Snoop Dogg fans certainly couldn’t have imagined the day they’d hear the West Coast legend’s 2004 hit “Drop It Like It’s Hot” remixed into “Pocket Like It’s Hot”, his endorsement for the microwavable snack Hot Pockets. But even more jarring has been the appearance of his new alter ego Snoop Lion, in a cheesy (pun intended) promotional video last fall.
“La La La,” the first single from his Snoop’s reggae album Reincarnated, had debuted three months earlier in July 2012, at which point most fans shared Dr. Dre’s initial reaction to this new persona: pure confusion. While reinvention and growth are essential to an artist’s survival, there needed to be some explanation for why one of rap’s pioneering forces was suddenly singing in a faux Jamaican accent and donning Rastafarian gear.
Snoop and his producer Diplo anticipated as much, partnering with Vice Films for the documentary Reincarnated, which chronicled his month-long journey through Jamaica as he transformed into the Lion: champion of peace, love and positive vibes. The film was intended to help fans understand this change, getting a look at Snoop’s interactions with Damian Marley, and even a recording session with the legendary Bunny Wailer. But it left just as many questions as it did answers.
For one, was this truly the best creative idea he could drum up? And if it was a new channel to express positivity that he was looking for, why was hip-hop completely dismissed as an option?
Snoop explained that, after two decades, he was simply sick of rapping and wanted to try something new. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard this from veterans. Take for example Lil Wayne, who admitted last year that he’d much prefer to skateboard than rap at this point. Or André 3000, who won’t give into fans’ demands to record a new OutKast album since his heart isn’t in it.
It might not be the news diehards want to hear, but 3 Stacks deserves credit for being selective with his features and remaining relatively under-the-radar until he’s ready to strike the right chord again. Contrast that with Wayne, who put out the lackluster I Am Not A Human Being II this year, and Snoop Lion, whose efforts to spread love and positivity with this new reggae identity simply come across as inauthentic.
In one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the Reincarnated documentary, we watch him pick a grapefruit, only to return to the studio in the following scene and record the track “Fruit Juice” in his faux accent, name-dropping fruit from cantaloupe to soursop.
Could this really be the same artist who changed the game with classics like “Murder Was the Case” and “Gin & Juice”?
Snoop laments that he could never be invited to the White House to perform his grittier content, so here was his chance to finally get that phone call from Obama. Let’s not hold our breath for that though, because the musical quality on his album leaves much to be desired.
Dancehall stars like Mr. Vegas, Mavado and Popcaan were good sports about Snoop’s project, with the latter two appearing on “Lighters Up” (Snoop’s most popular reggae single thus far). Still, even a cosign from Damian Marley (who championed him for being the first rapper to speak so freely about weed) doesn’t justify any of this.
Snoop collaborated with Drake and his daughter Cori B. on the recent single “No Guns Allowed,” advocating the need to stomp out gun violence, and while the message is commendable, the track still falls painfully short. The same could be said for the Miley Cyrus-featured reggae-pop number “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks.”
The good news here is that Snoop Dogg has not officially been retired; but the bad news is that damage has already been done to his legacy, and he hasn’t even seemed to notice.
Nadeska Alexis, a NYC-based writer and editor, is a native of Grenada who spends any free moments planning her next travel adventure. Follow her on Twitter @neweryork.