Snoop Dogg has officially been “reincarnated.”
From gangsterdom to Rastafarianism, the West Coast rap icon, now going as Snoop Lion, has shifted from the grim realities of hip hop to the positive vibrations of reggae with his new album and documentary film, Reincarnated.
His passion for the ganja, of course, remains the same.
“The biggest intent with this project is just to have a record that I’ll be able to perform everywhere,” Snoop Lion tells theGrio at a listening session for his album in Los Angeles. “Right now, I have a record that I can perform at the Essence Awards, at the White House possibly, any stage around the world I can do these songs. I can go to elementary schools and do some of these songs off this record. I’ve always wanted to have songs that the kids can sing.”
As further motivation, Snoop recalls his visits to elementary schools when children would approach him saying things like they enjoyed his movie with Wiz Khalifa.
“I’m like, ‘Man, whatchu doing watching that movie?’ I didn’t have anything for them, but they still with me. Young and wild and free. I gotta give them something that they can really stand on and sing,” he explains.
Conceptually, the project has been looming in Snoop Lion’s mind for years, but it was violence in the nation and a rejuvenating trip to Jamaica that pushed him forward to this moment. His documentary, Reincarnated, out March 15, details the story of the 41-year-old’s change in idealism and creative direction, and he will follow that with his debut reggae album, due in April.
To be clear though, it’s an alter ego, not a conversion.
“I’m 100 percent Snoop Dogg; 100 percent Snoop Lion,” he says. “It’s like Clark Kent and Super Man.“
In his film, the Doggfather journeys to Kingston to study the foundations of his newly-inherited culture, smoke weed with the locals, and record his album at the Marley family’s Tuff Gong Studios. He brings along his producing team, Major Lazer, as well as a few friends and songwriters to assist in the development of the work. With the album, Snoop says he strives to “use my voice for the right reasons” by setting aside the violence he has often glamorized, and replacing it with inspirational, motivation-driven content.
“I was always bothered by all the school shootings and unnecessary violence by guns,” he explains. “I just always wanted to say something about it, but I never could really figure it out in rap. Like how? How does a gangster tell you not to pack your heat? So, it would never work in rap world, but as far as with this reggae thing, it’s just so perfect and so appropriate. More and more was happening while we was doing the project…We might as well address it right now because it’s actually happening at an all time high, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop until somebody says something.”
Snoop Lion delves into his time as a rap artist throughout the film, specifically his rise from the streets, work with Dr. Dre, and the passing of friends Tupac Shakur and Nate Dogg. The artist’s voyage to Jamaica serves to both understand moments of his past, and support the growth of his new alias. Accordingly, he spends time hanging with the Marleys, ventures into Trench Town, speaks to disadvantaged youth, hikes in search of marijuana, and stops by Bunny Wailer’s home to be educated on reggae.