I’m sure it hasn’t escaped most of you that Snoop Lion, formerly (we think) known as Snoop Dogg, has recently collaborated with Major Lazer to produce his first Rastafari influenced album Reincarnated, which hit iTunes about a week ago.
That being said, what influenced Snoop to go from the gangster, pimping, gin & juice drinking vibes of 1993’s Doggystyle to the (still) smoking but peace and love promoting theme that dominates on his 12th studio album? The answer: 20 years in the rap game and an eye-opening trip to Jamaica.
Last year Snoop Dogg visited the Caribbean and came back with a seemingly new perspective on life paired with a fresh alter ego: Snoop Lion. Between his return from Jamaica and the recent release of Reincarnated, the now Rasta rapper has done numerous interviews, released teasers, and even a documentary chronicling the journey.
In one interview Snoop said the following about his evolution from top dogg to king of the jungle: "I wanted to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion, but I didn't know that until I went to the temple and received the name Snoop Lion from the Nyabingi priest,” said Snoop. “From that moment on, I started to understand why I was there and was able to create something magical in this ['Reincarnated'] project ... something I haven't done before in my career.”
In researching Snoop’s fluctuating image I think that his word choice in explaining himself has been particularly of note. He constantly refers to his change as a transformation, a spiritual awakening, and a journey. It’s really quite poetic. As Snoop Dogg the rapper he has long possessed the respect of the hip-hop community, but he is also revered by the world as a pop culture icon. I think it’s that respect and reverence at his foundation that will be key to “Snoop Lion” being successful as both a new moniker and a solid evolution of his brand.
You might not listen to Snoop everyday or ever for that matter, but everyone respects this man, and a big part of it is his distinct voice and laid back personality. Yes, this is the same man who used to gangbang and has faced murder charges, but before his trip to Jamaica Snoop already seemed to have an eerily calm demeanor and a consistently eloquent delivery. Even with a blunt in his hand Snoop is articulate without being verbose and somehow fresh without being flashy, intimidating qualities that few rappers have truly been able to capture.
All of that being said, let’s delve into the artist’s latest album, the first of his new namesake. The recently released Reincarnated captures the growth Snoop feels has manifested in his being over the last year. It is certainly a deviation from his music as a rapper, and from the moment you hit play you realize that this is a new facet of Snoop; the beginning of new themes, new messages, and a new style.
'Reincarnated' album preview
The opening track “Rebel Way” starts with a beautiful intro from the Lion:
"There’s so much death and so much destruction, and so much mayhem and there’s so much misunderstanding in music; we’re losing so many great musicians and we don’t love ‘em while they here. And I want to be loved while I’m here. And the only way to get love is to give love."
Talk about turning over a new leaf. The album unfolds as a spiritual journey for Snoop with obvious emphasis on peace, love, and respect. What I thought was interesting, however, was his heavy inclusion of references to time. For example, in “Rebel Way” he goes on to say “Time is moving fast/can’t dwell on the past/make this moment last/while we have the chance.” Later in “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” he chants “Tomorrow when you wake up and realize life ain’t fair/throw it back and make the whole world disappear/you never miss what you had, ‘til it’s gone/that is why, something always will go wrong.” It’s interesting that Snoop wants to both immortalize the past and move on from it, a catch-22 that resonates with anyone who has felt loss.
Aside from new and deeper themes, the album features production by Major Lazer (Diplo) and vocal contributions from a range of artists including Drake, Akon, Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora, Busta Rhymes, and even his thirteen year old daughter Cori on the track “No Guns Allowed.” Overall, the album promotes a positive and relatable message, funky but laid-back beats, and the same Snoop edge just tailored a little differently.
After listening to singles and teasers for a few months I’m not surprised that I’m vibing on this album, however, Snoop’s not in the clear just yet. I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t admit that I’m still a little on the fence about the whole name change thing. Yes, he seems to have undergone a transformative journey, however, one of the connotations of multiple name changes by an artist is that of fickleness, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Let’s break this down into two sides.
FOR: The 180 degree turn that Snoop’s music has made does lend itself to a new brand. Also, not only is he turning up in a different genre, but also he seems to have made some distinct changes to his personal perspective on life.
AGAINST: Inconsistency. He also occasionally goes by DJ Snoopadelic, which I guess wouldn’t bother me if utilized in a mixtape like Loose Joints, but his more recent mixtape That’s My Work Vol. 1 was hosted by DJ Snoopadelic and featured Snoop Dogg (all after he had already announced himself as Snoop Lion). LOLWUT? In various articles and interviews I’ve read, the bottom line seems to be “Snoop Dogg is temporarily dead, but when it’s convenient and profitable and I prove myself with reggae I’m going to resurrect him.” (Resurrection: future Snoop Dogg album title? Who knows.)
Oh yeah, he also thinks that he is the reincarnation of Bob Marley (hence the album title), but that’s a completely different can of worms and quite frankly, the Lion hasn’t been around long enough for me to make that call yet.
At the end of the day, as we move on from 4/20 and toward warm weather, it’s the perfect time to bump Reincarnated and warm up to Snoop Lion. Even though there’s a chance that he’ll have yet another alter ego for us tomorrow, you cannot deny him as one of the dons of the music industry. Whatever you want to call him, Snoop knows how to execute a project and he never forgets to honor those who helped him get there.
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