For many, the news that Snoop Dogg had changed his named to Snoop Lion AND was recording a reggae album was met with laughter. Or the presumption that, "This dude has finally smoked TOO much weed."
But, in actuality, Snoop's evolution to Snoop Lion and his newly found interest in Jamaican culture, Rastafarianism, and reggae music is not a gimmick, it is, according to his new documentary, Reincarnated, a natural evolution. The film is centered around the production of Reincarnated, the album, headed by DJ Diplo and his Major Lazer production team. "I don't wanna rap," says Snoop, "I'm tired of rapping. What else could I do in rap? I got rap songs that will never die." Reincarnated is an album that Snoop is making for himself, as a rapper who other rappers call "Uncle Snoop," he sees the importance of his personal evolution.
Directed by Andy Capper and produced by VICE and Snoopadelic Films, Reincarnated opens with Snoop taking a stage and recounting that his life has been in stages. "I was at the forefront of the most violent time in hip-hop, with the most violent label. And I didn't want that. I wanted peace, love and everybody to live and nobody understood that until people started dying." Snoop has lived on both literal and figurative stages for over 20 years. He has toured the world performing some of hip-hop's most legendary songs. He has also gone through several public and private evolutions. From his time as a gangster rapper, to his life as a pimp, to his acting career, and even his life as a father and husband, (Remember, Snoop Dogg's Father Hood?)
The transformation from Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion is captured in this film beginning with Snoop's month-long journey to Jamaica. He states as he is shown getting on the plane, "I'm going to Jamaica for a month, and I'm going to come back a changed man." Reincarnated does not preoccupy itself with recounting Snoop's history in hip-hop or even emphasizing his importance to the culture. Instead, it focuses on several specific moments in his career, including: his 1993 and 2006 arrests, the early days of Death Row, and his relationship with Tupac Shakur.
"I remember good times on Death Row. It was a give and take relationship. It was a love hate relationship."
One of the most difficult moments of the film is when Snoop retells the night that Tupac was shot in Las Vegas in September of 1996. Snoop recalls seeing Suge Knight after the shooting and hearing the story of what happened with almost a light-hearted tone. Then, he recalls visiting the legend in the hospital and seeing 'Pac laying completely still in a bed and knowing that this was, "all bad." Snoop tells the stories about Death Row, a label that is still mythologized in hip-hop culture, in his own words, largely for the first time. He also tells the stories as part of his own narrative. Snoop truly humanizes himself by describing that time and those experiences as his own personal experiences, he refers to his difficult past as "things I've gone through." It puts in perspective that while as a culture we all felt the pain of hip-hop's darkest days in 1996-1997, he personally experienced them. There is a difference.
In the film, Snoop recounts the early days of his career, including making of his first video for "Who am I (What's my Name?)" his first video from Doggystyle. Standing as a young man on a roof in Long Beach, the film contrasts back to Jamaica where he is standing on a roof in West Kingston with a large crowd in the streets below, "These are my people," he says, "See those people? Those are my loved ones."
Love is the most used word in the film. There is rarely a moment, when Snoop is shown on camera that he is talking about any thing other than love.
"Peace, Love, and Positivity," Snoop says, "anybody that know me knows thats all I have ever been on." One gains the feeling, when watching the film, that this change is Snoop's life is a spiritual journey. His daughter, Cori B., makes one of the most powerful affirmations of how important this evolution has been, "He used to come home mad and you didn't know why. But, now, he comes home smiling and singing reggae music."
It is said, by several Jamaicans in the film, that they thought Snoop was Jamaican. In part, due to his legendary appreciation of marijuana. But Snoop himself, through his research into the life of Bob Marley began to see similiarities between himself and Marley, "I started to see similiarites in myself. Not just the struggle, the love, the peace." It becomes clear that Snoop feels a personal closeness to Jamaica and Jamaican people and culture. It is for that reason that the music pulled him and that he decided to create a reggae album and travel to the country to learn more about it's customs. The album, the film, the transformation is done with so much respect to the Jamaican people. Bunny Wailer is shown discussing Snoop's intentions in the studio, later Snoop states, "He wanted to make sure that this was real."
Reincarnated is a masterful documentary. It has sad moments, like the painful footage from Nate Dogg's funeral services. There are light-hearted moments like Daz, hot, sweaty, and high in a mountain range where they sit and smoke among marijuana plants. There are amazing moments like the Rastafarian services where Snoop is renamed "Berhane," which means "Light," the elder of the temple tells him, "You will never be no 'dog' again."
All in All, Reincarnated is a very touching film. The documentary is one that proves that hip-hop music and culture is truly nearing a maturation that has never been seen before.
REINCARNATED is the multi-media project capturing Snoop’s exploration of reggae music and spiritual growth. The project includes a reggae-influenced album executive produced by Diplo and Major Lazer, a feature-length documentary, a photo book, and a self-sustainable gardening initiative named Mind Gardens. The full REINCARNATEDproject is set to release Spring 2013.
The documentary,REINCARNATED will premiere in theaters in six cities, beginning on March 15th.
• Sunshine Cinemas - New York City
• Laemmle Monica and City Walk - Los Angeles
• Opera Plaza - San Francisco
• Century – Chicago
• Midtown Art Cinema – Atlanta
• O Cinema - Miami
Connect with Snoop Lion online at SnoopLion.com and on Twitter.com/SnoopLion