When 41-year-old rapper Snoop Dogg publicly announced late last July his decision to change his beloved moniker to Snoop Lion, it seemed like an insincere gesture. He spent his entire music career making commercially successful records, performing in front of sold-out crowds, and producing radio chart-toppers “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “Gin ‘n’ Juice.” So why bother changing the name of one of the most respected rappers in hip hop history? According to Snoop’s transformative documentary Reincarnated, he received the Snoop Lion title from a Rastafarian priest when venturing on a “spiritual journey” to Jamaica, as he was intrigued by the popular Rastarfari movement. After the trip, in a press conference, Snoop Dogg even proclaimed that he was the reincarnation of reggae icon Bob Marley. Though this bold statement seemed a bit too self-absorbed, it indicated that Snoop’s chameleonic transformation from rap to reggae might not be a publicity stint. It probably wasn’t even meant to intentionally insult or desecrate Marley’s image (similar to John Lennon’s infamous declaration of the Beatles being “better than Jesus”). As Snoop described in the trailer of Reincarnated, he’s “sick and tired of rapping” and feels that his experience in Jamaica motivated him to create a new path in life. This may be the most emotional point in Snoop’s life, considering his history of participating in gangs, drugs, violence, debauchery, arrests, and court trials. These feelings of pain and suffering have fortunately rendered into an optimistic attitude, resulting in his reggae debut, Reincarnated (the same name as the film). But for fans of Snoop Dogg’s clean cut raps, it may be hard to adjust to the Snoop Lion phase.
Reincarnated isn’t necessarily the Bob Marley of reggae albums, but it’s certainly ambitious. Strengthened by Snoop’s crispy vocals and soulful tunes, the record is also fantastically produced by record producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Dre Skull, as well as Diplo and his electronic reggae side project Major Lazer. However, in terms of the thematic material, Reincarnated doesn’t offer anything truly inspiring and lacks in depth. More songs are written as plain pieces of music than as spoken-word poetry or adrenalized social commentary. Even the list of popular featured artists, which include Miley Cyrus, Akon, Busta Rhymes, Chris Brown, and Drake, makes Reincarnated look predictable and humdrum.
Notwithstanding Reincarnated‘s underwhelming appearance, it nevertheless incorporates some great tracks, including the catchy album opener “Rebel Way,” the vibrant “Here Comes the King,” and the Beirut-sampled, Drake-featured “No Guns Allowed.” Not only are each of these songs the most effectively produced, but the most lyrically powerful. On “No Guns Allowed,” Snoop and his daughter Cori B sing eloquently against the use of violence and about the necessity of peace; Snoop speaks and croons on “Rebel Way” with poise and extrapolates the idea of tranquility once more; “Here Comes the King” is probably the most hip-hop influenced song off of Reincarnated, which may (or may not) excite Snoop Dogg fans.
Unfortunately, the majority of Reincarnated is filled with frivolity and lethargy, gradually decreasing the album’s appeal. Some songs are way too simple and uninventive (“Lighters Up,” “Tired of Running,”), while others are just plain annoying (“La La La,” “Fruit Juice,” “Smoke the Weed”). Snoop trips up with awkward romanticism on “Torn Apart” and with complete mediocrity on “The Good Good.” Additionally, the electronic and pop influences on “Boulevard” and the Miley-Cyrus-featured “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” are basic repetitions of recycled reggae. Though “Remedy,” which features a dull Busta Rhymes and a barely audible Chris Brown, reverberates some hip hop-styled rhythms, it doesn’t come close the lively appeal of “Here Comes the King.”
It’s hard to say what the future will hold for Snoop Lion and whether or not he will return as the beloved Snoop Dogg. Hip hop and rap have always been within his blood, but it has also led him to unhappiness and indecent behavior. Reggae is indeed a bold and beguiling new path for Snoop, but Reincarnated isn’t as impressive as you might think, despite his genuineness and artistic integrity. It’ll be even harder if he were to keep a hip hop career and a reggae persona simultaneously. But hopefully, whatever is bringing him down, Snoop will find a way.
Suggested Tracks: “Rebel Way,” “Here Comes the King,” “No Guns Allowed”