Diplo first spoke about Snoop’s reggae album a couple of months ago, and the first song leaked last week, but the full story behind this intriguing project has not been told until now.
Yesterday at Miss Lily’s in New York City, the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg appeared at a jam-packed press conference—along with his manager Ted Chung, producer Diplo, VICE Media co-founder Suroosh Alvi, who produced a film about the project, and Sway Calloway of MTV—to talk about Snoop’s latest album, Reincarnated.
Produced by Major Lazer, this is the first Snoop disc to feature no rapping whatsoever. It’s also the first to be released under the name Snoop Lion. The transformation from big dog to jungle cat is only one of many twists and turns in the story of Reincarnated, which is documented in a film by the same name that's set to debut this fall at the Toronto Film Festival.
I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open. But it’s wide open now. —Snoop Lion
Snoop’s name change was not done on a whim. He was actually baptised in a sacred Rastafarian ceremony. For Rastafarians, the Lion is a symbol of the black God incarnate, His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia—also known as the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
“Rasta is not a religion it’s a way of life, it’s a ‘livity,’” Snoop explained to the media. “I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open. But it’s wide open now.”
For several years now Snoop has been referring to himself as “Bob Marley reincarnated” on various records. At first it seemed like a generic weed reference, or perhaps a touch of rebel flair. But at yesterday’s press conference it became clear that since his recent trip to Jamaica Snoop has been taking this “Reincarnated” project very seriously. “The spirit called me,” he told a room packed full of journatlists. “I wanna bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion.”
Like Jay-Z and Nas, Snoop is one of the golden-era MCs who’s now reaching the 40-year milestone, and he’s beginning to consider his artistic legacy. “I’m tired of rap,” he said during the press conference. "I’ve been making rap since 1985. Rap is not a challenge to me. I’m Uncle Snoop in rap. I wanna be a kid again.” He also wants music that he can play for his own kids. "No Guns Allowed," one of his favorite tracks from the new album, offers a message that's 180 degrees removed from Snoop's "187 on an undercover cop" raps.
With Bob’s son Rohan Marley in attendance, Snoop explained that he felt “called by the spirit” to travel to Jamaica and make a reggae album. And the music is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole trip became a voyage of discovery for Snoop, who had performed in Jamaica before but didn’t spend much time amongst the people. Determined to give back as much as he benefited from his trip to Jamrock, Snoop has partnered with John Paul DeJoria—founder of John Paul Mitchell hair care products and Patron Spirits—to establish “Mind Gardens" in troubled Kingston neighborhoods like Tivoli Gardens and Trenchtown. These will allow local youths access to fresh fruit and juices as well as learning about agriculture and running a small business.
Following a private listening session, we caught up with Snoop talk about his move towards reggae music—and why it's been a part of his sound all along.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
How you doin’ loved one?
I’ve been blessed to hear these sounds today.
It’s a good thing. it’s a transformation that was necessary, that’s needed, that’s well worked for. You know when you do so much in the industry you get to a certain point where you feel like, “What else can I do?” As far as rap is concerned there’s not much I can do I ain’t done already. I done records with friends, some records that will never die. Done this, that, that… But it’s like, I haven’t done what I really want to do.
As far as rap is concerned there’s not much I can do I ain’t done already. I done records with friends, some records that will never die. Done this, that, that… But it’s like, I haven’t done what I really want to do.
If you listen to my music I play in my dressing room whenever you hang out with me, it’s normally R&B or slow jams–and reggae is right in that lane. I need that. I need to have something that I can project and just go that way.
Instead of me saying I’m gonna do an R&B record and sing, I said I’m gonna do reggae. And it pushed me in that direction. Because the spirit called me.
People been asking “How does a Dogg change to a Lion.” But if you listen carefully, I’ve been hearing the Dogg-a-muffin style for a minute now.
Always been there.
If I go back to a record like “The Day The Niggaz Took Over,” you say “Bla-Blam, blam to them bone….”
Listen to the sounds from a nigga Doggy Dogg/Budy-bye-bye/Dr. Dre, him bust gunshots / Diggity Daz and RBX them bust gunshots / Come again now.”
Where was that coming from? We hear about G-Funk and the LBC and the Cali sound, but where were you hearing that reggae and dancehall sound?
You know what? It was a cat named Prince Ital Joe. He had a shop right next to Solar Records where we was making The Chronic at. And he was our weed guy and he was our friend and he was a reggae artist. But he was a weed man and a homie and all that.
He was about that life.
He was a gangsta. And I used to hang out with him. You know, hanging out with him, he rubbed off on me. Certain songs just made me just wanna just—youknow I’m sayin—reggae it out. I don’t know why. I just did it. It just felt like I could do it.
So he was spitting that type of flavor too. Is that him on the Tupac record “Hail Mary”?
Yeah that’s him. That’s him on a song with me and Tupac called “Street Life.” It’s an underground song that we never released. It’s an R&B song.