Snoop Dogg "Ego Trippin'" ★★★½
Sixteen years after this gangsta avatar dropped his G-funk classic "Gin n' Juice," rap icon/TV father Snoop Dogg proves he's as much a gangster of love as he is Cali's smoothest ex-criminal.
With New Jack producers Teddy Riley (Guy, Keith Sweat) and DJ Quik to guide the majority of its songs, "Ego Trippin'" becomes Snoop's most soulfully romantic endeavor since 2002's "Beautiful" - its mellifluous ambience in tune with the righteous flow of Dogg's slippery raps.
This doesn't mean Snoop's eschewing the bad blocks ("Neva Have 2 Worry") and the hard knock completely. Or the gold of the rich and famous ("Life of Da Party"). He's just more at one with his lover-man side as the rubbery R&B-hop of "Sexual Eruption" and "Say Goodbye" (a duet with the Gap Band's rough-hewn singer Charlie Wilson) spill out like so much Drambuie on the rocks. There's even a vulnerable Snoop at work, as he pleads his way through the sinewy arrangements of "Why Did You Leave Me."
Rick Ross "Trilla" ★★★
On the cover of "Trilla," we see our Southern rapping, sunglass-wearing hero Rick Ross staring out a car window - possibly thinking about "Port of Miami," the CD on which his low-flowing, slurred hit "Hustlin'" was born. Rather than the sultry ambience he used on his last album, there's a chilly vibe behind Ross' new tale of social and sexual activity. Fellow Floridian and hit-making MC Flo Rida may help Ross provide "Street Money" with gangsta tension. But now that both men have made their money, they're a bit blase about it all. It's a given now - almost as if making good on the hustle left little room for the sizzle. That said, like a denser, fluid version of Kanye's Graduation (sans the Daft Punk), "Trilla" is cold and suave. I just miss the hot breezes.