On Aug. 4, 1998 Snoop Dogg’s first official album after leaving Death Row Records was released through Master P’s label No Limit Records. Stylistically, Snoop’s name also went from Snoop Doggy Dog to the abridged Snoop Dogg. By the point ‘Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told’ arrived, the emcee began to strip himself of the G-Funk West Coast sound by signing with a label headed by a St. Louis rapper with deep roots in New Orleans. It wasn’t that Snoop didn’t have a choice, but it was circumstantial.

The success of ‘Tha Doggfather’ was obvious, but due to a contract dispute with Suge Knight of Death Row, Dr. Dre took himself out of the picture, and it begs the question of how much bigger it could have been if Dr. Dre would have had his hand on the sophomore album.

Death Row Records began to wear on Snoop (labelmate Tupac was murdered as well) and his material. Couple that with his inevitable disdain for Suge Knight’s royalty distribution and ‘Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told’ is Snoop’s divorce album -- a hip-hop divorce album.

Snoop’s evolution from Crip to Mafia-esque gangbanger to pimp was apparent during this album, which took him down the path of least resistance. Case in point, the lead single ‘Slow Down (I Can't Take The Heat)’ featuring Master P’s token female emcee, Mia X. There’s little to no grit on the effort with Snoop’s propensity to give hook-records.

Even though this LP begins a new era for Snoop, he still looks back with two sequels to popular songs: ‘Gin & Juice II’ and ‘Still a G Thang.' It’s almost like he was revving up for something else. Though Snoop’s relaxed flow remains intact, the audio pairings, still, after all these years remain a little odd. You can’t listen to ‘Tru Tank Dogs’ featuring Mystikal and feel that it was a natural fit. "I'm in a club in New Orleans / Just got finished eating a batch of chicken wings and some collard Greens," Snoop raps. It was just weird.

Even the Pen & Pixel album cover is what we call a "WTF moment" today. The inadvertent influence the South was having on this West Coast protégé was becoming apparent, and even if southern hip-hop would become a forefront trend, watching Snoop be the first mainstream act to take a step in that direction was strange to watch.

Fifteen years later, we can consider this weird album an artistic vacation. In retrospect, Snoop’s never been one to play it safe. Don’t forget: ‘Sexual Eruption’ and Snoop Lion were years away.

Watch Snoop Dogg's 'Still a G Thang' Video

Watch Snoop Dogg's 'Slow Down (I Can't Take the Heat)' Video

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