Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told
No Limit Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/29/1999
Snoop Dogg needed a miracle in 1998.
His second album, Tha Doggfather, suffered from poor mixing, unexciting material and, worst of all, no Dr. Dre to help out his friend. If the album wasn't enough of a disappointment, the turmoil surrounding his now-former label Death Row, as well as the murder of Tupac Shakur and the dragged out murder charge Dogg faced all seemed like it could crush the young rapper's spirits.
He needed a miracle, all right... and one could say that miracle came in the form of rap mogul Master P and his No Limit label. Dropping the phrase "Doggy" from his name (I'm sorry, but I liked the way "Snoop Doggy Dogg" sounded), Dogg resurfaced with Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, which the public ate up upon its release. (I happened to snag this tape on an eBay auction; thanks to Sara Elenez of California for the prompt shipping.)
I suppose I'd like this album much better if Dogg still didn't rely on outside rappers as guests so often. I've made this complaint about rap before, and I'll make it again: When I buy a Snoop Dogg album, that's who I expect to hear, not fifty other rappers providing support. One or two times is okay; having almost the entire album sound like a rap summit is a bit much.
Armed with numerous producers handling each track separately, Dogg is brought more to the forefront of the mix -- though sometimes, it's still not quite close enough, as his lazy style of rapping competes with the groove. Still, it's a far cry better than the botched job on Tha Doggfather; at least on Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told, I can understand what Dogg is saying.
The final criticism is that Dogg is either trying or is being forced to change his style of rapping, occasionally slipping into a rapid-fire delivery. I don't recall Dogg ever doing this on his previous two albums (though it's been some time since I listened to them), and this just doesn't sound natural for Dogg. He's best when he's delivering a laid-back, to-the-cut lyrical attack, and one just shouldn't mess with something that works.
With these criticisms, one would probably expect that I didn't like Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told. Not so; it is still an enjoyable album, though it doesn't have the staying power that a disc like Doggystyle does. Tracks like "Still A G Thang," "Don't Let Go," "20 Dollars To My Name" and "DP Gangsta" are all closer to matching Dogg's true capabilities than anything on Tha Doggfather. Especially interesting is "Doggz Gonna Get Ya," which almost serves as both an explanation and an editorial for why so many inner-city youths turn to drug dealing. Granted, there are no heroes or a happy ending in this one -- but that also mirrors real life.
At 21 tracks, this is easily Dogg's longest work yet, showing that his creative side was not kept down during the struggles with Death Row. (Also interesting was that Dogg's next album, Topp Dogg, was already being touted in the gatefold; the album was recently released.) Dogg is still one of the most entertaining and creative rappers out there, and this album serves as proof of this.
Despite the pairing with Master P (who only serves as executive producer; I would have liked to have heard him actually produce one or two of the tracks), I still find myself pining for the Dogg-Dre days, which seemed as natural of a pairing as ham and eggs. Hopefully soon we can hear these two collaborate again.
Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told is a major improvement for Dogg, and is a testament to his creative spirit -- but it falls short of matching his best output.