Posted March 14, 2013 by Ben Winkley in Films


Snoop Dogg, then. Gangster, hustler, America’s cuddliest pimp, hip-hop superstar, Rastafarian. Wait, what? Yeah, you heard that shit right – Snoop Dogg is Reincarnated.

And here’s the story behind the headlines, chuckles and general bewilderment that greeted the news that Snoop was no longer Dogg but Lion. Like its subject, this part-documentary, part-promotional video is contradictory, funny and entertaining. More unexpectedly, it’s also a little revelatory.

(At least in the bits where Snoop isn’t high. There aren’t many of them – there’s one bit of Rasta culture in which he’s already well-versed.)

Despite 20 years at the top of his game, Snoop, who’s 40 now, is tired of the rap game, tired of being a public enemy, and wants to show another side to the man who wrote Bitch Please and Still a G Thang.

That’s why he finds himself, along with comedy sidekick/wingman Daz Dillinger, in Jamaica for a spot of schooling and to cut a reggae-tinged album.

To his credit, Snoop doesn’t just want to roll up to Tuff Gong studios, do his thing and leave in a haze of chalise smoke.

The camera follows him and his amusing selection of European football shirts as he explores the island’s musical and religious histories – including, naturally, a jaunt to the old Rastas’ mountain-side ganja plantation, a homecoming of a kind in the troubled Trenchtown and Tivoli Gardens and a stop to pay homage to the reknowned Alpha Boys School for an impromptu jam with the star-struck pupils.

There’s also a pilgrimage to see Bunny Wailer, keeper of the flame. It is Bunny who declares Snoop Dogg is now Snoop Lion.

The first half travelogue of Reincarnated is the more interesting. It flags a little when Snoop gets into the studio with go-to producer Diplo and writer Angela Hunter (who penned New York State of Mind for Jay-Z) though even this formulaic ‘musicians-in-the-studio’ section is enlivened when Bunny drops by to record a vocal. Instantly transformed from the very stoned pensioner of earlier to a silver-voiced legend, Bunny nails it, smiles and exits, pausing only to light up another bowl.

But it’s also during this half that Snoop, for once without a blunt to hand, explains what’s behind all this.

The recent death of frequent collaborator and long-time friend Nate Dogg has led Snoop to reflect on others he once knew and who have passed – TupacSuge Knight – and to make a record that’s not all about the guns and the hos.

It doesn’t always sit quite right. Although Snoop seems to be genuinely Rasta-curious, Reincarnation could be just one more, well, reincarnation for a man who’s already played a few roles in his life.

The appearance of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, serves as a reminder that Snoop has embraced new beliefs before. Farrakhan’s views on Snoop’s willing step into the embrace of Rastafarianism remain unspoken.

Whatever. Snoop’s perma-high style is endearing enough to allow any cynicism to be put in the corner for 90 minutes. As ever, he makes a few friends as he breezes through.

Ben Winkley