From Murder Was The Case to porn to competing on The Price Is Right, pigeonholing Snoop Dogg is impossible. The Rap legend's storied, 20-plus year career seemingly tap dances on every cultural touch point. His latest redux: the birth of Snoop Lion.
The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg officially announced his new moniker, Snoop Lion, along with the upcoming release of his first Reggae album, Reincarnated yesterday in Manhattan's Miss Lily's restaurant. Flanked by his business partner, Ted Chung, Reincarnated's producer Diplo (of Major Lazer), Suroosh Alvi (CEO and co-founder of VICE Media), and MTV's Sway Calloway who moderated the event -- Snoop detailed the unexpected spiritual journey that incited his latest evolution. "I had no plans on going to Jamaica, making a Reggae record or nothing," he explained to the gaggle of media members in attendance. "The spirit called me...it told me to find something that's connected towards the Bob Marley spirit because I always thought I was Bob Marley reincarnated. It drew me to Jamaica." Snoop continued:
"It's not Snoop Dogg on a Reggae track. I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion. But I didn't know that until I went to the temple. The high priest, when I walked in, he asked what is my name. I said, 'Snoop Dogg.' He said, 'No more...You are the light. You are the Lion.' From that moment on, I had started to understand why I was there. We hadn't even recorded one song, but I was taking all of this information and spirit."
"I didn't know what Snoop wanted," said Diplo, describing his initial reaction when first approached about Reincarnated. "I didn't know if was going to be Dancehall. But he loved the records that we were doing and he wanted to do real Reggae music. He wanted to sing and find a new voice and make good music."
Reincarnated is a three piece endeavor. In conjunction with the Reggae album, there is also a photo book shot by Los Angeles photographer Willie T on the way, and a documentary film created by VICE Media detailing Snoop's career evolution that has been accepted into this year's Toronto International Film Festival. "I thought we'd film like 20 minutes and this would be some extra online viral accents that will go along with the album whenever it comes out," said Suroosh Alvi. "After being in Jamaica for three or four days with Snoop and the whole team, I realized we're making a feature length documentary. This is amazing."
With a musical career littered with fantastic gangsta raps and unabashed pimpery, Reincarnated signals the maturation of the now 40-year old emcee. He's excited about being able to perform songs suitable for "kids and [his] grandparents" and spoke at length about a song entitled "No Guns Allowed," one of his personal favorites. "[This journey] helped me to tap into something that I have never been able to," he said. "I could never make a song called 'No Guns Allowed' because I'm supposed to be a gangster...But after looking at the world for what it is now, and my kids, and all the things that go on in life, I feel like there should be no guns allowed."
When asked by HipHopDX, Snoop also reflected on the results of the Protect The West Summit he organized in 2005 in effort to quell conflict amongst West Coast emcees:
"Today as I look at it right now, that's why they hail me as the king of the West Coast; as Uncle Snoop, because of the things that I have done to Protect The West -- to make sure that we have something. To make sure that we don't kill each other and shoot each other and bad mouth each other to where the people up top don't close down the industry and say, 'Y'all can't eat in this avenue anymore.' This is still a business. That's what I try to teach the brothers everyday. [There's] more crimes committed with us on us than anybody else. If we can change a few thoughts and make a few people wake up and say that it's ok to be cool with them years later after we had problems with them -- that's old and gone with, lets work on tomorrow -- that keeps us alive. That keeps us strong That keeps us healthy. It keeps us one. It keeps us growing. We have to keep that alive for our youth; for the generations coming after us. Remember when you was a kid and you were aspiring to be someone that inspired you? We have to be that because we've been given the light. I'm behind you now, so my light will continue to shine."