“I’m always gonna continue to do my music, and as far as the name thing, it wasn’t me making the name-change, it’s the name that was I was given. So, when you’re given something, you want to honor it and hold it up with pride. I’m still Snoop Dogg; this is me right now. I’m Snoop motherf*cking Dogg till I die. But, at the end of the day, when I’m making my reggae music, I’m in the light of Snoop Lion.”
– Snoop Lion at the TIFF Press Conference.
Self-reflection and change are extremely difficult for most people – particularly, those trapped in the bubble of fame. Flavor Flav is still rockin’ that gigantic clock.
Of course, Flav also spoke on some real ish when he was helping Public Enemy run the game, so his “what have I actually done with my life” moment would probably be less severe if it ever came.
But Snoop has been held back not just by fame, but by the violent image he crafted for hip-hop culture and himself. As he says in his new documentary, Reincarnated, he was at the forefront of the most violent time in hip-hop and a member of the most violent record label. He spent 10 years in the public, pushing out those messages. Where did it get him?
Two transformations later, it got him on the SXSW stage in Austin, Texas, singing Bob Marley tunes before showing a montage of tragic shootings that took place in America over the last 20 years, and finally, busting out “No Guns Allowed” from his upcoming album under the name Snoop Lion.
Though the change from Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion seems to be a sudden one, Snoop has been transforming his game and attempting to discover peace of mind for years. After 2Pac died and Suge Knight went to prison, Snoop wanted to lead Death Row in a different direction. Too many people died. But business didn’t work like that, and Snoop found himself in the middle of another potentially violent beef. Once he met Master P, Snoop switched from the G to the P-I-M-P.
Why? That was the only way Snoop knew how to promote feelings of love. It was his first attempt at positivity, but, as he’s stated,limited by a hood mentality. As Snoop described, pimps are cold and use other human beings to make money. “How do you make a pimp lovable?” Snoop asks in the film. “Put a little Snoop Dogg in it.”
Therein lies the inherent problem with being a cultural icon at a young age; especially, an icon at the forefront of a movement. Snoop can change how words are perceived, but, at that time, didn’t have the foresight to realize he had only moved from promoting violence and guns to denigrating women. “I was still a boy, with that pimp shi*t,” Snoop said.
That’s when Snoop started askin’ questions. He loves to perform, but he can’t perform for people he loves because his songs go too damn hard. “I know Obama wants me to come to the White House, but what the f*ck I’m gonna sing?” he asked. “Hip-hop used to be about love, not shooting and violence.”
The process that started in 2002 began to fully emerge. Embarking on a month-long journey to Jamaica – a trip he didn’t need to take for anyone but himself – Snoop set out to learn about Rasta culture and reggae music.
The easy route is to laugh Snoop off as another celebrity goof who just wanted to get stoned for a month (though he definitely did that, too). In fact, many people he encountered in Jamaica thought the same thing. Bunny Wailer – nearly as significant as Bob Marley when it comes to his influence and direction of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ music – had many questions for Snoop, and visited his recording studio to safe-guard reggae culture. It’s not just about green, red, and yellow clothing and smokin’ weed. But like the children at the Alpha Boys’ School, a music school for troubled youth – who reacted with questioning smiles while watching him dance like an old fool, but were impressed when he started freestyling over thier music – Wailer was convinced enough to lay down vocals in the studio (though he has since threatened legal action despite being the one to actually christen him Snoop Lion).
Along the way, Snoop dwelled in the parallels between his time in Jamaica and growing up in California. Poor people in the slums weren’t being helped by politicians, but rather had their images warped into a negative, scary black hole. The death of Snoop’s cousin’s nephew during the trip conjured up memories of Nate Dogg’s passing and inspired the song, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” for the new album.
It came together after Snoop laid down a track with locals in the slums of Kingston about a man named Dudus, who was branded a violent, drug-dealing criminal by outsiders, but revered as a hero by the people. He left the studio and went to the roof to discover thousands of people in the streets hoping to get a glimpse.
Officially reincarnated, Snoop performed his album at SXSW. He switched between classics and new material, brought out Kurupt for a few songs and had three bad women on stage. He rocked his ridiculously awesome microphone. He hit us with a reggae-remix of “Young, Wild and Free,” and “Gin and Juice.”
But the highlight of the night – and specific symbol of his rebirth – was his reggae-remake of “What’s My Name?” The scenes for his first major video were eerily similar to his emergence from the recording studio. And the question has never been more relevant.