The Hard Way
he story of 213 is one of missed opportunities. It doesn’t take a West Coast aficionado to know that it was Snoop who put the brakes on this project for more than ten years. As he went through relationships with Dre, Suge and Master P he continued to touch base with his DPG colleagues but never put more than autopilot efforts into their collaborations. The somewhat unintended effect of this, though, was to steadily build a reputation for this pre-fame Warren G, Snoop and Nate Dogg venture into something approaching mythical proportions.
Snoop may have recently conquered the charts with “Beautiful”, giving him a much needed commercial boosting, but his stock in 2004 is at an all time low. His decline into total lyrical irrelevancy and cliché (check the appalling lazy “shizzle” lyricism of recent solo joint “Drop it Like its Hot” for further evidence of inconsequentiality) has left him sounding stale with a permanent sidekick in the shape of predatory scum Bishop Don Juan. As such, calls for 213 have been gathering volume and this lull is the perfect time for a critical vitamin shot. Sadly this isn’t the same 213 who dropped the legendary demo and this isn’t the 213 album people have been waiting for. The expectation painted a picture of the ultimate West Coast album with three of its most popular players but The Hard Way fails because of very lack of chemistry between Snoop, Nate and Warren.
As easy as it is to lay into Snoop, it wouldn’t be fair to totally blame this effort on him as most of these collaborative efforts tend to be collegial, and here (on record at least) he is definitely perceived as one among equals. Snoop and Nate seem to have a problem going longer than a few bars without dropping some lines about “dirty ass hoes” that need “slapped” upside the head. While Snoop offers up the same old subject and flows he at least gives us what we expect, Warren on the other hand seems to have lost his way a bit. The unflappable Mr G comes much harsher than he normally does, and it doesn’t work nearly as well.
On a production level, the album features some very strong commercial west coast material. It’d be hard to pick out outright duds of the seventeen tracks here. Even weaker numbers like “Joysticc” and “Mary Jane” are redeemed by Nate Dogg’s hooks, though even this is not even to improve the juvenilia of “My Dirty Ho”. A couple of decisions still rankle though; why use a producer of the calibre of Fredwreck to produce nothing but a silly intro and the “Rick James interlude” skit? What’s more, as one of the most underrated Hip-Hop producers ever, it’s difficult to understand why there are no Warren G productions on this album. It’s an even stranger move when you compare Warren’s smooth and classy leaked version of “Groupie Love” to the boisterous album version.
With the album’s original lead single “Dolla Dolla Bill” being pulled at the last minute to go on Nate’s forthcoming solo LP, it’s obvious he’s 213’s real star turn—his double tracked warm tones managing to turn even the cheesiest hook into a Summer sing-along.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2004-09-15