If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s know as one of the world’s most famous connoisseurs of chronic, Snoop Dogg’s transition to Snoop Lion – and from gangsta rap to Reggae – would have been one of the most ridiculous events in modern hip hop history. But, even with that love for hip hop’s favorite herb, which makes the genre swap a little more (though maybe misguidedly) understandable, the personal evolution from Death Row’s biggest star to Rastafarian is a bit of a head scratcher. With the official release of his first album as Snoop Lion, Reincarnated, it’s time for the world to finally come to terms that the old Snoop’s gone…the question that remains? Is for the better?
To be blunt – it’s probably not. Musically speaking at least. However, before we get into that, we do have to give Snoop some major props for deciding to purely focus on making music with a positive message. While most artists couldn’t pull it off, and would quickly be unanimously dismissed as corny in the hip hop world, Snoop’s one of the few O.G.’s in the game that’s earned enough respect to pull a complete 180 in his style, and still be taken somewhat seriously. He’s also a known philanthropist and has been a strong voice in the community over the past handful of years, so it’d be impossible to say he’s trying to cash in on altruism (like a certain former Bad Boy artist with a dollar sign in his name).
With that said, it’s good to hear and feel the positive vibes he’s trying to bring with Reincarnated, and certain people will probably love this album purely because of his new approach. If a high moral stance is what a listener wants in their music – and assuming they don’t see recreational weed smoking as a bad thing – that’d be completely reasonable. Throughout the album, he hits on everything from stopping violence to pushing hard drugs on a number of tracks, including “No Guns Allowed” (feat. Drake) and “Tired of Running” (feat. Akon).
Anyone with any type of common decency would probably salute the new attitude he’s coming with, and respect the fact that he’s trying to create some constructive sources of entertainment. However, when it comes to execution, this one is far, far less pleasant than its message. It has its moments, and at times it’s downright infectious and highly, highly enjoyable. But, more often than not, as soon as the buzz provided by those highs wear off, the experience falls almost completely flat.
While it definitely has its share of production and musical missteps, the most egregious and almost painful errors this one makes are in its writing and overall approach to its supposed concept. Up until recently, the album’s been marketed and hyped as a Reggae project. All it takes is one listen to realize that’s pretty far from the truth. In all honesty, it’s more of a top-40 pop album with strong dance elements and a very transparent, borderline paper-thin layer of pseudo-Reggae over it.
That in and of its self wouldn’t be an issue. However, combined with its surface skimming level of depth from a lyrical standpoint, it turns into an idealistic – though positively slanted – hour long, overly repetitive experience. Considering this is music coming from a 41 year old entertainment industry veteran, who touted this project as a “rebirth” that would change everyone’s perception of his work and who he is personally, there just isn’t anywhere near the level of thought or wisdom we were led to expect. Instead of thoughtful insight, we get bars more appropriate for a teenybopper project, that would have fit better on an album by Willow Smith, Diggy Simmons, or One Direction. In fact, one of this one’s most “grown up” moments is the somewhat inspired ode to leaving old flames in the past with, “Ash Trays and Heartbreaks”, which features Miley Cyrus of all people.
As we mentioned before, Snoop definitely gets some respect for choosing to try to deliver a unifying and positive message. But, he literally says things like “things are so hard in the ghetto”, and “global warming make the whole world panic/ take care of Mother Earth cause she be the planet” throughout the album. Granted, those statements are true, but they sound more like they were written by a 16 year old stoner in his upper middle class basement than by a guy who became known for his party-focused yet potent bars back in his rap days…though when you think about it, he might just be playing to his audience.
Regardless, the writing here is rough, no matter how you slice it. There’s nothing wrong with uplifting, positive music, and that’s something we often forget in the hip hop world. But there’s a right and wrong way to do everything, and being naively upbeat isn’t the right way to make positive music. It’s tough not to feel like if more time would have been invested, that it could have been much more stimulating and enlightening. As it stands, the Snoop Lion lyrical experience is much closer to a musical afterschool special than the “spiritual awakening” he claimed it was. Even Drake’s verse on “No Guns Allowed” comes way softer than he usually spits, which is saying a lot.
Thankfully, we can stop being so harsh at this point though – but the writing on this album was just that terrible. But, before we move on, we should give credit where credit is due and say that the album’s lead track “Rebel Way” does stand out as a bit more solid than the rest as far as its lyrics are concerned.
While they aren’t perfect, the production and hooks do save this one from being a complete loss. In fact, those two elements might actually leave you interested in hearing more, and hoping Snoop takes a more introspective approach on the next Snoop Lion effort – assuming there is one.
Again though, this one isn’t as advertised. Even musically, the Snoop Lion experience is pretty far removed from traditional reggae. Outside of Mavado and Popcaan’s appearance on “Lighters Up” there isn’t any semblance of Reggae vocals, which is strange considering this one was marketed so heavily on the grounds of the genre’s culture and history. There are some bad attempts made to sound like a Rasta by Snoop, but the key word there is bad. He would have much better served just doing him, as opposed to faking an accent.
But, objectively speaking, there are some excellent vocals provided by each of the artists who do make an appearance. Even Snoop himself enjoyable rides the usually laid back rhythms much better than expected despite his strange would-be Jamaican voice inflections, especially on the hook of the standout “Get Away” and throughout the entirety of what might be the album’s most infuriating track “Smoke the Weed” – which had serious potential outside of the content of its verses. Also, it should be mentioned that Busta comes through with the most convincing faked Jamaican accent during what might be the most impressive verse on the project on the deluxe edition bonus cut “Remedy”.
Production wise, this one does have some interesting and highly enjoyable points too. But, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, it just isn’t what was expected. All but one track is heavily supplied by Diplo and the Major Lazer team, and it shows. Anybody who’s familiar with their “Moonbathon” sound will attest.
A majority of the cuts don’t even sound Reggae or Dancehall inspired. 90% of the Reincarnated album either sounds like it’s laidback EDM or a generically “international” attempt at pop music – think Sean Kingston. However, there are plenty catchy, and enjoyable arrangements, but they come off like they were just sitting around on a hard drive and pieced together on short notice. But, even Diplo’s worst work is more infectious than many producers’ best. Just don’t expect anything mind-blowing or true to traditional reggae.
Ultimately, Reincarnated, isn’t a failed experiment. There are some catchy moments, and probably a respectable handful of tracks that are definitely rotation worthy for the Snoop die hards, fans of internationally friendly, universally accessible music, and smokers. We even found out that Snoop can sing a bit.
However, the generic production and at times unintentionally hilarious and naively idealistic writing holds this one back a ton. There’s more than enough here to prevent the Reincarnated album from being the complete and utter joke many had predicted, and due to its top 40 friendly credits and easy listening friendly nature, it’ll probably see some commercial and radio success too. If you don’t come into this expecting much – and you probably shouldn’t have – it is a relatively positive experience that has its moments.