Music & Me, Nate Dogg

Music & Me, Nate Dogg

Elektra, 2001

Since his debut on Death Row in the early 90’s, Nate Dogg has often been the label’s crooner. Unfortunately, the crooner wasn’t allowed his own album at the label despite recording several tracks. After his departure, a battle began with his record company to release the album that was originally planned for 1994/1995 with the tracks he had recorded. He finally managed to release G-Funk Classics Vol. 1 and 2, the first volume of which was recorded on Death Row and volume 2 after his departure, on Breakaway in 1998 After having recovered the rights of the songs. However, the era of G-Funk was almost over and the songs not anymore in the trend, as a result the album was a commercial failure.

Nate Dogg then went on to do choruses for other Hip Hop artists including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Ludacris, Fabolous, to name a few. His reputation as a hook maker is well established and his ability to propel singles to the top of the charts is certain. Nate Dogg has an innate talent as a singer, a barytone and monotone voice that is seductive. After all his choruses, is Nate Dogg capable of being as convincing on a solo album for the Hip Hop world? His first double album already proved it, his G-Funk sounds had seduced the fans of the sub-genre while reviving it. 

With Music & Me, Nate will explore new sounds, the domination of G-Funk is over and he is aware of it. An artist’s ability to thrive is intimately tied to his ability to skillfully renew himself, though the consequence may be the disappointment of die-hard fans. Artists who lock themselves into a sub-genre are criticized by fans for a lack of versatility, or for offering the same thing over and over again, with an almost inevitable crescendo drop in quality over the course of albums. We tend to expect the artists on what we are used to hear, but we also like that he surprises us by taking us on new grounds, as long as the quality follows.

With the exception of a few featurings, Nate had strongly accustomed us to G-Funk. Music & Me will be much more R&B, still with some funk sounds and lyrics as gangsta/pimp. The crooner surprises in the sounds of the album while doing what he knows how to do, bewitch us with his honeyed voice to get out his insanities. Behind his magical voice, he is the biggest macho gangsta on the planet. The usual themes are present, but the sound palette has subtly changed.

Hearing Nate on a solo album can be confusing, as if you’re constantly waiting for the rapper to come up with his verses. In reality, even on G-Funk Classics, very few tracks feature Nate Dogg solo, seven out of the thirty-one songs on the album. On Music & Me, the proportion of solo tracks is much higher. Can he be credible as a solo rap artist? The answer is yes and no. Of course, Nate Dogg doesn’t rap, so it’s difficult to call him a rapper, but that doesn’t prevent him from being widely credible to a rap audience with his sung verses. However, legend has it that Nate is an excellent rapper, but that he refrains from rapping to maintain his crooner image. True or not, his vocals are nonetheless captivating.

Besides, the guest artists bring a welcome rap touch, but they sound like almost due contributions, all of them are rappers to whom Nate offered a chorus on a single. Of course, they are all of good quality and the tracks with guests remain very successful, yet the most convincing tracks are in my opinion the solo tracks of the singer. I Got Love, Backdoor, Concrete Streets and Music & Me are some of the best tracks on the album. If you only expect Nate on choruses, you’re not a real Nate fan.

The title of the album can let think of an introspective album, there are some passages that come close to it where Nate is real and talks about himself. However, we can’t talk about an introspective album as such, and that’s a shame. I would have liked a totally introspective album with Nate as a soloist on all the tracks, or almost. And when you see the quality of the solo tracks, it’s even more frustrating.

If we go back in depth on the album, Nate is always equal to himself. While we could think of a love song with I Got Love, we quickly realize that his love is actually turned towards the ghetto and its “homies”, is he even capable of loving a woman? Given the length of his two marriages, it’s hard to say, but we’re not here to judge his feelings. The construction of I Got Love is incredible, taken from Donny Hathaway’s I Believe to My Soul, the piano riff coupled with the saxophone and snare drum hits offer a beautiful R&B rhythm to the crooner. Is it Nate following the music or the music being mixed for Nate? Probably a little of both, but Nate’s performance is quivering with that change in voice and tone. 

Backdoor is on a much slower, melodic pace for a romantic song a la Nate Dogg. Strongly attracted to the female gender, the crooner wants to invite himself into the homes of single women by going through the back door. In the same idea, the crooner shares with us a beautiful poetry as provoking as ironic on a beat with a pounding drum and some piano notes of Dr. Dre with Your Wife. This theme is repeated on Another Short Story where Nate confesses his difficulty to get attached to women, a new short and sad story on a soft production of Mike City.

Much more gangsta on Keep It Gangsta with Xzibit and Lil Mo for two verses sung by the two crooners before Xzibit takes over on a surprising and rough production by Megahertz, but no less effective. Still by Megahertz, the beat of Can’t Nobody is just as strange, with Nate almost being the guest alongside Kurupt. If it weren’t for Nate’s beautiful bridge and the Dogg Pound rapper’s two sharp verses, the song would be a skip for me, the least compelling on the album. Over an alarming production by Bink, the crooner reprises his role as a pimp with Area Codes mate Ludacris. Nate Dogg’s verses and choruses are not the most convincing, slightly more rhythmic than usual, Ludacris brings his usual versatility and his smashing punchlines. The track works but the beat is grating. Mel-Man brings one of the best beats on the album with a form of drama on I Pledge Alligiance with a monumental verse from Pharoahe Monch for a declaration of war on haters. 

Jermaine Dupri gives a more festive touch with Your Woman Has Just Been Sighted for a typical So So Def track with more clubbery lyrics. The chorus covered Ring The Alarm by Naughty By Nature released on 19 Naughty Nine: Nature’s Fury. Nate reunites with Snoop Dogg and the Eastsidaz for the most G-Funk track on the album on a beat by Fredwreck for funny and ironic lyrics always centered around the female gender.

Slightly more introspective on Music & Me, Nate Dogg reveals with a beautiful song his love for music, and weed by the way, on a production oscillating between funk and soul by Damizza. In the same spirit, Concrete Streets presents an ego-trip where Nate presents probably his best sung verses of the album with his suave voice on a Battlecat beat.

Even if the lyrics are not the finest with a slight redundancy in the themes, Nate still knows how to bewitch us with his soft and mellow monotone voice. The diversity offered in the productions is sometimes confusing and some tracks can seem slightly out of step with the rest, even if all manage to seduce in one way or another. Finally, the best tracks are those where Nate is alone with a mixture of both funk and soul for a soft and warm melody without being fundamentally G-Funk.

By Grégoire Zasa

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