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The PV Q&A: Snoop Dogg (Lion)—"I’m a Rapper, That’s My First Occupation. But I Can Actually Sing!"

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INTERVIEW BY Tom Lanham


Before he gets any deeper into a discussion of Reincarnated—his new Jamaica-tracked reggae album under the new sobriquet Snoop Lion, and a documentary of his island trip, also called Reincarnated—legendary rapper Snoop Dogg wants to clear up any confusion for his fans.

“By changing my moniker to Snoop Lion, that’s the moniker that I will use when I make reggae music,” he explains. “When I do rap music, I will continue to be Snoop Dogg—I can’t get rid of something that I took 21 years to create, take one of the greatest identities of all time and just throw it away.” The movie, directed by Andy Capper, documents his curiosity-fueled exploration of Jamaica and reggae culture, and visits with local musicians like Bunny Wailer and various Marley family members, as his record gradually takes shape under the tutelage of producers Diplo and Major Lazer.

Admittedly, the experience is shrouded in a cloud of pot smoke. But the music features stellar cameos from Drake, T.I., Chris Brown, Akon, Rita Ora, Busta Rhymes, and—on the lead single “Lighters Up”—local dancehall artists Mavado and Pocaan from two notoriously feuding regions, who unite under the Snoop Lion banner. The next single, a self-explanatory political statement, “No Guns Allowed,” even boasts an appearance from Cori B, Snoop’s daughter.


PureVolume: You’re at the SXSW convention right now. What have you been doing?
Snoop Lion: Smoking weed and having fun! Yeah, mon!
You’re 41 now. Do you think you might’ve experienced a mid-life crisis?
No, what is that? I really don’t know what that is. That shit don’t exist where I come from, so I don’t know nothin’ about it!
Why go to Jamaica at this point in your career?
Uh . . . Why not? That’s the birthplace of reggae music, and I wanted to make a real reggae album. I was trying to make a record and a movie. So I think it was destiny. There are things in life that are written or meant to be, and they don’t have no explanation or understanding. It’s just truth. It is what it is.
Was your gangsta/pimp persona getting somewhat played out?
I don’t know what you mean—it ain’t never played out. It’s just that you’re either in it or you’re out. And it’s like, if you’re gonna do it, you’ve got to be whole-hearted—you can’t do it half-speed. It’s not like any other occupation. It’s for real. It’s stomp-down, 24/7. And if you ain’t got the heart or the stomach for it, you can’t maintain or manage it.
Did you just not have the heart for it anymore?
No. It’s just that I didn’t wanna do it no more. I’m one of those kinda guys that, well, I’m gonna pull out while I’m still in my prime. While I’m still able to be the greatest. You understand what I’m saying? I don’t pull out when I’m washed up and not wanted anymore. I’ll put it in a form that everyone can understand, though. For example, when Michael Jordan decided to leave basketball for those two years and pursue baseball, he knew he still was the shit, even though other people doubted him and didn’t understand. And when he put that 23 back on and won three more championships, he shut everybody the fuck up.
The saddest part of the movie is when you start adding up all of your peers who died along the way.
Yeah. But you know, that’s what comes with it: The job title has job requirements. Ramifications that come with the job. And we understand that where we come from, the neighborhood that I come from—that if we do join a gang or sell drugs, what comes with it. Either death, jail, murder, mayhem, robbery, kidnapping, or all of that. We understand that and we accept that. But it’s just a matter of, do you wanna better yourself and try to become something different and walk in a different, as opposed to the same light you’ve been patterned—or brainwashed—to know. So I chose to walk in a different light, once I became Snoop Dogg and became a rapper. And I was always ahead of my peers, because my mother used to always have me with the grown folks, so I never really ran with the crowd that was young. I always ran with the experienced crowd, so I was able to dibble and dabble and find out the ins and outs and the real deal at an early age.

Musically speaking, there was probably no more prolific place on Earth than Jamaica in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
I totally agree. And that’s what I’m searching for—that same kind of feeling, that same aura. That, to me, has never really been praised or given its due respect. Because you know how motherfuckers is—they don’t respect nothin’. But I’ve always respected real music, and I feel like by me jumping in the reggae realm and pushing this movement again, it will put some attention on those great artists who did have control of the music industry at one point. I want to make it fun again, and put reggae at the forefront of music like it’s supposed to be.
Have you always been into reggae?
It’s always been a part of me. If you listen to my early Snoop Dogg stuff, I always had reggae riffs, melodies, things of that nature that made people feel that I was Jamaican or reggae. So it’s always been a part of me. I just never exercised it fully, like I’m doing now, with a whole record.
Your voice is well-suited for it.
Yeah, but that’s the writers. The writers and the producers. They went in and wrote according to what I had to offer, you know what I’m saying? They wrote according to what I could do, and it’s not a stretch. We didn’t try to write some notes that Adele or somebody would be singing. We wrote notes that I could handle.
What spiritual truths did you find on your trip?
Oh, you know. Just to live my life a different way. I always knew what to do—I just didn’t know how to do it. And I was given a little bit more clarity on what to do and how to do it. And it’s not to be talked about—it’s to be shown. You don’t talk about it, you be about it. Because they told me that I was a shining light and it was time to let my light shine.
What was clouding your light until now?
Don’t know. But it’s clear now. I don’t know if it was the people I was around, my upbringing. And then I was a part of the problem, too, because I’m hard-headed, you know what I’m saying? I like doing it a certain way, and it’s my way or no way. So sometimes you’ve gotta learn to relinquish the power and let others think and move for you, because you know you make bad decisions. So that’s what I was able to do on this.
In the film, it looked like you really related to the impoverished area of Tivoli Gardens.
Yeah. That was like a mirror of where I come from. I felt right at home, the streets, the people. It was like being home again, like being in a different world, but knowing that the world revolves in a circle. So the same things that happen in your neighborhood happen in other people’s neighborhoods, and the same kinda people on your block are on their block, too. And I wasn’t out there on a negative trip. I was out there bringing peace and love, and everybody knew that I was bringing nothin’ but that.
You go to Tuff Gong studios, of course. But when you meet an artist in Tivoli Gardens, you guys jump right into a dinky local studio. Was everything really that spontaneous?
Everything that you see in that movie happened right on the spot. A lot of it was not scripted—it was happening as we were filming. And that music thing just happened like that, because they had a piece of the puzzle, you know? That’s why we were documenting every moment, because that’s how magic happens for us as musicians. It happened just like that. But no one ever captures the moment: They just hear the end results. So we wanted to capture the moment of how a song can be brought to life, the birth of a song.
What did you learn from Diplo and Major Lazer?
Um . . . that I could sing? Heh heh. That’s what I learned. I’m a rapper, that’s my first occupation. But I can actually sing!

 
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