LOS ANGELES — He has sold over 30 million albums worldwide rapping about his gangster life, run-ins with the law, and getting high, thus becoming one of the most beloved and respected rap artists of the industry. But at 40, Snoop Dogg has decided to leave behind his legacy and evolve into a new persona, as Snoop Lion.
Born Calvin Broadus Jr., Snoop Dogg is said to have gotten his name from his mother, who remarked on his resemblance to Snoopy, Charlie Brown's pet dog in the long-running comic strip, "Peanuts." But now having decided to step away from the music that made him one of the most long-lasting stars of the rap genre, the newly christened Snoop Lion is focusing on a different passion — reggae.
To document his transformation and journey into Snoop Lion, he allowed filmmaker Andy Capper to follow him to Jamaica, where he recorded his first reggae album, “Reincarnated,” which is also the name of the new movie about his unexpected metamorphosis.
Talking to a few select journalists at the Westlake Recording Studios (where Michael Jackson recorded some of his work) in West Hollywood, Snoop Lion explained why he made the change in musical direction.
“I started to hear myself say the same things. I’ve always been one to stay creative and come up with something new, different, original, and authentic. I got to the point where it wasn’t that I couldn’t, but it just wasn’t relevant. I wasn’t that guy anymore to be rapping about standing on the corner selling drugs, having a gun in my pocket, getting into gang activities,” he told BLOUIN ARTINFO.
“From a third person [that gangster life] sounds awesome, but at the same time, I’m not living like that anymore,” he continued. “I’ve got kids, and I’ve got a football league, and I’ve got life that I deal with. I look at my grandmother and my mother who are so proud of me for what I’ve done, but they still have not been able to see me perform in a manner that I can perform without cussing.”
At one point in the documentary, Snoop Lion says, “They want me to rap, but I don’t want to rap. I’ve been on top ever since I’ve been in it. I got rap songs that will never die. What else can I do in the rap world?”
“The Dogg has had its run for 20 years. I had my world for a long time with the Dogg, and the Lion is definitely necessary,” he said. “I feel like we’re living in a jungle now, and the only way to deal with the jungle is to bring out the king of the jungle, which is the lion who is willing to address every situation, but still keep the party flowing baby,” he added, casually dressed in a green T-shirt and brown beanie while lounging on a couch, and puffing a joint.
Perhaps not since singer Cat Stevens converted to Islam and adopted the name Yusuf Islam in 1978 has such a high-profile artist taken such a radical approach to changing their lifestyle and music simultaneously, and at such risk to their public career. Yet "Reincarnated" leaves the viewers in little doubt to Snoop Lion's honest intentions. In order to officially become Snoop Lion, he was rechristened by a Rastafarian priest in Jamaica, and while he feels fulfilled with his previous rap work, he says he has more eminent and momentous achievements he’s now aiming for.
“The music I’ve made, I’m proud of in the past, but I want to make music that can get me on stage at the Essence Awards, at the Oscars, and possible in the White House,” he said, in between taking hits off his blunt.
“I feel like I’ve always had reggae music intertwined in my work, but I just never highlighted it. It was always in there, but never at the forefront. Reggae music feels good if you do it right. So I wanted to step in and try to do it right.”
“Reincarnated” the documentary film opens in select theatres in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, and San Francisco, March 15.
“Reincarnated” the album will be released April 23, 2013.