Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Snoop Dogg Reimagined Discography For White Folks Who Falsely Believe Rap Peaked In The Early 90s, 1: Leaving Death Row
While I'm not one of the White Folks Who Think Rap Peaked In The 90s from the title of this post, I'm not an expert on rap. Apart from The Chronic and Doggystyle, which I must have listened to hundreds of times in their entirety, most of my knowledge of rap came from what was played on MTV or the radio.
I was having a conversation with someone in the early 2000s about NWA, and said person remarked that I "seem(ed) pretty knowledgable about 80s and 90s rap but probably wasn't, actually." And they were completely correct. So I bought more albums and actually sat down and listened to them. It didn't make me a scholar on the subject, or even a knowledgable source. It made me a bigger fan.
So I don't present this as some sort of Here Is A Historically Accurate Document About A Genre Of Music I Am An Officianado Of. This is a Hey, I Like This Artist And If You Want To Experience What I Enjoy From This Artist, Here's A List Of Songs I Like That I Think You Might Enjoy Too. And I've included some historical context but mainly context for why/how I, personally, approached it. If you like these songs, you should go buy the albums they're from, and check out the artists who've influenced the songs (I've included a majority of the artists sampled here).
1. If you came to rap in the early 90s, it was probably through Dr. Dre's The Chronic. The singles from that album were everywhere. MTV was like "Hey, we have moved on from the beatboxing pop and realize now that LL Cool J isn't exactly underground. Check out these songs." Dr. Dre was one of the best producers in any genre of music during the early 90s, and his samples and arrangements are inescapably catchy. And as such, his album ruled Billboard for eight months.
While not one of the singles from the album, Lil' Ghetto Boy, establishes early Snoop's style perfectly, and even drops the "Murder was the case that they gave me" line that became one of his most popular singles later on. And, yea, the second verse is Dre. But these two were inseperable in '91 to '93. This was the track that made me track down Donny Hathaway. If you're not familiar with his music, you should go check that out. There's also some gorgeous trilling flute over a Rodney Franklin riff. That's such a deeper sample cut than the James Brown's "Funky Drummer" sample that was so prevelant in the late 80s.
2. If you only know Snoop from his singles, here's the first song you might know the words to, and feel safe singing mostly along to. It's Gin & Juice from Snoop's solo debut, Doggystyle. There were certainly a ton of white boys where I was from singing "Rolling down the street, smoking indo, sipping on gin and juice" who not only didn't know what "indo" was, but also would gag on any cocktail of Tanqueray and juice. They also definitely had never busted a nut within a hundred yards of anything but their hand and box of tissues. Whether or not I fit into all of these categories, I can not remember.
The samples on this track led me to George McCrae, who reminded me of Bill Withers who I only knew from "Ain't No Sunshine" until getting McCrae's album inspired me to get Withers's Greatest Hits. I did not catch on to Slave until I heard their song "Walking down the street watching ladies watching you." in a store, and was like "Dafuck? Who is this? I need this album."
3. Gz and Hustlas is the first full on braggadocio on this mix. I blow up your mouth like I was Dizzy Gillespie is far and away the best line. But this track is all about Snoop's rhythmic delivery over that Bernard Wright track. Also, the debut of Bow Wow on the intro. This could have easily been the fourth single from Doggystyle.
4. I don't know anyone who was listening to music in 1993 who didn't at least know the chorus to Who Am I? (What's My Name?) even if they didn't know the title of the song. It was omnipresent in pop culture. Your whitest of white and out of touchiest teacher knew Snoop's stage name at this point. This is also the first track where Snoop completely outclasses the song he's homaging. George is, by far, my favorite Clinton. I've seen him live twice. "Atomic Dog" is nowhere near my favorite track he's worked on, even though it is incredibly catchy. Snoop elevated The Hell out of it here. ("Give Up The Funk", the other Clinton song sampled is A Classic, and if you haven't heard it before, I question if you've ever been outisde your house or consumed any sort of media.)
It's tough to recognize The Counts sample by casually listening to this song, but I highly recommend them if you need some instrumental funk tracks to listen to in the background while you're trying to be creative.
5. I'm not going to make a "going to the dogs reference", but Snoop's post-Doggystyle career wasn't so glamorous for the rest of the 90s. Disputes with Death Row Records led to some unauthorized album releases by Suge Knight and they included some tracks that Snoop probably wasn't so proud of. So for his second release on No Limit records, he went back to work with Dr. Dre. It's still not at the level of The Chronic or Doggystyle, but No Limit Topp Dogg has a few head boppable tracks. Snoopafella is practically a cover of Dana Dane's "Cinderfella". Aparr from some updated references, the song's journey, chorus, and beat are nearly identical. But in 1999, I'd never heard of Dana Dane, so this song about being a male Cinderella sounded new and interesting to me.
6. If you have a friend who still uses the suffixes "-izzle" "-iznit", please slap them once across the face and tell them to stop. Even Snoop, who is responsible for bringing that vernacular into pop culture stopped doing it two decades ago. The Shiznit is mostly recycling lines and concepts from The Chronic and the hits from Doggystyle (the album "The Shiznit" is from). But it works for me. Probably because it's more George Clinton samply. Here, it's "Flashlight", another song that I feel has permeated pop culture enough that most everyone has heard it, even if they don't know what it's called or who it's by. But as a child of the late 80s, the sampe of Billy Joel's "The Stranger" is probably what grabbed me, even though I definitely wouldn't have been able to identify it the first few dozen times I heard it. There's also a sample from Sons Of Champlin's "You Can Fly", a band I still need to better familairize myself with.
7. Lodi Dodi led me to check out Slick Rick, who is not my favorite rapper, despite his incredible influence over the genre. I much prefer Snoop's version of the song, though it would be great if there was some Doug E Fresh on it.
There is no way to honestly listen to Snoop's output without getting a ton of misogyny. I've tried to steer around it as much as possible. But you can't experience 90s Snoop without "bitches and hoes" and women as objects. He was 19 when his rap career took off, and 19 year olds in the early 90s weren't bastions of progressiveness. You'll find a lot less of this as the discography evolves into the 21st century. I note it here (this is hardly the first song on this fictional album that has a problematic view of women) because I briefly mentioned that Slick Rick not being my favorite rapper. For Snoop, his misogyny was part of his image. As were his 90s gangsta persona, his relationship to violence and murder, and his celebration of the tamest illegal drug in America. My only experiences with Slick Rick songs center around how women need to satisfy him. It was his entire image. I don't care if he's considered The First Real Storyteller In Rap. It gets real old, real fast. It got old when I was 18 and experiencing his music for the first time, and it certainly didn't age well since then. Snoop's lyrics haven't really aged well, either, but there was enough different subject matter to them that they didn't seem abhorrent to me in 1992/93 etc. I was also not a bastion of progressiveness.
8. This might be the only song on this album that wasn't one that I started listening to when it was fresh. I bought Doggfather but I didn't really love any of the tracks besides "Snoop's Upside Your Head". The background vocals and production on the title track speak to me much more than Snoop's vocals here.
9. I always forget that Murder Was The Case is from Doggystyle. I remember the video being released a good deal later than the singles from the album (this is a false memory), and it had its own soundtrack album. This was 100% the song where I stopped thinking of Snoop as The Featured Performer From The Chronic. He performed this live at the 1993 MTV video awards, and it, along with Neil Young & Pearl Jam's "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World" was the highlight. Given that the rest of the performers were U2, Janet Jackson, REM, Soul Asylum, Lenny Kravitz, and The Spin Doctors, all artists who I had been listening to obsessively, he had to Fucken Bring It to even get my attention, and he ended up surpassing just about all of my favorites.
The massive sample in this song is from Santana's "Fried Neckbones And Home Fries", and once again, Snoop has elevated this kind of quiry 70s AM album track and elevated it into something beyond its seeming potential.
10. I already mentioned that Snoop's Upside Your Head was my favorite track off Doggfather when it came out. It is the first song that you can identify as narratively taking place after Doggystyle, as he references Suge Knight as a criminal (the bad kind, not the fun gangsta kind).
This is another update of a song that's nearly a cover, as it's entirely dependent on The Gap Band's "Oops Upside Your Head" the way The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" is entirely dependent on Andrew Loog Oldham's cover of The Rolling Stones' "The Last Time".
11. We close out this first album from Snoop with Slow Down. This is another song where the background vocals and production really make it for me. Snoop's vocals are great, but it's got an 80s R&B ballad single feel that I imagine being used for a montage in a gritty drama from 87 or 88, which makes sense as Loose Ends released the original version of "Slow Down" in 1986
Working in comic book stores has been both a blessing and a curse for me in this millenium, as I have amassed an increidbly large library of graphic novels and knowledge about the industry. In the 90s, I worked in record stores and had the same issue but with CDs and opinions. As a completist, both jobs fed into my craving for complete understanding of a band/series/author/artist.
I was in high school when Counterparts came out. I loved the first track, and thought the album was pretty good. And the next time I went down to the trendy CD store in Greenfield, MA, I picked up Roll The Bones, and then I just kept getting one album every time I went into town until I owned All Of Them. But it didn't stop there. In college, I briefly worked with a progressive rock band who asked me to join them because of two things 1.) I had a massive CD collection that included all of Rush and Dream Theater's output. and 2.) When they asked me to name progressive rock bands, I mentioned early Genesis, causing the drummer to shout "SOMEBODY ELSE GETS IT." which, um, sort of? We didn't make it to our first show.
I bought their three 21st century albums when their comic series, Clockwork Angels came out. I neither listened to the albums nor read the comics. I hadn't had an urge to listen to Rush since college. I didn't even plan on doing a discography for them because, hoo-boy, what do you say about a band that had 40 years of songs, a legendary reputation, but who very few people outside of college ever have the desire to listen to? Then I saw the video of the marching band who performed a Rush Medley at some football game and I thought "How visually cool, and musically boring. How is it that all marching band music just sounds like the same eternal song, no matter the source material?" Rush deserves better.
So here is a One Album Discography of Rush, despite their tremendous output because, oooof, so many of their songs are long and pretentious. And who wants to listen to Ayn Rand put to music? I mean even the Tolkien put to music is excruciating, and I like Tolkien.
Please listen to the album reponsibly.
1. It's Rush, so I feel like to properly prepare you for the experience, I can't just throw down one of their hits. Instead, you get the heavily instrumental (there is narration and the occasional verse) and incredibly long Tolkienesque The Necromancer. It's over 12 minutes of progressive rock from the 1970s that flirts with the ideas of Heavy Metal but never really commits. The different sections of the song are broken up by pitched down narration. The second section, which kicks in with drums before getting as Heavy as early Rush really gets (think really slow early Metallica with Led Zeppelinesque vocals), is probably the most satisfying part of the song. But it's all good if you're in the mood for this kind of music. Just frenetic in its pace changes.
2. The first excellent riff of this album belongs to The Spirit Of The Radio. This song just throws everything at you right from the get-go. It's like three different great openings in a row. The lyrics are rarely the highlights of early Rush songs, and this is no exception. But it sounds like the kind of track you occasionally hear on a Classic Rock radio or streaming station and think "Do I know this song? I swear I've heard these riffs before."
3. One of the four Rush songs whose lyrics I've ever really remembered is Their Biggest Hit, Tom Sawyer. If you've only ever heard one Rush song, it was almost definitely this one. Again, a great riff, and again complex and noticably awesome drumming. It's got that whole sci-fi synthsound that places in the early 80s but the lyrics are pretty timeless. This is one of three songs that gets stuck in my head whenver I think of Rush.
4. I don't think Losing It shows up on many people's Favorite Rush Songs list, but it's a great example of their ballady synth work. It has a sweet narrative that's neither Tolkienesque nor Randish, and Geddy Lee's vocals are softer here than on any of the previous tracks on this album. If the guitars were a bit softer, it could fit into that Air Supply Early 80s Soft Alternative Rock.
5. Ok, here is the monster. Clocking in at over twenty minutes long, 2112 was the song and album that really drew the music nerds to Rush. It's so 1970s spacey. It's so epically long. It's so many parts. The whole album is the best example of Rush telling a single story on an album. And while it's never been my favorite Rush album, I get why it is Many Fans' favorite Rush album. This is definitely a Strap In Song. If you wash your hands the length of this song instead of "Happy Birthday", they'll be pruney and will smell like soap for Hours. I think it's four minutes before the vocals even kick in. You'll need a candy cigarette after this one.
6. To balance it out, we have the short and somewhat sweet The Trees, which is a very folklorey song about different types of trees that accelerates as it goes on. I say it's short, but that's really just compared to the other songs on this album. It's still over four minutes.
7. The Most 80s Radio Friendly Song, in my opinion, is Subdivisions. This could almost be Journey or Foreigner with Geddy Lee on vocals. The synths are much catchier here than on most tracks. It's also the apex of their Conformity Is Bad, Fight The Power songs. It doesn't sound rebellious musically, but the lyrics are very Of That Genre And Era.
8. The second Hey I Know All The Words To This Song is the first Rush song I ever heard, Closer To The Heart. It was on a friend's mix called "Windowsills", which contained songs they liked to listen to while sitting on their ... windowsills ... contemplating the universe. It's a light, bass-centric ballad with bells. You can see it as a bit of a template for the more eccentric but mainstream grunge bands like Screaming Trees and Alice In Chains. It 100% sounds like a Mother Love Bone song.
9. Where's My Thing is the fourth part of a trilogy of songs. How Douglas Adamesque, right? It's completely instrumental, and funky as Hell. I wish there were more Rush songs like this, but with lyrics. It's a blend of 80s arena metal and funk that I just don't remember hearing from anyone else.
10. As I was collecting the Rush albums, Test For Echo came out, and I loved the title track. I falsely remembered how it went for years, though, and listening to it this time through I still love it, but it sounded completely different from the version that occasionally rattled around my head for the last twenty years.
11. Tears is another ballad, this one almost acoustic, that I don't see on any of their retrospective hit albums. It just sounds like a familiar singer/songwriter with a guitar from the early late twentieth century. It's a great break from the relentlessness of most of Rush's work while still definitely being Geddy Lee. Also, flutes and violins? Ok.
12. Another early Rush hit was Fly By Night. I didn't remember this one at all when I was doing my listen-throughs. Each time it came up I thought "I like this Very 70s radio friendly classic rock song. Why don't I remember listening to it before?" It's chorus is just slightly different from the way they usually approached songwriting in the 1970s that it catches me pleasantly by surprise.
13. Red Sector A is very early 80s U2ish with its jangly and echoey guitars, so of course I gravitate towards it. It has an almost "Eye Of The Tiger" bassline in the background, and it definitely gets Rushier as it goes on, but that beginning is straight up all the early 1980s bands that I started to like in the early 90s.
14. I have never understood how Neurotica wasn't one of Rush's greatest hits. They didn't even release it as a single, but it's one of those Four Songs I mentioned earlier that I remember most of the lyrics to. I suppose that's one of the benefits of rarely hearing a band on the radio but owning their albums is that you really do end up knowing that you like a song because it affects you, and not just because you're bombarded by it in public.
15. The Body Electric is another jangly early 80s track. I liked it when I thought it was just a catchy song with a binary chorus. But it's based on a Twilight Zone episode by Ray Bradbury which, in turn, is based on a line by Walt Whitman. So it was pretty much designed for my enjoyment.
16. The fourth song that has stuck with me during the vast years when I don't listen to Rush is Animate. This one was a single, and I get it. It's got the riffs, the easy to remember lyrics that sound like a bunch of platitudes in a love song lacking a narrative. And the breakdown, where they namedrop the album name (Counterparts) comes out of nowhere and then tosses you back to the original melody.
17. Territories flows out of the end of "Animate", with its almost Paul Simon rhythm guitar licks. Because of Gddy Lee's unique voice, it's instantly recognizable as Rush. Otherwise, this would be a real outlier song.
18. Closing out the album is a quiet Tolkienesque ballad, Different Strings. I imagine it as a love song from Frodo to Sam at the end of their journey. It's an appropriately ridiculous way to end a Rush album that doesn't contain a focused narrative.
During the early days of her career's shuttle-like rise (it took years to prepare for, but once she reached the digital platforms, she shot into the stratosphere), Billie Eilish was interviewed on a late night show. During the course of the interview, she was asked about Van Halen, and she didn't know who they were. She was massively ridiculed online for Not Knowing this seminal 80s rock band. But the thing is, you can't know Everything. And even if you, like Eilish, devour thousands of bands and albums, you're going to have a blind spot.
Sometimes a blind spot is sort of intentional. For me, that's The Rolling Stones. Apart from their massive hits, I've never really got into them. When Metric asked "Who would you rather be? The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?" I wanted to shout back. The Beatles, Of Course. My reimagined discography of The Beatles would be one of the lengthier discoveries I've done, even though they were only really around for a decade (though I would absolutely slot in their Anthology singles from the 90s). The Rolling Stones? You get two albums.
When I was in high school I bought their four Greatest Hits albums, which include their work from 1964 - 1981. And I thought "This is too much. Not all of these hits are very great. You could probably squish all the good songs on to one album."
So I've had my own Greatest Hits mix of The Rolling Stones for decades now. But since I was doing these discographies, I thought I should go through and listen to all their albums. Maybe a couple of times to really give them a chance.
At the end of the third listen-through, my opinion hadn't changed very much. The band, minus Mick Jagger, are extraordinary. They're versatile. They've evolved over the years. They're incredibly talented. But they're rarely innovative. When they are innovative, like they are on "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want", they're transcendent. But when they're playing American blues rock, they're just a very talented cover band with a nasally lead singer.
Mick Jagger is the problem. He's an excellent front man. Great energy, easy to impersonate, and when he's got a song in his range, you want to sing along with him. But, particularly in the 60s and 70s, he would try and be bluesy or morph his voice in interesting ways, and it just never worked for me.
One of my closest friends has an Exile On Main Street shirt, and has talked about the album at length to me. So I was excited to sit down and devour it. I imagined I would have a three or four album discography, and one of them would be a condensed Exile On Main Street. I listened to it twice in a row, trying to find anything that I would want to listen to again, and there was nothing for me. A group of tax dodging British millionaires trying to emulate Black American culture comes off exactly as disingenuous you might imagine from that description. Yea, the instruments sound great, but the nasally vocals clash with them, and the lyrics could be replaced with an air conditioner warranty manual, and they would have the same effect.
If I were going to be stuck on an island for a year, and given the choice between Exile On Main Street or a Right Said Fred album without even "I'm Too Sexy" on it, I'd choose Right Said Fred.
There is no Beatles album that I would even consider swapping out for Right Said Fred.
At the end of this last listen-through, I came out with a two album discography. And, I want to make it clear, I LOVE these two albums worth of songs. There was no struggle to fill up the two albums. I could listen to any of these songs on repeat (except "Let It Bleed") and be content.
1. Tig Notaro has a routine about being in school, and having a teacher that asked students to bring in their favorite song. The teacher would play the beginning of the song at the end of the class. And, one day, a kid who was not Tig's friend asked Tig, because Tig is cool, what would be a cool song to play. Tig answered, honestly, You Can't Always Get What You Want. It is a very cool song. BUT it starts with a boy's choir singing the lyrics acapella. And the teacher only played that part of the song, making the kid embarrassed that people would think that he was super into boys choirs. It's a great routine. The dichotomy between that boys choir that floats at the beginning and end of the track and the Mick Jagger, congos and maracas and background singers chunk of the song is perfect.
2. The drums and "yeows!" from Sympathy For The Devil creep through the end of the previous track. I first heard parts of this song during a live version of "Bad" by U2, and decided I needed to hear the original. Its a song that's been liberally covered by bands that I loved. But as much as I loved Guns N Roses in the 90s, I could never imagine deliberately listening to their horrendous whispery growled cover of this song. It sounds like a karaoke version recorded just after Rocky Horror Picture Show let out. The Rolling Stones version is such a weird mix of bongos, piano, and hooo-hooos that it always makes me smile. The guitar sounds like some sort of alien mosquito, occasionally buzzing by the song. It also has some of The Stones best narrative and lyric writing.
3. So, uh, I also only sought out Ruby Tuesday because it's part of the same medley from the end of that live versino of U2's "Bad". Like "Sympathy For The Devil", it's more piano based than guitar. It also has the best fluttery flute use in rock and roll. I feel like, having grown up in the 80s and not the 60s, I don't usually enjoy this Frolicking In The Flowers rock. It (the genre, not this song in particular) was a cliched object of ridicule when I grew up. But this had the kind of catchy energy that makes it a bit of an exception. I can imagine this in an Ernest Goes Somewhere movie.
4. The first really rock song on this imagined album, with it's fantastic drum intro, drum fills, and basic-ass riff is Get Off Of My Cloud. This was a song I'd hear on the oldies station pretty regularly. It's almost a Kinks song. It's nice and dirty with very 60s garage production. I can see it being a song where people at high school dances would shout the chorus at each other.
5. And it leads into the dirtiest riff they ever produced. Even if you've tried (and tried and tried) to avoid The Rolling Stones, there is no escaping (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. What is there to say about this song? It's on every Best Rock Songs Of All Time List, even the one that's called Best Rock Songs Of All Time Not By The Rolling Stones. It's just that pervasive. I wonder if the lack of girly action is what led Jagger to Bowie.
6. There's a bit of a twangy guitar transition from "Satsifaction" to another piano rag song, Let It Bleed. I kind of hate Jagger's vocals here, the fake drawl that he uses only at the end of certain lines. It's definitely a Get Ready To Stumble Home Drunk song for the end of the night at a very shitty bar.
7. I think the only reason I enjoy Street Fighting Man is because I used to have a mashup of its music along with the vocals to The Temptations' "Ball Of Confusion", which is one of my favorite songs from that era. The music on "Street Fighting Man" is bright and flawless but the vocals have never really grabbed me. Too nasally and too cemented to the beat for a rock song about revolution. But that guitar riff is perfect.
8. Similarly, the piano riff for Let's Spend The Night Together demands my attention every time I hear it. I do prefer the Bowie version, which I heard first, even though it is Uber 70s space rock. But this version is okay, too. The bada-bop-bop-bop-ba-da-das and the Beatlesque background vocals really make the song.
9. Under My Thumb should really be a song about espionage rather than a song about taking control of a relationship from someone who used to be controlling. The lyrics on this song are kind of shitty. But that marimba and fuzz bass? *Chef's kiss" And the quality of Jagger's vocals are perfect for this song. I just hate the lyrics.
10. Tina Turner covered "Under My Thumb", and it's not one of my favorite songs when she sings it, either. But she should have covered Stray Cat Blues. How would it sound for an older woman to sing about how much she wanted to fuck a 15 year old groupie? Would it still be considered "a classic"? This is another song where I love the music but wish the lyrics were different.
11. On the flipside, I love the lyrics on Mother's Little Helper. Great narrative, great rhyme scheme, great chorus. Getting old totally is a drag.
12. Partially for the thematic dissonance with the previous track, and partly because I do love the organ intro and the fiftiesesque echoey production, the next track is Time Is On My Side. This has to be their best throwback song. This could be a Big Bopper track.
13. The Rolling Stones have a lot of songs that are covers or blatant rip-offs of American blues. Most of them don't land for me. But Heart Of Stone sounds more like Cream or the other British bands doing blues-rock, and that hits differently. I like it. Jagger seems to be content to sound like Jagger, while the background vocals bounce between 50s croony background vocals, and the harsher 60s sound.
14. Another song I first heard by U2 is Paint It Black. I love U2. They were my favorite band in high school, when I first heard their cover. I could not, with a straight face, say that their cover does the original justice. It's a paint-it-black-by-numbers version. I am glad that it turned me on to the original, though.
15. Yesterday's Papers was in weird rotation on the oldies station my parents listened to. They often highlighted the echoey, barely produced rock with the slightly off-key doot-do-do-dooods in the background that were pervasive in the 60s. The highlights of the song for me are the haunting marimbas dripping off the equally hautning vibraphones giving the track something that's both very creepy, and very elevator jazz. It just makes me think about period pieces in the 60s about the 1940s for some reason.
16. I almost think that the radio station previously mentioned used to medley "Yesterday's Papers" with Not Fade Away, since I hear them seeming to flow into each other, though they clearly do not. The vibraphones and marimbas are jettisoned for harmonica, tambourine, and hand claps. It's one of those covers that I am more familiar with than the original, even though it is not a better version.
17. For me, the best song on this album is the closer. There's a lot of history behind the song that I've heard via poets, and VH1, and articles about bands who wreaked havoc on other musicians who worked with them. It's not my place to talk about it, but you should really research the history of Gimme Shelter. It's pretty dense, and important to music history. It's also just a killer song. Jagger is always better with background singers. He's never once been the best singer on a Rolling Stones album. I can't think of a single song that should even attempt to follow this.
This season is heavy on the overarching conspiracy theory, so get ready to spend a lot of time with Skinner, X, Krycek, Byers, and the Syndicate (featuring SMoking Man and friends!)
Episode 1: Apocrypha
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, Krycek, The Lone Gunmen, John Fitzgerald Byers)
We open Season Four with The Syndicate (Smoking Man, Well-Manicured Man, and their associates), The Lone Gunmen, and Krycek. This is super continuity and conspiract heavy and has some very juicy?...oily developments.
Episode 2: Jose Chung's From Outer Space
It's Monster Of The Week time! It's a relatively funny one, too, with alien abductions, a foul mouth sherrif whose profanity is amusingly handled for prime time network television, and The Best Cameo of the series, if not the best cameo in all of 90s TV.
Episode 3: Quagmire
Frogs. You're already on board, right? The investigation into a decreasing frog population leads to one of the longest and best Mulder/Scully scenes for the entire series.
Episode 4: Wetwired
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, X, The Lone Gunmen, John Fitzgerald Byers)
Despite the cast involved in this, this episode isn't focused on the series' long-arc about alien abduction and everybody's past. Instead, we get an investigation into the relationship between television and violence with X, members of The Syndicate, Skinner, and The Lone Gunmen all helping piece together a relatively smaller scale conspiracy.
Episode 5: Talitha Cumi
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, X)
Here is the overarching conspiracy episode with some awesome character development between Mulder and Smoking Man.
Episode 6: Herrenvolk
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, X)
This is the beginning of the X-Files official season four. It's one of those great Build Your Longtime Story By Destroying Part Of It episodes. Also, there's a creepy new wrinkle to the mystery.
Episode 7: Home
This is more Friday The 13th than X-Files, as the Monster Of The Week is humanity. Horrible, distorted humanity.
Episode 8: Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man
(Smoking Man, John Fitzgerald Byers)
There is a phenomenon in Doctor Who called Doctor Lite Episodes, wherein the Doctor is either barely used or not at all. This episode has barely any Mulder or Scully, as we see the career of Smoking Man through his own eyes.
Episode 9: Tunguska
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, Krycek)
Everyone is turning on everyone, as the US Government demands to know Where Is Fox Mulder? (No, there was no reason to think he was missing before this episode.)
Episode 10: Terma
(Mulder, Scully, Smoking Man, Skinner, Krycek)
Where is Fox Mulder? Russia? Why? We end the season trying to find that out.