He ain't a Rasta, he just smokes a lot.
At least, that's been the running joke surrounding the release of Reincarnated, the documentary that purports to detail Calvin Broadus' dramatic conversion from Snoop Dogg to Snoop Lion while recording his forthcoming reggae album of the same title in Jamaica.
Of course, rappers who emerged from the early '90s, keep-it-real era have always had a flair for the dramatic. Biggie arrived Ready to Die, then proved it. And Tupac's endless discography continues to feed myths surrounding his immortality. What Snoop lacks in surrealism, however, he's always made up for with an affable inability to take himself too seriously. But ever since he swore off rapping last year and announced, via press conference, that he was Bob Marley, it's as if the whole world has been waiting for him to shout, "Deez Nuuuts!" and break out the gin and juice.
"Snoop...how you gonna say you're the reincarnation of bob marley?? You were alive when he died!! Sure you understand how reincarnation works bro?" - mushroomawakening, (YouTube commenter)
Not even Snoop, with his larger-than-life hip-hop persona, is immune to the absurdities of the midlife crisis. Somehow, he's maintained a straight face through it all. But maybe there is something sincere behind his sensationalized transformation from Long Beach gangsta to peace-loving Rasta. After 20 years of portraying a role he originated as a teenager, Reincarnated could very well be his denouement, the redemption song to a career surrounded by death and destruction.
Still, the questions of authenticity aimed at this project are certainly warranted, especially in light of Bunny Wailer's recent allegations that Snoop's Rasta embrace has been exploitative. Unfortunately, bootleg dreds, a fake Jamaican accent, and free-flowing ganja smoke do not a Rasta make. Not to mention the proliferation of the cliché red-yellow-and-green T-shirts, sandals, and hairnets Snoop dons on screen. At times, he resembles a zealous Jamaican tourist who procured his entire wardrobe from the airport gift shop.
He does, however, traffic in his own brand of Rastafarian reasoning. Call them Snoopisms: "As you get older, you get wiser," he says at one point. "I'm 40 years old now, so I'm wise — or wiser, like Budweiser."
If cultural interloper Diplo has earned enough critical sway to executive produce the album without raising eyebrows, the fact that Vice Media is producing the documentary definitely caused early suspicion. And that was before Vice's recent basketball diplomacy stunt between Dennis Rodman and North Korea's Kim Jong-un.
But this is not Snoop Dogg's version of Joaquin Phoenix's 2010 mockumentary, I'm Still Here. Despite the irony of a gangsta rap icon recording songs with titles such as "No Guns Allowed," Snoop's new peace-and-love trip has been a long time coming. "I got a million songs where I done killed a nigga and slapped a bitch. For real, I need some of this," he says in the studio, surrounded by Diplo's team of dub makers and songwriters.
What the hysterics generated by previews of Reincarnated have failed to prepare audiences for is a film much more comprehensive in scope than advertised — kind of like the artist himself.
"My life is in stages — whether it's me performing on stage or me going through stages of my life," Snoop declares at the film's outset, after a scene of him walking onto a smoke-filled stage to perform with his mentor Dr. Dre.
It wasn't long after Snoop initially stepped into the spotlight that his metaphorical murder raps turned into a literal one. While his career continued to skyrocket, his personal life spiraled: the death of friend and labelmate Tupac; death threats resulting from his split with Suge Knight and Death Row Records; Nate Dogg's unexpected death; and a period of paranoia only T.I. could relate to after criminal gun charges left Snoop on probation and unarmed at the most vulnerable period in his life.
Those parts of his journey, long hidden from public view, make for the film's most revealing moments. Instead of disowning his past, he owns up to it.
Then there's the pseudo-spiritual mountaintop experience during his 35-day stay in Jamaica. Actually, it's just a scene where a bunch of Rastas take Snoop and his cousin Daz on a ganja-harvesting trip atop the Blue Mountains, upon which Daz makes a stunning revelation while consuming copious amounts of weed: "I'm rolling a blunt in the jungle!"
But the point of reckoning comes when Bunny Wailer visits Snoop in the studio to question his intent before agreeing to record with him. "We don't burn it [ganja] for folly or fornication, but we burn it as a sacrament," Wailer says, after explaining the difference between the commercial and spiritual aspects of reggae and Rastafarianism.
"That was real, that conversation," Snoop says, acknowledging Wailer's concerns after he departs. "This could be a gimmick."
But about the only thing Snoop is guilty of is taking his midlife crisis like a G. Coming from where he's from, nothing could be more real than that.