Album: Dr Dre

The Wash, Interscope
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The Independent Culture

With his scary rival and former business associate Suge Knight out of jail again and readying a spoiler compilation of Dre's old Death Row hits, The Wash is surely the Midas-fingered producer's most important album since his 1993 debut, The Chronic. It certainly features the best cast of rappers he's ever used, with talented newcomers such as Knoc-turn'al and Bubba Sparxxx alongside such old stagers as Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Xzibit. "I'm still gettin' a quarter-million a track," boasts the self-proclaimed "five-star surgeon general", and it's easy to see why, as his quacking acid synths and stalking basslines bring the appropriate touch of menace to these tales of big pimpin', blunt-smokin' and high rollin'. But there are only so many ways to express the same narrow range of interests, and it's easy to decline Bilal's invitation to a threesome in "Bring 2" – though even that would have to be more entertaining than Soopafly's routine account of how he's "Gotta Get This Money". It's left to Busta Rhymes to bring imagination to the proceedings with the ambitious "Holla", which finds him claiming, "We got that obscure shit for the streets," over a spooky, horror-movie synth whine. And with mentions for Leviathan, the Smithsonian Institute and the Florentine architect Brunelleschi (surely a hip hop first), he's not joking. Apart from Busta, the most individual new voice here is that of Bubba Sparxxx, whose quirky, Timbaland-produced "Bubba Talk" is an infectious addition to the rapidly growing catalogue of Dirty South hip-hop grooves.