If you thought Snoop Dogg‘s journey into Rastafarian culture was a passing whim, think again. As he prepares to release his 12th studio album, “Reincarnated,” the veteran rapper’s reggae rebirth as Snoop Lion is to be taken seriously.
Teaming up with VICE and world-renowned producer/Major Lazer member Diplo, the 40-year-old MC shared the inspiration behind his newfound enlightenment during a press conference at Miss Lily’s in New York yesterday evening. “Anytime the spirit calls you, you have to go. I always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated,” Snoop told his onlookers.
The veteran rapper linked up with Major Lazer earlier this year for the album’s first official single, “La La La,” which was released earlier this month. Now, Snoop will bring a new documentary, “Reincarnated,” to the Toronto International Film Festival and follow that project with an album and photo book of the same name.
Relaxing on a terrace overlooking New York City, Snoop Lion and Diplo chopped it up with The Juice on the inspiration behind “Reincarnated,” Snoop’s hiatus from rap, and his vocal challenges.
Billboard: You talk a lot about being reincarnated into Snoop Lion, but what sparked your initial interest in the reggae genre?
Snoop: Well, if you listen to my earlier works, I’ve always had reggae influences in certain songs, particular verses, and things that I did because it felt good and it was good.
Which particular elements or artists did you draw from to craft “Reincarnated?”
Diplo: Snoop is the CEO in charge. This record is about him and his vision. The producers were me, Ariel Rechtshaid, and Dre Skull, one of the best reggae producers today. The writers were Angela Hunte, Jardan and Moonbane. The writing on the record was amazing. Their balance between their voice and Snoop’s voice, we really couldn’t have had a better combination.
Snoop: They gave me a lot of inspiration because I wanted to draw from the people on the project and let them know it was us.
Diplo: We don’t want to give a lot away, but a lot of Jamaican artists came through the studio and represented.
At what moment did you decide you needed to step away from rap?
Snoop: I don’t think I’m going to ever step away from rap. I think what it was, the moment when we started working on the project, I told Diplo I didn’t want to rap in none of these songs, because a lot of them had that good rhythm where it would have been righteous to drop a Snoop rap in there, like, “Aw, just put one right there.” But, I’m like, “Nah, I want to stay true to what we’re doing.” So, it’s not like I gave it up, but for this particular project, it wasn’t necessary.
Are you open to any rap features on this project?
Snoop: Yes, it has to be the right rap feature and they have to say something. If it is, it’s going to have to be someone worthy of the journey, and worthy to bring the message across that we bring.
Your singing voice this time around is different from what we’ve heard on songs like “Let’s Get Blown” and “Sensual Seduction.” Was it difficult to transition to singing this type of singing?
Snoop: It was complex, real complex. It was really notes and melodies. They weren’t writing any old regular [singing] “How you doing? I am well.'” They were coaching and telling me how to say it. When I did it right, they were cheering me on, and when I did it wrong, they were letting me know, so it was challenging. But at the same time, I’m getting the emotion of the people who wrote the song. If it comes out well to them, they’re the ones who wrote it, so I know it’s going to come off well to the people.
As far as the production aspect, Diplo, how were you able to draw from older reggae tracks and keep within the modern age?
Diplo: Reggae music is so complex. There’s the rock steady, the ska, the dancehall. Doing the Major Lazer project, we absorbed all of that. We tried to represent everything. We did sort of like, hip-hop-means-reggae records, not in the vocals, but in way the beat hits and the way it sounds. We have records on there that’s real reggae and we have records on there like “No Guns Allowed” that’s a new thing. That’s what my crew [does]: we try to forge a new territory in our records, and this is an artist we can do that with. Someone on his level, we can make those records.
What are the strongest tracks on the album?
Diplo: Everybody loves “No Guns Allowed,” but I love this one called “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,” that’s beautiful. That’s going to be one that people will sing in the stadiums. One of my favorites right now is “Harder Times,” the acoustic record. It’s really Rastafarian style, and that day, we had him in the booth and he just cut it perfectly. He’s really comfortable on that record. It’s a beautiful record.
With “Reincarnated” being a particularly personal project, what do you want listeners to take away from the album?
Snoop: Once you get it, it’s going to have an effect on you. Just let it do what it do. Open up your heart. It’s information.