Snoop Lion discusses his journey to Jamaica in the new documentary Reincarnated
20 years ago, a young rapper named Snoop Dogg burst onto the music scene with his first solo album "Doggystyle," and immediately, a star was born. After selling more than 30 million records, the 41-year-old musician takes his fans along for the ride as he embarks on a new phase of his career in the documentary Reincarnated, currently playing in limited release. This film charts his journey from L.A. to Jamaica, where he makes his first all reggae album and shares stories about his time coming up through Death Row Records in the 1990s. This fascinating journey lead to the musician changing his name to Snoop Lion, and gives fans a rare behind-the-scenes look at his life in and out of the recording studio. I recently had the chance to speak with Snoop Lion over the phone about the documentary, and his reggae album, also entitled Reincarnated, which will be released on April 23. Here's what he had to say.
I remember last year when it was first announced that you were going to be called Snoop Lion, and it was really cool to see the inception of that in this film. Can you talk about what your thoughts were, when (reggae legend) Bunny Wailer first called you that in the film?
Snoop Lion: Well, actually, I was hearing it all while I was in Jamaica. The way we cut the movie up, it looked like Bunny was the first one to say it, but, in actuality, it was being said all through my visit to Jamaica. It was, 'Lion! Snoop Lion!' It was just a natural way of conversation in the Jamaican lingo. They address you by Lion, not Dogg.
How long would you say that trip to Jamaica was in the works, before you actually went? Was that something you were thinking about for a long time, to just take a month or two off and head down there?
Snoop Lion: I think it was probably three months before the date we actually went out there, that it all happened in my head. I wanted to make it work, and put it in my schedule and get in contact with some producers and people who could set it up. Once I got the musical side together, OK, we want to film it. Who's going to film it? Once we got that together, we all flew out there together, and we took it one day at a time.
I loved that scene on the rooftop in Jamaica. The first thing that came to my head was the video for "What's My Name?," and then they actually cut to that video. It was really cool. That was the exact same thing I was thinking about. Was that going through your head in the moment, 20 years later, seeing these people in that same kind of gathering?
Snoop Lion: You know what, it didn't. It didn't when I was doing it, but after we got the footage back, (director) Andy (Capper) looked at it and said, 'This is contrasting what you did 20 years ago.' I said, 'For real?' So many magical situations just happened. One thing about magic, when it happens, you've just got to sit back and let it do what it do.
At the ceremony, when they named you "Berhane" ("The Light"), that looked like just an incredible moment that was very special to you. Was that really the culmination of that entire journey, that little ceremony?
Snoop Lion: Yeah, that ceremony was deep, because it was one of my last days there. To be able to be blessed with the spirit and the whole engulfment of rastafari. A lot of it was them giving me history, so I could understand what it was. When they lady put her hands on me, and said the prodigal son has returned, she's speaking biblical, and it really connected me with the spirit and where I need to be at.
They played the whole album for us, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was such a cool blend of reggae and dance music with some amazing beats. Through your time there, and working with the producers and the studios, were there certain techniques that you will always take with you from that experience, as you move forward?
Snoop Lion: Yeah, definitely, the technique of just being able to fine-tune a song. A lot of the songs, when we went in there, they weren't right at the beginning. Something was was wrong with it, and just having the ability to fine tune it and make it fit the way you want it to fit, those were some of the traits and characteristics I took from this experience. You always learn something new every time you're in the studio, and those were a few of the things I learned.
I really enjoyed the song with your daughter Cori B., "No Guns Allowed," which I saw you perform on Conan as well. That must have been a special moment, to perform with your daughter.
Snoop Lion: Yeah, man. That song is so powerful, and to be able to put out a song that means so much, this is going to last 30 years from now, us speaking from the heart. A lot of kids lost their lives from negative gun violence, so we wanted to say we're against it and we want to see guns wiped out of the wrong hands.
You mentioned in the film that you wanted a song that you can play anywhere. Now that you have a couple of those songs, with that song and "Ashtrays and Heartbreaks," is there a place that you really want to bring this new music to, that you haven't been able to experience before?
Snoop Lion: I want to perform at the White House.
That would be amazing.
Snoop Lion: It would be, because it would be political. The music that I'm saying is so relevant to what's going on in the world. In a minute, they're going to have to let me perform, because I made it directly for them, to speak for them, to help them, to assist them, to be a citizen that cares about what's going on.
There were some really amazing stories from your past, and you coming up, your time with Death Row. Was getting to tell those stories from your past just as healing, getting that stuff out there, as the actual trip itself?
Snoop Lion: I've never really been asked about it. I never felt that nobody, professionally, asked me the questions in the right way. You ask the right question, you're going to get a great answer. A lot of those great answers that you heard in that movie was dictated by our director, Andy Capper, who asked great questions and who set me up and prepared me and got me in the mood to answer those questions. If we're doing an interview, you can get out of me whatever you want to get out of me, if you've got it right, but if you don't know what the f--k you're talking about, you're going to get a quick answer and I'm going to hang your bitch ass up.
The album comes out next month, and there have been two tracks that have been released already. Do you know what will be the next single that will drop from that?
Snoop Lion: I like a song on there called "Tired of the Running," that Akon wrote for me. I also like this new record that Diane Warren wrote for me called "The Good Shit." Either one of those two records right there, because they feel good.
Do you plan on continuing with reggae music? Was this just the first step, or do you want to keep exploring different genres of music after this album drops?
Snoop Lion: I'm going to enjoy this right now, and then when I get to a place where I know what my next move is, I'll say what it is. Right now, I'm just going to enjoy this, because it feels good. The movie feels good, the record feels good. I'm just going to give it to people and let them enjoy every moment of it, and perform it, take it around the world. If people want more, then I'll give it to them.
You also voiced a role on Turbo, the DreamWorks Animation movie that comes out this summer. That looks like a lot of fun. Is there anything you can say about your experience with that?
Snoop Lion: Yeah, Turbo is going to be a real big animated movie this year. I'm glad to have DreamWorks on my team, working with me, giving me an opportunity to be a part of a big movie like that. I also did a song for the soundtrack with my artist. We're just trying to connect the dots and keep it hot and do things that are relevant. I love using my voice for the right reasons.
Is there anything else that you're working on?
Snoop Lion: I love my football league, the Snoop U Football League (SnoopyFL.net). We've been around for nine years. That's my non-profit organization where we give back to the community. That's my pride and joy. I love that more than music, videos, awards, anything, because we're dealing with kids and helping mold and shape their lives.
What would you like to say to anyone who is curious about the album and the movie about why they should give it a chance?
Snoop Lion: Yeah, man, everybody out there who's paying attention and listening should go get the movie Reincarnated. The record will be out April 23, and also pick up the book. We've got a table book with pictures of the whole experience. Snoop Lion, direct, live, and in effect.
Excellent. That's all I have. Thanks so much. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Snoop Lion: Hey man, you have a beautiful day. Thanks for the blessings.
You can watch Snoop Lion's fascinating journey in the documentary Reincarnated, currently playing in limited release.