Has there ever been a record label that blew it in quite such spectacular fashion as Death Row, or which learned so little from its mistakes and continued to blow it over and over? Losing both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, they spent the next decade boasting about how peachy it was to be rid of such two-faced talentless homosexuals whilst embarking on a series of increasingly desperate attempts to cash-in on what little of the two-faced talentless homosexual back catalogue they had retained - lame greatest hits collections released side by side with compilations sagging with witless crap about Dr. Gay and his NWAids.
Oh wait - gay rhymes with Dre.
I get it now.
Worst of all, as the label wasted time and brain cells on laboured concept albums suggesting that Dr. Dre enjoys man-on-man penisary action with Eminem in the mistaken belief that anyone really cared that much, the Death Row roster otherwise boasted Lady of Rage, Above the Law - one of the greatest rap groups of all time - and Crooked I - probably the best new west-coast MC at least since Xzibit - and did nothing with them. None of these artists were recording albums about the day when Dr. Dre did a poo in his pants in the dinner queue and some of it come out of his pants and he thought it was chocolate pudding and ate a bit of it and smiled and a man saw him do it, so Death Row didn't bother and just kept them around to make the fucking tea or something.
It would be annoying if they, as a label, didn't make such great records - well maybe not great records, but definitely better than they ought to be. Actually, it's still annoying; and ignorant and a waste of everyone's time even leaving aside degrees of homophobia so raging as to make Pat Robertson seem reasonable; on which subject - guys, this whole obsessive fear of gay people thing: It's stupid, it's really kind of weird, and honestly it says more about you than it does about anyone else.
Tha Dogg Pound's 2002 - presumably named in the hope of further annoying Dr. Dre who had just released 2001 - somehow illustrates this. Tha Dogg Pound were never quite the rap group you couldn't live without, but neither were they bereft of qualities, and there's always been something very listenable about Kurupt in particular. This compilation, distinguished by appearances from Jay-Z and Xzibit, both of whom spent some time on Death Row's list of enemies who smelled of poo and wee but were fine if it helped flog a few CDs - was put together after Daz and Kurupt jumped ship, presumably tired of all the money sidelined for their own material being spent on proving that Dr. Dre once saw a man's willy and said he liked it and a man heard him saying that he liked it. So 2002 is offcuts and remixes, an afterthought released by a label who'd just blown it yet again; and in spite of everything, it's still a pretty great album - nothing that's going to change the universe, although It'z All About That Money comes close enough, but it's a fat, nourishing sound, a good square meal. If Death Row could have put out just one album without pissing off the artist responsible, or wasting time banging on about people who'd had the good sense to take their talent elsewhere, that would have been a truly great record, but I guess the time is past.