Snoop Dogg has, for more than two decades, consistently been an icon of hip-hop. One of the most visible and outspoken emcees, his prolific discography has added to his legacy as a mass-media figure — especially over the past three years, when he's branched out into funk and reggae.

For all the name changes (Snoop Lion?) and headlines, fans and critics have unanimously agreed that his finest hour remains his debut, Doggystyle. But ask what someone's second favorite Snoop Dogg album is and things get tricky.

For us, the answer is clear: Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.

When it arrived in 2006, Blue Carpet Treatment's release wasn't one of Snoop's biggest media moments. Because it arrived the same week as Jay-Z's comeback album, Kingdom Come, one week after The Game's The Doctor's Advocate, two weeks before Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury and about a month before Nas' first Def Jam release, Hip-Hop Is Dead, Snoop had to settle for the very un-Snoop-like circumstance of being the fifth biggest story in rap, making it one of his few projects that got lost in the shuffle.

But it's a story that rap fans would be better off hearing. It was Snoop's last release before the genre-bending success of 2008's “Sexual Eruption” (aka “Sensual Seduction”), and you can tell he was bringing his emcee game hard. Why were his rap skills on tracks like the still-breathtaking “Think About It” so sharp? The answer could be found in the family vehicle.

As Snoop told an audience at Blue Carpet Treatment's listening party, he was in the car with his children when one of his sons didn't name Snoop as his favorite rapper, opting instead for Cassidy. Snoop took this as a challenge, and it resulted in the most technically impressive rapping in his entire post–Death Row canon.

It's also probably his most genuinely gangsta outing since the '90s as well. The menacing, B-Real-assisted first single “Vato” bypasses the pop-culture icon whose signature slang was used in an Old Navy commercial and comes as close to the rapper who made “Murder Was the Case” as he ever got again.

That's not to say it's some sort of throwback record. The hyphy elements on “Candy (Drippin' Like Water,” assisted by fellow veteran heavyweight E-40, weave the finest elements of that movement into Snoop's soundscape, modernizing his sound without seeming dated today.

Of course, there are still elements that reflect the pop culture figure Snoop was at the time. “Beat Up On Yo Pads,” a song about the pee-wee football league that Snoop coaches, somehow manages to avoid being reality-show bait through Snoop's sheer zeal, giving us a momentary glimpse into what he enjoys outside his usual subject matter.

Tha Blue Carpet Treatment is the under-appreciated middle child of Snoop Dogg's discography. Post-“Drop It Like It's Hot,” pre-genre exploration, it's not the type of record that fits into any of the more well-known moments of his biography. But over the years, it's held up. Hopefully he'll play a few tracks from it at the Saban Theatre tonight.

SNOOP DOGG | Saban Theatre | 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills | Friday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. | $75-$125 |

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