1. finally a review for some westcoast gangsta shit its been a minute since youve posted one of these up. if your reviewing this you got to review some spice 1. this is an unreleased video of deathrow back in the dre days its called "puffin' on blunts and drankin tanqueray"


  2. whe n this came out no one believed me that LYRICALLY this was the best album out. Then Lets Play House Came Out. And everyone on East Coast shit thought West Coast was shite. Nah. classic.

  3. Nice Review, I have had this one lying around for a while but never got to it. I guess I will have to give it a spin.

  4. Wow didnt expect this. Great review of a westcoast classic. Back when Kurupt was ripping shit up, too bad he fell the fuck off......

  5. "If you're a fan of gangsta rap"
    "If you're ..... tracing the careers... Snoop Dogg"
    "If you're ... picking up some milk and tampons"

    Damn you caught me. I better check this shit out.

  6. Kuruption! would be a wise review choice. I've always liked that album. Then you could review Don Killuminati!!!

  7. Yes. Kurupt back then was the West Coast Inspectah Deck. And tha Dogg Pound was the West Coast Mobb Deep. Make that work in your head somehow and that is what I feel about this record.

    Two thumbs.

  8. About time. I try to listen to this album every start of week. Used to have an original tape, so I'm not guilty of downloading it from a friend. West side.

  9. First of all, congratulations for the blog. I just came across it today by googling Nas is like and while perusing its content (overwhelmingly east-coast oriented, sadly)I found your brand new Dogg Food review. For what seems to be an east-coast oriented cat (nothing wrong with that but as a Frenchman who at first didn't understand shit about the lyrics I first leaned towards the musically catchier hip-hop from the West Coast), I am stunned at your praising the album. This is my favorite rap album, this is what I grew up on, literally.

    To me you've summed up the whole deal about this album. "an unheralded gem". It fucks me up to see this album labeled as low-standard G-Funk, a failed attempt at reproducing Doggystyle and Dr. Dre's albums, etc. because it really isn't.

    Dogg Food's production sounds unique, just like Uncle Sam's Curse is to name another underrated classic. It doesn't sound too much like Dr Dre's G-Funk except for a few tracks like Respect or Let's Play House.That's what I give credit Daz for. Always having a characteristic sound. As a matter of fact, its been said that Daz was so pissed for not getting credits on Doggystyle and The Chronic that he simply forbade Dre to produce any of the songs on the album, even though he mixed the whole effort and Snoop said in an interview that Dre produced a lot of Dogg Food.

    I like your mentioning that New York New York wasn't supposed to be a diss track. Matter of fact, Dogg Food should have contained "Got My Mind Made Up" featuring The Lady of Rage, Method Man, Inspectah Deck & Redman, but Daz had lost the reel, and when he found it back, 2pac heard it and liked it so much that he wanted it on his album (i don't know why INS's and Rage's were removed, though). So, how can an album that was set to feature Eastcoast rappers can be at the same time containing dis trakcs aimed at this very coast ?

    To me, this album is the best, most well-rounded album Death Row records ever put out. Dre's album was Snoop's treat, he delivered to me the best verses he will ever spit on wax), Snoop album was a built-up classic, capitalizing on the hype, but is has its flaws -Snoop sure sounds fly but he's being too repetitive and lyrically he comes off kinda weak. But Dogg Food is on another level. Dogg Food has something that no other Death Row album has: Kurupt at his best on a full-length album. And that boy lyrically and technically outshines every other rapper that ever signed on The Row, and competes on the same level as a lot of Eastcoast lyrically praised cats. Just check his verse on Got My Mind Made Up. And his chemistry with Daz, especially on songs like Respect, works out perfectly.

    Of course I'm a biased listener, and most of the readers of this blog regards this album as average at best, or will do it if they listen to it. But I'd like to stress that the album has a very unique sound, and to me it's sure is a quality.

    I don't agree with your song pick Max, but I'm amazed at your liking the album, I think that's good enough lol. I particularly like the sample of Lionel Richie's Love Will Find A Way on I Don't Like To Dream About Getting Paid and I love Malik's verse on Cyco-Lic-No, but I think that as a westcoast lifetime listener, I don't have the same standards as you.

    Completely agree with your point about Some Bomb Azz Pussy haha.

    Oh, and I think that you should, if you haven't already, lend an ear to Dogg Pound's (under the moniker DPG) second effort, the independently-released Dillinger & Young Gotti. Daz teamed up with South legend Mike Dean production wise and it's a great G-Funk album too, with once again a very unique sound. They got a song with Beanie Sigel particularly pleasant.

    Once again, excellent blog, and I dig your sense of humour, that passage on Above The Law's Livin Like Hustlers' line made me laugh my ass off.

  10. I’m with the Anonymous Frenchman on this one: this album was one of the best out of the west and it never gets the respect it deserves. “Dogg Pound Gangstaz” is one of hardest tracks ever laid. Good review.

  11. Yes!!! this album is always talked about when im in discussion w/ ppl about great west-coast hip-hop albums.. good album review but w/ the tupac thing lol.. u can't really argue w/ people on that.. almost every poll website u go to people just love 2pac lol but i'm one of those their all great in their own respect. peace..

  12. To the anonymous Frenchman:
    Yeah, I have a more than obvious East Coast bias, but when I started listening, I was all about the West. I can understand why you would be amazed that I actually liked Dogg Food, but I try (key word is "try") not to let my personal preferences bet the better of me in what are supposed to be objective reviews.

    Thanks for leaving your insightful comments, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts, regardless of the artist's location.

    Thanks for reading!

  13. Bought this one in a second hand store cause i recognized their name from Dre's the Chronic and it mentioned Snoop Dogg too on tracklist, thought i'd take a bet and buy it even if I never heard a song from them before , didn't even know they had an album ( this was pre internet days , mind you lol )

    When I put it in the player I expected nothing and received EVERYTHING !!! This is indeed an awesome album, need to get that out the closet soon to give it another spin , thx for reminding me Max =)

    BTW @ the Frenchman: for a Frenchie your english is very good , props on that !!!

  14. that "thanks for reading!" at the end of max's comments always trips me out...for some reason i'm seeing Mister Rogers smiling and waving

  15. if you check the blogs it seem like a whole lotta euro's like anonymus Lucien came to hiphop off that east coast gangster shit

  16. It's the anonymous Lucien back at it...

    I believe u meant west coast and not east coast. Well, if you check the blog, you can definitely say that, a small but visible French community are into digging the crates (or more like googlin' but nevermind...) on the look out for what they call "rare OOP G-funk" and some of them hold blogs and stuff. It's become such a hype that most ebay sellers now label the french as their new milkcows, along with the Germans and the Japanese, willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for albums that are sometimes definitely not worth it.

    The West coast rap fan base has actually developped with the internet days and an increasing number of "French G-Funk" artists have collaborated with American rappers (not only West coast rappers). Rappers like Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone, Spice 1, Daz, Snoop, Kurupt, Warren G, Nate Dogg, Goldie Loc (Tha Eastsidaz), Knoc'Turnal, Big Mike (from the Geto Boys & the Convicts), Gangsta Boo (3-6 Mafia) and some more all have collaborated with French underground artists over the past few years.

    The French Hip-Hop scene is well-developed, and generally speaking, there's an East coast lobby among the most respected and popular French rappers. I guess it's due to our weather (closer to the weather in NY than the one in LA) and the gloomy conditions and mood in Paris's suburbs. Consequently, most influential rappers in the 90's used to bite Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, etc. And once again, many American heavyweight rappers collaborated with French rappers. I don't know if you guys remember T La Rock's Lyrical King's cover, but the guy is sporting a French National Soccer Team tracksuit which he won off a bet with Akhenaton, its originally owner, a pioneer in French rap. Guru, Redman, Method Man, Raekwon, Sunz of Man, RZA, Missy Eliot, and even Beyonce (lol) have collaborated with French rappers in the 90's or 2000's. Nas rapped over a famous instrumental from I am (a French group, not Nas's album)on The Second Coming (It's Like That). And I Am, arguably the most famous French group, used Eddy Kendrick's The Newness Is Gone in like 95, way before Kanye popularized it with Poppa Was A Player. By the way, I Am is also known for releasing a double CD album in 93, 2 years before Master P's Down South Hustlers, and 3 years before Pac's All Eyez On Me, and it went like gold in France.

    @Max : Yeah I read everything as I can, actually, as I mentioned it in my last post, I came across the blog after googling Nas is like, so obviously I was looking for east coast stuff, as I am growing older and now understanding the lyrics better, I tend to look for every kind of rap, before I was more or less only into West/old South rap. But again, I was so surprised to see westcoast records (and especially Dogg Food, who isn't even fairly treated among west coast circles in my opinion lol) fairly treated that I checked every west coast review on your blog. But I'm also reading a lot of other reviews, since it's what I came here for.

  17. @ Max
    Hey man, I'm a BIG fan of your writings and of this album. I recently started a blog myself and for lack of intersting stuff in my life I'd actually want people to read about I reviewed the recently released Kurupt compilation "Down and Dirty". I would really be happy if you took the time to read it and give me some feedback.



  18. AnonymousJuly 23, 2010

    I'm in agreement with both Max and the Anonymous Frenchman. If you can believe it, I bought Dogg Food when I was like 13, and thought it was the shit back then! Kurupt's venomous rhymes on "New York, New York," that bouncy sunny beat on "Smooth," (along with nice verses from Snoop and Kurupt), the strangely sweet and goodhearted-sounding (for a gangsta rap track at least) "Let's Play House." The jam for me back then was also "I Don't Like to Dream About Gettin' Paid." Keep in mind this was before Nate Dogg became Hookman, the superhero with the magical power to sing a hook on virtually any dumbass song and turn it into a hit ("I've got hoes in different area codes" anyone?). Then there was Kurupt tearing up "Doggz Day Afternoon", I used to repeat that track a lot. "Reality" always reminded me of a construction site for some reason...Not sure if that will mean anything to you guys...but a killer track. It just reminded me of parts of a building being put together.

    Pretty much everything on that album was awesome to me, except the two-song sex suite which even at 13 seemed immature and self-indulgent. I agree that the beats are nice though, especially on the second track.

    Listening to the album now, with a more mature perspective and better ears, I'm still able to enjoy it for what it is. I personally enjoy it more than The Chronic or Doggystyle simply for the fact it's not riddled with interludes like those two albums were (seriously, what's the point of the skits 99% of the time? to fill up space?). Plus the beats on Dogg Food, and the approach to music in general, are more colorful.

    Mind you, this album wasn't totally ignored...I believe it went 3X platinum, or at least 2...Kurupt and Daz are great, but they never had the star power Snoop did. That's probably for the better, though...Not business wise but music wise. And Snoop has gone on to appeal to the lowest common denomenator more and more...but i digress.

    Max, thank you for the review. I found it googling Dogg Food. It made me laugh out loud so many times, because everything you said is pretty much true. From the comment about the skit at the end of "Dogg Pound Gangstaz" to the jokes about the sex suite and the comment about skipping over tracks 7 and 8 to get to Let's Play House...It was all so true. And the comment about Lady of Rage's thoughts on the sex suite hahaha...i used to wonder that myself. We're all in the same boat I guess.

    It's too bad DPG didn't stick with the G-Funk sound. In my opinion, it worked way better than the stuff they went on to do after '98 or 99. Daz's Retaliation Revenge and Get Back keeps going with the G-funk sound and features Kurupt in top form. But now Daz's beats dont have the same magic as back then, and Kurupt is always rhyming, "Bitch, get off my dick, shit, it's my dick, what's wrong with you bitch ass motherfucker bitch?" It's like cmon man, anyone could do that...I know you can do better. What happened to the witty Kurupt? I don't get it. He hasn't lived up to his full potential.

    But yeah great album!


  20. Great review of a great album. However, I take issue with you saying those who think "All Eyez On Me" is the best Death Row album are out of touch with reality. AEOM is a masterpiece in every sense of the word and one of the most influential hip hop albums ever.

    1. Agree to disagree. I feel there's a LOT of filler on All Eyez On Me and that it's nowhere close to a masterpiece; in fact, I still believe it to be a bloated mess that wouldn't even exist had Pac not wanted out of his Death Row contract so quickly. But there are also some fantastic tracks there, so I'm not discounting the project as a whole.