Sometime in 2012, the “spirit” called on Calvin Broadus Jr. aka Snoop Dogg (to hereby be referred to as Broadus, as recognition of his personal decisions, not his stage name/character) to “find something that was connected to the Bob Marley spirit – because I’ve always said I’m Bob Marley re-incarnated, and it drew me to Jamaica.”
He then made plans to travel to Jamaica and invited folks from Vice, the international art and counter-culture magazine/media giant to join and document his musical metamorphosis. There, Broadus partook in Rastafarian rites-of-passage which assumedly involved copious amounts of the kind-bud, and was then christened Snoop Lion by a local Rastafarian priest. Reincarnated, the doc which chronicled this bizarre undertaking, made its debut on March 21st at SXSW. To Broadus, the album Reincarnated, which shares the same name as the movie but drops April 23rd, is an emergence of a new persona.
“It’s not that I want to be Snoop Dogg on a reggae record. I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion,” said Broadus at a press conference. He went on to claim the new album is a reflection of early reggae music, the aim being “that dirtiness, that grittiness, not really being so commercialized.”
The goal was to avoid commercialization and what we got was a movie, a video game, and an album produced by electronic dance music extraordinaire Diplo (aka Major Lazer)- well done!
The few singles released from Reincarnated certainly reflect the Jah sound, with poppy snare drums forming super-chill beats, brass samples aplenty, wah-organ riffs, the percussive guitar up-pluck keeping pace, and Broadus’ smooth singing that has taken a new rasta-tinge. Whether this earns the title of Reggae music is questionable. Broadus seems to have assumed he would be called-out for exploiting Rastafarianism and the single “Here Comes the King” is blatant ass-covering.
In that song, Broadus sings, “I heard a voice, he said that I would understand – one king, one faith, one religion,” an obvious nod to the Christian faith from which Rastafarianism is derived. If anyone was going to pull the rug from under Snoops feet, it would be real Rastafarians, and in the very song that Snoop claims he is king, he also then bows to the one thing they hold dearest – the Almighty King.
Now that he’s kissed the ring, he’s free to roam his land in his tour bus, hitting every festival that will book him – and who wouldn’t? A music festival isn’t complete without a few throwback artists that people can gawk at and get high on nostalgia, and truly, the festival scene is ripe for the taking.
The Snoop Lion sound, image, and idea caters to everything a festival is about. The music has to be accessible to thousands of different ears, the musicians have to be entertaining (nothing new to Snoop), and it helps if the lyrics fit in to the pot-smoking, peace-driven vibe of the festival. Cue Snoop Lion track “Lighters Up,” where he sings “Put your lighters up, get high with me… ain’t no dividing us, east side, west side, south side, north side, unify,” and fits into the bill like it was meant to be. Maybe that was “the spirits” idea?
As fate would have it, the spirit has a video game in store as well: The Way of the Dogg. Yes, it is named after Snoop Dogg, but the beat-incorporating fighting game chronicles the Dogg’s transformation to Snoop Lion, the main character of the game. Set to be released on X-Box Live Arcade and Playstation Network, the game mixes Kung-Fu style battles fueled and controlled by Snoop’s music.
Of course, the game, the movie, the album and the whole transformation wasn’t an accident; it was a purposeful re-branding. Broadus seems genuine when he tears up speaking about his intense religious experience in Jamaica, but it’s hard to ignore how deliberately this was all done. Despite what anyone thinks about this Snoop Lion business, Broadus is a branding mastermind and has always been. That old Dogg has learned some new tricks, but his old tricks are still hard at work.