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Rival label posts Snoop Dogg album online

The online music wars take a new twist as a rival record label releases online what is purported to be the upcoming album by rap star Snoop Dogg.

The online music wars took a new twist this week, as a rival record label released online what is purported to be the upcoming album by rap star Snoop Dogg.

Nineteen songs in MP3 format were posted on the Web site for Death Row Records, which was the rapper's home until 1998. The album, dubbed "Tha Last Meal," is slated to be released by rival label No Limit Records on Dec. 19.

Death Row's site offered a "challenge," prompting visitors to compare the songs to a recent Snoop Dogg album of older tracks released by Death Row. Snoop Dogg had opposed that release.

No indication was available as to how the label had obtained the tracks or whether they were the final songs destined for the album. By midday Friday, the songs had disappeared from the site, leaving only a hidden index page behind.

A Death Row representative declined comment on the matter. No Limit records could not be reached for comment.

The release prompted some incredulity among hip-hop fans online, who discussed the leak on Net message boards.

"They are so hard up for some publicity they actually want to have Snoop sue," wrote one fan on the "rec.music.hip-hop" Usenet discussion group. "If I was him though, it would be awfully hard to back down from this one."

The prerelease of albums online is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon with the growing popularity of file-swapping services such as Napster and Gnutella. Songs allegedly from "Tha Last Meal" are easily available through Napster, although most versions of the track lists differ from what Death Row posted.

Previous high-profile prereleases through Napster have included recent albums by Madonna and U2. This appears to be the first time that a rival record label has posted potentially pirated tracks online.