We all know Snoop Dogg. He’s the man at the start of the 90’s who along with super-producer Dr Dre helped the West Coast step from out of the shadow of New York, and dominate the rap scene. But some 20 years later, when all of his G-Funk contemporaries like Ice Cube, Warren G, Daz and Kurupt, and The Lady Of Rage have faded from the spotlight, or actually left this mortal plane like Nate Dogg and 2Pac, Snoop is still here and still relevant.
He’s managed to do this by being a larger-than-life persona that transends the narrow confines of Gangsta rap, re-inventing himself from Death Row gangsta with Suge Knight, to No Limit soldier with Master P, to smoothed out R&B playa with Pharrell and R. Kelly – an all-round fun guy who can star in ‘Starsky and Hutch’ with Ben Stiller, and Adidas adverts with David Beckham.
But when news came out last year that Snoop had visited Jamaica, re-named himself Snoop Lion, decided to become a Rasta and release a reggae album, eyebrows were raised. Perhaps he thought, being a Rasta gave him license to smoke weed every day, and the larger spiritual aspects had been lost on him? Hearing a couple of tracks from this new album confirmed such fears, as the music sounded more Rastamouse than Marley. So I was intrigued to see the documentary charting his latest incarnation – was it just a publicity stunt or indeed some kind of Damascus road conversion?
It is indeed admirable that he would be trying to mature and expand musically, rather than re-hash the same old thing year after year, album after album, becoming an aging parody of his younger self. In this movie he openly declares his desire to broaden his audience/fan base. “ I know that Obama would love to invite me to the White House,” he declares, “but if I went there, what the fuck could I perform?”
The doc follows him on his visit to Jamaica where they roll out the red carpet for him. He visits Bob Marley’s old stomping ground in the ghettos of Trench Town and is welcomed like the star that he is. He meets up with Damien Marley and with Bunny Wailer, who he collaborates with in the studio. And just as you would expect, he focusses as much on weed culture as he does on reggae culture. At this point in the film I thought it would just be a 90 minute weed-filled joke fest, but 60 minutes in, the proceedings take a more serious turn, detailing Snoop’s earlier life, his murder charge, the shooting of Tupac, his meetings with Farrakhan, and the sudden death of his childhood friend and collaborator Nate Dogg. Thus the doc moves from being the story of his new album to the story of his life. When it returns to Jamaica we see Snoop, this time accompanied by his wife, at a naming ceremony with Niyabinghi Rastafarian elders.
He seems sincere, but many of us have gone on spiritual foreign holidays that make us re-assess our lives, only to return to our old ways after a couple of weeks back in the rat-race. Will the same be true for Snoop? Will he be able to retain his new-found spirituality or will he be back to ‘G’s Up Ho’s down’ by next year? Only time will tell, but I can’t see him maintaining his popularity based on the music I’ve heard so far.
‘Snoop Lion Reincarnated’ is in selected cinemas now, and the DVD and album released later in April