In many of my previous blogs, I mentioned my overall deep love for music. As I got older, I started to expand my musical tastes. But, up until my late teens and early 20’s, I was pretty much a rap/Hip-Hop music fan only. I have mentioned how I even attempted to adopt the styles of many famous rappers. Like the time I shaved lines in my eyebrows like Big Daddy Kane. Or the time I cut me hair into the tall flattop like Kid from “Kid n Play.” How I used to dress in traditional gangster rapper attire much like West Coast rappers from NWA, and Ice-T (Dew rag, Dickie’s, Chuck Taylor’s…Jeez, if you could only imagine). Rap music some how spoke to me in a way that no other music did through my childhood and adolescence. One of my all-time favorite rappers is Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, aka Tha Doggfather, aka a gazillion other nicknames he uses). I still remember the day his debut album ‘Doggystyle’ was released. His album was released on November 23rd, 1993. I remember this day clearly. I was in the hospital recovering from a major surgery on my leg (I broke my femur in 1991, was in traction for a month, had a metal rod and 2 screws inserted in my leg to heal my break. This surgery was to remove some of the hardware from my femur). My best friend at the time Jeremy, went to buy the new Snoop Dogg album from a local record store, and he generously brought me my copy as a surprise while I was in the hospital recovering. Man, was I happy. Not only was I happy because of all the morphine I was doped out on, but also because I finally had the CD I so desperately wanted. I remember for weeks prior to the release of ‘Doggystyle’, I was desperately trying to buy the album early by concocting a desperate plan. My plan consisted of me calling every record store in town and making up stories that ranged from me leaving the country to suffering from a fatal illness, and a host of other strange stories I made up in order to plead with record store managers to get me a copy of ‘Doggystyle’ prior to its release date. Obviously, I didn’t get it early, but when I finally had my hands on it, I loved it! It was exactly what I expected it to be. I was not the only person to like it. The album has gone on to sell over 4 million copies in the US alone, and consistently ranked among the best albums of all-time. I continued to be a die-hard Snoop Dogg fan. Buying each and every one of his releases, either the day they came out, or in some cases I was able to finally get them before they were released to the public (I won’t incriminate anyone). As time has gone on, Snoop has continued to elevate his celebrity status, with numerous hit songs, albums, and movies. But like in all forms of pop media, people reach an expiration date. The last couple releases have not matched any of Snoops early albums in terms of sales numbers (partially due to the fact that consumers do not buy as much music today as they did during the 1990’s). But throughout Snoop getting older (which usually is the curse of death for most successful recording artists), and newer artists coming along who caught the public eye, he has consistently maintained an elevated public image, which through many different social trends, is unparalleled by anyone else in the music industry. Many musicians have a limited shelf life. Especially once you hit a mainstream level of success, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down. Your fans grow up, and you get older. As artists get older, they sometimes have less relevance or less in common with the biggest music consumers…the youth marker. The people who connected with you and your message in the most successful part of your music career, stop relating to you and what you say. As in Snoop’s case, his fans don’t gangbang anymore, or have outgrown hearing about it. Neither does he gangbang anymore. Most artists have a tough time evolving and growing up. I came across an article about Snoop Dogg’s recent evolution into what basically is adulthood. Or as he likes to call it, his recent ‘Reincarnation.’ How the old dog actually learned new tricks and might have found a way to stay relevant for future fans. He has an upcoming Reggae album titled ‘Reincarnated ‘, preceded by a documentary movie that was just released chronicling his journey and spiritual transformation into a ‘Lion.’
After the death of Snoop’s childhood friend and frequent music collaborator Nate Dogg, Snoop looked himself in the mirror and realized it was time to grow up and make a change. He renewed his vows with his estranged wife Shante Broadus, became a little league football coach, and even made amends with his public enemy…former Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight (Snoop launched his career with the infamous Death Row Records, and was a marquee artist responsible for the labels enormous success from 1992-1998, until he signed with then super successful No Limit records). Suge Knight, formerly one of the most feared men in the music industry, had a very public falling out with Snoop Dogg, with rumors surfacing that Knight had put out a hit on Snoop. Many believed that Snoop and Suge Knight would never call a truce, and put their gritty past behind them. But with Snoop’s recent journey and “reincarnation”, Tha Doggfather has left no stone unturned in the process of maturing. Even so much as changing his stage name from Snoop Dogg to “Snoop Lion.” Aside from the name change, Snoop is set to release a reggae album titled “Reincarnated”, which is a drastic departure from the traditional gangster rap music that defined his career the last 2 decades. Snoop even recorded a song called “No Guns Allowed,” which would virtually be unheard of in any of his previous albums…take a listen to it here:
Snoop describes his recent musical makeover in The Los Angeles Times. He said “I had got to a point in my career where I had done it all. I had reached the pinnacle of rap. It was too easy. I was looking for a new challenge. I needed to speak to the people but not from a hip-hop voice — from a different angle.” Snoop has been building and cultivating his recent persona since last summer, filming a documentary chronicling his recent “spiritual” journey to Jamaica. What initially started as a vacation became a major turning point in Snoop’s career. Snoop Dogg hired Brooklyn based Vice Media to document his journey. Vice Co-Founder Suroosh Alvi said, “We didn’t know the level of Snoop’s sincerity or commitment to the project when we signed up. Before the meeting, we thought, ‘This could be some kind of one-off marketing gimmick. And it could go horribly wrong. Musically wrong. It could be really, really cheesy. But that’s the beauty of documentary film. He wasn’t Snoop Lion yet. He hadn’t been ‘reincarnated’ yet. That word wasn’t even part of the discussion.”
Snoop had some help from director Andy Capper, who instinctively had Snoop stray outside the typical hotspots and destinations that most major stars would encounter when traveling to exotic destinations like Jamaica. Capper encouraged Snoop to meet with locals in Jamaica, particularly those of the notorious urban conflict zones such as Tivoli Gardens. This led to Snoop eventually attending a Rastafarian religious ceremony at a Nyabinghi temple. This was where it was noted that Snoop underwent a sort of “spiritual awakening.” During the times Snoop had stepped outside of his comfort zone, and faced some unconventional moments and encounters with Jamaican locals when the documentary starts to take a unique and unexpected turn. The film captured Snoop beginning to connect the dots between his new spiritual awakening, the sudden 2011 death of Nate Dogg, and Snoop’s 2006 gun and drug arrest. Snoop decided to refocus his life as a Lion, not as the traditional Dogg. His old life, and old name was marked with moments that are linked to murder charges in 1995, drug arrests, and even being a former member of the East Side Rollin’ 20s Crip gangs in Long Beach. Snoop needed a new name to match his new, positive life direction.
Check out the trailer for the ‘Reincarnated’ documentary:
“There were some big events in his life that had affected him,” said Capper, Vice magazine’s global editor. “Nate Dogg dying was a huge thing. He’d had his guns taken away; the cops arrested him. He’s a very soulful person. It made him realize his family was more important than a lot of things he’d been doing.” Snoop was “christened” the name Snoop Lion by none other than Reggae legend Bunny Wailer. But some who have spent time with Snoop in Jamaica, like Wailer, have their doubts about his transformation. Wailer accused Snoop of “outright fraudulent use of the Rastafari Community’s personalities and symbolism.” Wailer insist that Snoop failed to meet his end of a contractual, moral, and verbal commitments in a seven page letter, which also has a cease desist order for Snoop denounce the use of the word “Lion” as part of his name.
Snoop describes his transformation by stating, “This gangsta life ain’t no longer in me”, in new song titled “Tired of Running”, which is a collaboration with fellow hit maker Akon. “That song is heavy,” Snoop said. “You don’t see me hanging out in the ‘hood with a gun, drinking 40-ouncers, plotting on crimes, selling drugs, being a gang member, being negative, spray-painting on the wall. I don’t live that lifestyle no more.” With the traditional references heard in reggae music like “revolution,” “ghetto youth,” the opening of what is known among Rastafarians as the “third eye” and praises to the Rastafarian higher power collectively known as Jah, Snoop’s first album as the Lion reflects his newfound consciousness and apparent finesse with his adopted musical mentality. There is a host of music stars that collaborate with Snoop, including Rita Ora, Drake, Chris Brown, and Busta Rhymes. Snoop also brings into the studio Mavado and Collie Buddz, who are world-renowned reggae music stars, to assist in the albums authenticity. “Reincarnated” provides a mix of reggae, dancehall, dub, roots rock reggae and even “rub-a-dub style electro-clash.” The “Reincarnated” album is set for release by RCA Records on April 23rd (this is Snoop’s first release on RCA).
For all you die-hard Snoop Dogg fans, make no mistake, Snoop says he will still make rap music and still play his celebrated hits on tour. He and former producer and fellow gangster rap icon Dr. Dre are planning a tour where they will perform songs from both Dr. Dre’s landmark album “The Chronic” as well as Snoop’s celebrated classic “Doggystyle.” The Doggfather says, “I’ll never stop performing those songs because those songs are part of my life, my growth as a young man living out my childhood fantasies, even if that’s not in me anymore,” he said. “This is reality. Me doing what I love to be doing.” He continues to say, “You can’t be mad at the fact that I got old.”