“There’s so much death and destruction and mayhem in music…we losing so many great musicians and we don’t love ’em while they’re here. I wanna be loved while I’m here and the only way to get love is to give love.”
Listening to the brief intro of Snoop Dogg’s latest lifestyle project Reincarnated, it appears he knows the first thing on the listener’s mind: What is this about exactly?
Calvin Broadus has worn numerous hats over the years, from LA Crip to Pimp to Slangologist to Father/Football Coach, all the while staying remarkably true to himself. He’s like the charismatic actor who doesn’t play a role, he plays himself in the role, and makes sure you don’t forget it’s spelled S-N-O-O-P D-O-G-G.
When news spread that he changed his name to Snoop Lion though, it seemed to many like either a gimmick that would be over as soon as it lost it’s cache or finally a sign of him “jumping the shark’. Why does the gangster rap forefather want to suddenly turn his ever present blunt into a peace pipe?
Is Snoop’s desire to be loved while he’s still here the primary reason for his transformation? The answer is no. This album’s perspective before anything else is genuine, which counts for something. The contentment and belief in his voice can be heard with every Wiz Khalifa inspired croon on the 16 track project.
There are no hypocritical moments, no street songs that can be justified by “duality”, just the new Snoop’s desire to bring music from the heart of Kingston to the rest of the world. The album stays true to itself sonically, going from Summery grooves such as “So Long” and “The Good Good” to Dubstep on “Boulevard”. The production is top notch throughout, setting the tone that it’s not about a rapper doing reggae inspired songs, it’s full on deserving of the Reggae categorization.
Lyrically, Snoop spends most of his time basking in the glory of a simple existence: weed smoke, self awareness and love for himself and humanity. The hook of Lighters Up is the mission statement, as Lion pleads for the listener to “put your lighters up, get high with me, fly with me, ain’t no dividing us”.
The features on the album keep the ride smooth (aside from an awkward Miley Cyrus collab). From Angela Hunte’s pleasant vocals on three tracks, to Mavado and Jordan Blakkamoore’s rugged island grumbles, Snoop did a good job of making sure his co-pilots helped represent the hallmarks of the genre in ways that he wasn’t vocally capable.
The fault of this album is most exemplified with his duet “Tired of Running” with Akon. When Snoop’s not praising the almighty, he’s not doing much else. What makes the best Reggae everlasting is the social commentary, and much like in his Hip-Hop career, Snoop treads relatively light on substance here. On an album celebrating spiritual awakening, one would think a song called “Tired of Running” would evoke all types of candor from someone who was a key player in the most violent period in Hip-Hop history, instead it’s a bit of a paint by numbers tale of a person in jail reflecting on their past.
There is nothing wrong with an attempt at substance, especially from a king of the lowest common denominators, but perhaps Snoop Lion can stick around and truly delve into the societal conflict that makes the Rasta life so much of a pleasant alternative.