Snoop on Pot, the Music Biz and His Movie 'Reincarnated'
The former gangbanger turned hip-hop mogul is as relevant as ever at age 40, with a string of chart-topping singles, a new movie and a lucrative line of Snoop-approved endorsements.
Further explaining the backstory, Snoop's manager Ted Chung says: "Years ago, Snoop had referred to himself in a lyric as Bob Marley reincarnated. It was more on a peripheral level, maybe not as spiritual a level as it is now, but that's part of what he's referencing when he says that. Secondly, I don't think any of us ever assumed his name was going to be Snoop Lion from now on, but Snoop's going through a spiritual lifestyle change, and Rastafarianism is a serious undertaking, so we treated it that way." In other words: Lion ain't lyin'.
For his part, Snoop is staunchly unapologetic about the comment or the comparison. Nor does he see the exploitation of Bob Marley the brand -- whose face and iconic red, green and yellow Rasta colors can be found on everything from hats to beach towels to posters and plates -- a conflict of art and commerce. "It's awesome to have people discover a great artist who may no longer be here in body, but they're here in spirit and merchandise," says Snoop of the eternally profitable Marley estate. "Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra did it, and nobody had a f--in' problem with it."
To prove his commitment to spreading the Rastafari message of love and the traditions of its people, Snoop, as he does with many of his business ventures, is bankrolling the Reincarnated project. Although he's had plenty of film experience, making cameos in such comedies as Old School and Starsky & Hutch and starring as a parody of himself in a succession of low-budget flicks such as Soul Train and The Wash, Reincarnated is an entirely different beast. Bringing along his wife, a crew of eight and 25 team members to spend a month in Jamaica taking in the history, spirit, sights and, most important, sounds of the island nation, he ended up laying out somewhere in the vicinity of $200,000. The original plan, in fact, wasn't to make a movie but rather document his time in the recording studio with the in-demand Diplo and his music production team Major Lazer. But what ended up transpiring went much deeper in a life-affirming and life-changing way, you could say, and it's the main reason Snoop and his producing partners at Vice Films are planning to give this labor of one love a proper theatrical release.
That means putting rap aside for a moment, opting instead to try his hand at traditional reggae fare in the form of a full album recorded in Jamaica. It's part of the Reincarnated rollout plan, which manager Chung says he hopes will hit theaters in the first quarter (in time for Marley's birthday Feb. 6? "Certainly, that has been discussed in many meetings," says Chung) and includes a photo book to be published later in the year. Interestingly, Snoop has no Caribbean roots and is in fact "only 72 percent black; the rest is European," he says, recalling a DNA test conducted by George Lopez to see who was "blacker," Snoop or Charles Barkley.
For the self-declared "original gangster" who once bragged about "poppin' caps" and leaving no witnesses, viewers will see that the Doggfather of today is a decidedly different animal from the bad boy of his youth. Even his daughter makes an appearance on the song "No Guns Allowed." As aptly described by writer Toure in a 2006 Rolling Stone cover story, Snoop is "loved by both gangbangers and soccer moms." Yet reconciling the two poles to his career has led to a sort of creative crossroads. As he declares in Reincarnated, "I wanna bury Snoop Dogg!"
Says Snoop: "I have no regrets for what I've done. It's just when you know better, you do better. Back in my early days, I didn't know no better. But I was raised right and with a conscience. I know I can't make up for the wrongs that I did, I'm just trying to do more right than wrong."
Back at home, where Snoop has fashioned his own man cave -- the Dogg Pound, as it were -- out of an old toolshed in the back, filled-to-the-rim two-quart jars of pot are being passed around. Banished from the house by his wife and daughter, the non-air-conditioned space is where Snoop says, "I'm able to do what I need to do." Primarily, watch TV, play video games (an Xbox copy of FIFA 13 has just arrived) and smoke.
Like Marley and Willie Nelson, Snoop is a stoner symbol who has long espoused marijuana's positive uses as they pertain to health, creativity and recreation, even on the heels of being busted -- eight times and counting, most recently in Norway in June (he's been banned from entering the country for two years) and, before that, in Sierra Blanca, Texas, the same spot where Fiona Apple was arrested for hashish possession Sept. 19. For the record, Snoop is a proud holder of what he calls "a platinum medical marijuana card," though to be sure, most of his green is gifted. Better yet, as the ultimate sign of respect from the marijuana community, several boutique strains have been named after Snoop, including a head-heavy flavor called Snoop Dogg Platinum, which made its debut in front of THR staffers.
Still, for as much as he smokes (on an average evening hang at home, Snoop can easily light up 10 blunts each roughly the size of a Sharpie; to compare, Marley's intake was believed to have averaged 14 joints a day), Snoop Dogg straight up defies the notion that potheads are lazy. To the contrary, he's very much a stoner-overachiever. Snoop tries his best to perform cameos on other peoples' songs whenever he's asked -- more than 70 at last tally, with two to three requests coming every month, at times "for no money," he explains of the so-called "swap." "I'm not one of those rappers who's like, 'I'm hot right now, give me $100,000.' It ain't about the money, it's about respect. I try to make it happen because for them to even reach out to me to be a part of their project, I give them mad respect back."
When you're as in demand as Snoop, you hope guesting pays off, as did his appearance on Katy Perry's "California Gurls" in 2010. The No. 1 single has seen sales in excess of 5.4 million digital tracks, according to Nielsen SoundScan -- Snoop's bit, he says, took all of 45 minutes to freestyle. But sometimes, he ends up losing out, like a recent Raekwon (of Wu Tang Clan fame) track he was asked to rap on. "He called me and was like, 'I need to get you on this song,' " explains Snoop. "But the thing was, me and him had the same beat from the same producer. So I was like: 'That's your beat. You can have it.' Now I've just gotta find time to give him that verse because I love Raekwon and Wu Tang." (He's still hoping for a call from one of his favorites. "I'm waiting on Sade," he says with a smile.)
In another gesture of diplomacy, Snoop shows no desire to get into the lucrative headphone game by manufacturing or lending his name to a line of "cans" the same way Dr. Dre got behind Beats headphones. "That's Dre's lane," he says. Ultimately, his business philosophy comes down to an almost simplistic premise that Snoop applies to every facet of his life: "Whatever you put out will come back to you. If I project righteousness, righteousness will be around me. … The positive spirit is why negative forces always find a way to be near me, but they never get to me."