Snoop on Pot, the Music Biz and His Movie 'Reincarnated'
This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On this blazing hot friday afternoon, Snoop Dogg is surrounded by family. Among them: high school sweetheart Shante, his wife of 15 years; her sister Sharelle; 13-year-old daughter Cori (who goes by "Choc" for "chocolate"); son Corde (who goes by "Spank"), 18; Uncle Reggie; and his day-to-day manager Kevin Barkey. They are all here, complete with their cushioned, fold-out minichairs, to watch another child (three in all) of Shante and the man born Calvin Broadus -- 6-foot-2, 185-pound son Cordell, 15, aka "Rook" -- play defensive back for Diamond Bar High School on homecoming weekend. In this city, an outpost of Pomona, Calif., whose population is 52.5 percent Asian and just 4 percent African-American, the 6-foot-4 rapper and his posse, complete with a thuggishly burly (but sweet) security guard radioing from the running track, totally sticks out, catching the lens of a pesky photographer from the school paper, The Bull's Eye, the instant Snoop saunters up the bleachers.
As the game nears halftime, a couple dozen of the school's more adventurous students slowly crowd around the hip-hop icon. The Broadus clan rotate formation to guard the rapper, but one underclassman breaches their practiced phalanx.
"Can you sign this, Snoop?" says the bright-eyed boy, no older than a sophomore, handing over his batting glove.
"Don't be interrupting family time, now," chides cousin and minder Joe Cool, but Snoop pays no mind, grabbing the blue marker and scribbling his name. The boy snatches it back and quickly realizes the ink already has smudged and likely won't survive the backpack trip home. Still, he's elated by the brush with hip-hop royalty, telling his buddy, "It'll be a story forever."
Snoop shares lots of traits with his two teenage sons. One of them is an affinity for football. Dad was a former quarterback at Long Beach Polytechnic about 40 miles south, and the little league team he built just saw its own graduate, De’Anthony Thomas -- already being hailed as a future Heisman trophy recipient -- grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today, Cordell's team, the Brahmas, will trounce Los Altos in a 40-3 victory. No wonder the sophomore has already been offered a full ride to UCLA for football. Meanwhile, tattooed older brother Corde, also a former footballer, is chasing his father's other great passion: rap.
"He's getting there," says Snoop of his boy's rhymes, whose songs have such titles as "Rollin, Rollin, Rollin … Stoned," "California Gs" and "Commemoration of Vaporization." Corde's stage persona is Spanky Danky, and Dad is trying to help spread the word on the music by cracking doors, not kicking them down. "I see myself in him, but he needs to walk in his own shoes," says Snoop, who was raised by his single mother.
In other areas, though, Snoop perhaps is more generous.
On Sept. 13, Corde posted a photo on Twitter that captured him sparking up Dad's 2-foot glass bong, an image that quickly made the stoner media rounds (yes, there is such a thing). As if to drive the family-that-smokes-together-stays-together point home, when this reporter showed up at the Broadus' understated, almost ordinary two-story craftsman (in an otherwise somewhat gaudy gated community) for an interview, junior was busy rolling joints in the outdoor hang area designated for Snoop and posse. (It was 4:20 p.m., after all.) "My kids can do whatever the hell they want," explains Snoop. "For me to say otherwise would be hypocritical. A lot of motherf--ers don't have a relationship with their kids, and that's when they get on drugs and have suicidal thoughts and drive drunk. Me and my son is mellow. I'm his father, so I wanna show him the proper way because he looks up to me. What better way to get it than from the master?"
Indeed, Snoop, who these days has renamed himself Snoop Lion (more on that later), certainly follows his own set of rules -- if he follows any at all. Courting controversy while playing role model, coach and parent, the former gangbanger has had a hand in selling about 50 million albums and is ranked No. 14 on Forbes' list of hip-hop's top 20 earners, with estimated annual income of $8.5 million -- seemingly undervalued judging by Snoop's smirked reaction: "I must've been coaching football that year," he cracks. Just as impressive, 2012 marked the rapper's 20th anniversary since first appearing as Dr. Dre's sidekick in the video for "Deep Cover."
And at 40, an age when most MCs would long ago have hung up their hoodies, Snoop maintains an astonishing relevance (just ask any white suburban boy who punctuates phrases with "izzle"). He's outperformed former contemporaries like P. Diddy and outlived departed greats such as Notorious B.I.G. and his lifelong friend Nate Dogg (whose March 2011 death from multiple strokes remains an unhealed wound). An in-demand international touring act who in April headlined two weekends at the 70,000-person-strong Coachella, where he shared the stage with a hologram of the late Tupac Shakur as well as rap heavies Dr. Dre and Eminem, Snoop also shoots and edits his own online satirical newscast (recent guests on GGN, the Double G Network: Paris Hilton and rapper-turned-actor-turned-director RZA), is a global ambassador for Adidas and CEO of his very own Snoopermarket, selling everything from $32 house slippers to, yes, official Snoop Dogg rolling papers (see sidebar).
But what's getting Snoop the most attention these days is his role as CEO of Snoopadelic Films, whose titles include the straight-to-DVD (at Snoop's insistence, he says) Mac & Devin Go to High School, co-starring next-gen stoner rapper Wiz Khalifa (released by Anchor Bay in 2010, it has sold about 200,000 copies). Snoop's latest project, the making-of-an-album documentary Reincarnated, recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. And while THR's own review of Reincarnated out of Toronto takes it to task for not questioning Snoop's rebirth, critic David Rooney also noted that "the rapper has always been a charismatic eccentric, and as an all-access pass to an artist embarking on a new path, this is entertaining stuff -- funny, disarming, even poignant."
The movie in itself is about Snoop's journey -- both figuratively and literally: as thug from the east side of Long Beach (where 20 percent of its residents live below the poverty line) to cultural icon, rapper to reggae star in the genre's homeland of Jamaica, and from vapid celebrity to the reawakened, spiritually sound Snoop Lion. Soon after unveiling the doc in New York City in July, Snoop started making waves when he claimed to be reggae legend Bob Marley reborn, stating quite simply, "I am Bob Marley reincarnated." The headline-grabbing declaration made the mainstream news rounds in an instant and was a no-brainer punch line for late-night monologues. Surprisingly, however, it didn't ruffle the Marley family's feathers. Not only does Marley scion Damian appear in the movie, but for good measure, Rohan Marley sat in the front row at Snoop's summer press conference so he could go on the record and say: "Music is universal. … We don't separate ourselves. We embrace Snoop. We love Snoop Lion."