Friday, January 25, 2013

The Lion, the Switch and the Way Forward

Snoop Dogg’s “reincarnation” as Snoop “Lion” is a big switch that may taste unsavory to some, but the music reflects a style that could shape the road ahead for reggae music.

The tweet back to me read, “>>>Ha, disgraceful…”

It was from my former brother-in-law, Rich, who’d primed me for some Snoop Dogg music in the mid 90’s, following the release of Dr. Dre’s album The Chronic, which seemed to be the big Snoop Dogg intro to the world at large.

Living in Miami at that time, Rich was into rap and hip-hop, which I didn't like too much, and reggae, which I loved. We tore through the documentaries of reggae performers and explored the culture.

We lived in south Miami, and a close friend lived a mile or so away in a neighborhood that featured the family home of Bob Marley. Our friend, Matt, lived next door to the Marley compound and Matt once had Rich over for a meal with the Marley’s that included a Rastafarian ceremony. I missed the meal but heard about the Rasta priest blessing the meal.

When I heard about Snoop Dogg being reincarnated in Jamaica, with a Rastafarian priest presiding and renaming the hip-hop superstar as Snoop Lion, I had a nostalgic vision of the ceremony. I immediately went to and played the new track, which was being presented as the music representing his new identity.

Roll With The New
Snoop Goes Neo-Roots Reggae
Rich doesn’t like the result of Snoop’s transformation. I still don’t know exactly why but I have to assume he perceives it as some kind of a trick the rapper is performing using a religious rebirth element as the central theme. Being a pious and faithful person, I can only imagine Rich does not care for Snoop’s antics.

I, on the other hand, think the idea is pretty cool. And the music rocks. Snoop Lion is pushing ahead with a version of reggae that revitalizes the roots style in a new and fun way.

I have only found two tracks that are clearly associated with Snoop Lion’s new Jamaican, reggae focus: “La, La, La” and “Here Comes the King.”

Both tracks possess a fresh, almost naïve entry into reggae. It’s easy to sense the performer’s attempt to balance a degree of his core rap capabilities with the rhythm and style of what comes across as roots, but with a shot of adrenaline and booming bass.

The music also combines a touch of humility against the background of a powerful hip hop performer’s obvious production quality. From the opening beats there is no doubt you’re in for a typically booming track, but the lyrics are different.

Snoop is singing about faith and religion. What? Double check…is this a joke of some kind? Is Rich on to something in his apparent dismissal of this new Snoop Lion thing?  

It doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve found my way from “Here comes the King” to “Lighters Up” and other tracks that shed light on the path to Snoop Lion’s new identity, and the music is true to the roots beat, bass-heavy but with a stylistic blend of harmony and songwriting that’s become a breath of fresh air for my playlist.

Cheers to the Lion, I think his switch is a fantastic thing and paves the way for other rappers and hip-hop stars to join the revolution and do some heavy lifting in a Jamaican, reggae style. I can only hope.

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