This is really happening: Snoop Dogg is no more. That's right, the lanky, 6'4”, gangsta rap icon is dead. Ok, maybe not dead dead – just Reincarnated, literally, as the title of his new, forthcoming project not just suggests but declares to each and every fan all over the world. Confused? You should be. But probably not as much as the man himself was when he turned 40 and realized that, hell, maybe it's time to hang up the Crip-blue Chucks and drop the “cuh” from his vocabulary.
What we're seeing isn't Snoop Dogg turning his back on his beloved Crips or the associated lifestyle – what we're witnessing is a genuine change, a gravitas moment that can sweep up everyone into recognizing the power of reggae and Rastfarian movements closely associated with it. That's really how this moment should be framed. To see Snoop Dogg become Snoop Lion (I would have preferred Snoop Rasta, but that's just me) during the Olympics, just weeks after the Frank Ocean brouhaha, well … the timing's not great…but I feel it's no publicity stunt. The Reincarnated documentary will show that, hopefully.
Sure, some will deride it as Snoop trying something new, Snoop trying to appeal to international fans, Snoop this, Snoop that. Irrelevant! Rastafarian beliefs are innately positive – a direct contrast to the lifestyle that spawned Snoop Dogg, the gangsta rapper. Snoop appears to genuinely have found solace in it, buttressed by the ganja love to some extent. There ain't a need to use adjectives to describe the scenarios depicted in Snoop's verses – we all know what it is. The man beat a murder charge.
Right now, you have to admire Mr. Broadus – let's get Wall Street Journal for a second, out of respect – for this move. Sure, he's got some audacity to compare himself to the late great Bob Marley and do so while Rohan Marley (what up Ro! Bless up!) is in the vicinity and gives his blessings. But, even if it was a publicity stunt, it is one that needed to happen for the betterment of the masses. If you've traveled to Africa like I have, you would know: Snoop is the most in-demand performer, he is a global brand, a singular figure in Hip-Hop that can sway minds – and do it effortlessly while puffing on a blunt. What's really cool is this time, Snoop isn't being contrived or forced to do this, at least as far as the soundbytes he articulated to journalists in Manhattan this week and appeared in print are concerned. Days before he takes his act to the Caribana in Toronto over the weekend to perform with his band, he seems like the real deal.
The reasons for the change are obvious: Snoop's got teenage kids, has newfound respect for his elders, and overall understanding his influence. Snoop Dogg isn't Bob Marley – let's let that comparison die. They are cultural icons, but they're from different eras, different political systems, and one has definitely sustained more commercial reach than the other. Besides, Lee “Scratch” Perry is just a little more eccentric than Dre, okay? (Side note: The Upsetter is an incredible documentary about Perry, and it can further deepen understanding of the well of inspiration that Snoop Lion is drawing from).
To sum up, it may take more than a few days, or even weeks, for the masses to accept Snoop's new identity.
Ultimately, the masses should do it for themselves – that's the ironic part. We need to see ourselves in Snoop, not just blindingly f*ck with him on the strength. However eyebrow-raising the Snoop Lion moniker is, it is just as vital. It should be embraced wholeheartedly. This isn't just right up there with Nas collaborating with Damian Marley on Distant Relatives, a full-length album that was more about enriching souls than moving units. This is right up there with Pete and Charlotte O'Neal (Skiamoo Mama O'Neal!) going from sworn enemies of the state as Black Panthers in the ‘60s to thriving cultural icons getting Page 1 love from the Los Angeles Times while living in lush Arusha in northern Tanzania, East Africa. Snoop Lion persona should be viewed and felt at that kind of depth by Snoop Dogg fans, who, of course, can always get turnt up with anything from the Death Row-era Snoop catalogue or my personal favorite, “R&G: Rhythm and Gangsta”.
Here's to hoping that, with Reincarnated, Uncle Snoop not just bends genres and makes good, commercially viable music. Here's to hoping that his metamorphosis causes us to open ourselves to spiritual growth.
Slav Kandyba is an AllHipHop.com contributor. Follow him on Twitter (@SlavKandyba).