Interview: Snoop Lion Talks About His Reggae Album "Reincarnated"

Interview: Snoop Lion Talks About His Reggae Album "Reincarnated"

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)

Hey Snoop.
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.

What about Dre? Does Dre fuck with reggae too?
Remember Dre had Prince Admiral D on the N.W.A album.

Okay, so that reggae sound has been there all along.
It’s in there.

 

I always knew I was a leader. I was a good leader, but I needed information to make sure that I was leading people to the light as opposed to the darkness.

 

Even though people act like it’s brand new.
It’s been a part of what we do. It’s just never been in the foreground. It’s always been in the background.

And plus you’re not just bringing the sound now, you’re bringing the meditation behind it too.
Yeah, the whole way of life, the livity of it all. The beginning. The happiness. The struggle. You know, the whole function of the scene. That’s why it was important for us to go there and get it as opposed to just making a record and trying to project that vibe from L.A. or New York.

I haven’t seen the documentary yet—were you challenged by anyone down there? Cause Jamaica don’t give a fuck. You could be a big star or just someone coming off the boat.
Nah, I had one half of a problem. Let me explain the problem, it wasn’t even a real problem. What it was, I had went to visit some motherfuckers on this street. And one of my fans came onto the street and he had a barbershop that was maybe two houses away. He wanted me to stop what I was doing to come into his barbershop cause he got a picture of Tupac and me in there. So he like, “Motherfucker, I’m your number one fan. Come over to my spot, blah blah blah.” I had to lightweight give him some game. “I’ll see you when I see you. I’m not here to see you. Have a seat. And take a ticket. Or matter of fact take a picture.”

Instagram that shit.
You know what we do.

But on a spiritual level, it sounds like you had some real intense conversations with the Rasta elders. What was the biggest insight that you gained from reasoning with the older dreads?
Direction. You know. Cause we always seek to find information. And where to get information and direction. When you accept the role of leader, you have to know why you’re leading and where you’re leading. And I didn’t know. I always knew I was a leader. I was a good leader, but I needed information to make sure that I was leading people to the light as opposed to the darkness.

You were a leader from day one. But if you heard a song like “No Guns Allowed” back in those “187” days, would you have embraced that message?
Nope. Nope. Cause I had a gang of guns. Fuck that. If I didn’t have none I was gonna get it poppin’. It was like that. But that was then. You know, you can’t change then from now. That made me who I am. If I didn’t go through that to see the effects of having [a gun], the dangers of what it does when you got em. I understand now. I could play both sides of it—the one with it, the one without. And I’m telling you the one without is the one. It’s what you put out, what you project. When I move with it, I’m lookin’ for it. When I move without it I ain’t looking for it. It’s not even on my mind…

It frees up your whole spirit.
That was my train of thought.

You’ve been calling yourself “Bob Marley reincarnated” for a minute now. It’s not just on this record—going back to The Neptunes Present: Clonesyou have used that line. What did th m

 

One thing about certain writers, they write reality. Like when I was writing with Tupac for example, whatever he wrote happened.

 

ean to you back then? And what does it mean now?
It meant the same thing to me right now, it’s just I didn’t know that it meant that. One thing about certain writers, they write reality. Like when I was writing with Tupac for example, whatever the fuck he wrote happened.

Pac was like that.
He was like that. And it was like when you write with him, then you projecting the same shit. It’s like you start to see it happen. And you say, “Hold on, I don’t think I’m gonna die in this song right here. I think my character gonna live.” You know what I’m sayin? When you young, you ain’t conscious. You’re just writing the truth. You don’t know if you’re gonna live. So you just write the worst shit. Cause you know motherfuckers can relate to the worst as opposed to a superhero. Then it comes to life.

The Rastas say “Word Sound and Power.”
Yeah mon.

The record that grabbed me was “Fruit Juice.” What is that record about?
You got the people that’s in the studio doing they thing. And you got the tasty juices and fruits and whatnot. Music come on and they clowning around and come up with it. Before you know it they got the words and they played it for me. I’m like, “I’ll lay it down. To me it’s a healthy song. It’s about drinking fruit juices and being with my empress. Celebrating love and life and putting the right things inside of you. Despite it sounding like a banger, it’s a message in there. You listen to it.

Take it back to the essence. And now you’re also going to be planting fruits in the streets of Jamaica so the youths can get a taste of that juice.
And it wasn’t even meant like that. I didn’t even know. It seems like it was all scripted but it ain’t.

Look like the things you write are coming true now.
Yes. See how it revolves?

Tags: snoop-dogg, diplo, snoop-lion
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