Ladies and gentlemen, meet Snoop Lion.
The gangster rapper formerly known as Snoop Dogg, hailing from the streets of C-C-Compton, has begun an exciting new phase in his career, transforming into Snoop Lion, the Rastafarian. His upcoming reggae album, Reincarnated, will hit iTunes on April 23, and he’s the subject of a new documentary—also called Reincarnated—which opens in select theaters Friday.
The Daily Beast sat down with Snoop Lion at the South by Southwest Festival, where the film, directed by Andy Capper and distributed by VICE Films and Snoopadelic Films, is making its premiere, for a wide-ranging discussion about why he converted to Rastafarianism, his gangster past, his weed diet, and much, much more.
Why did you decide to transition from hip-hop to reggae?
For me, I wanted to make music that gave a more positive perspective. I wanted to make music that could be heard and said, that it was for a message and the reasons of messaging. I didn’t feel like my hip-hop music was able to transcend that, from the 21 years of me being a gangster rapper, doing my thing, and giving you one style only. I wanted to venture off into another genre of music where I was able to be free and express myself totally, in a positive manner.
In the film, it appears you express a bit of regret about being involved in the most violent era of hip-hop.
Oh, there was no regret. I just wanted people to know that I was at the forefront of the most dangerous time in hip-hop music and at the most dangerous rap label. I loved every moment of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But now that I’m able to look back at it, I’m able to make decisions for right now, not about where I used to be, but where I am.
And you say that you see some similarities between yourself and Bob Marley.
Definitely herb … the fact that we love spreading positive vibrations through our music. We’re peaceful individuals that are politically incorrect but correct at the same time, and we’re the voice of the people. We both have a lot of power, and we understood what that power meant, so I’m just trying to stay in the same vein and the same lane as Bob Marley, because I know what he represents and what his music represents.
What do you love so much about smoking weed? Why is that your drug of choice over all the others?
I don’t love it as much as I need it. It’s more medicated than dedicated, you know what I’m sayin’? For me, it’s more about what it does for me spiritually, mentally, and physically, to keep everything runnin’ right with myself. What I’ve found out is when a lot of people get sick, get cancer or a disease, they want to go and get medical marijuana to help themselves. But if you’re already full of it, you’re taking care of yourself and doing the right things, there will be no need for you to get to that point.
It’s not a gimmick, it’s a part of what I am. It’s really a message vessel. Whenever I want to make music, to make love, to make a message, that’s the lane. But if I want to make gangster shit, I still got that lane wide open.
I heard a story that you smoked 80 blunts a day. Is that accurate?
That’s for the motherfuckers countin’. I don’t be countin’, and nobody around me be countin’, but sometimes we be around that number. Sometimes we be less; sometimes we be more. It depends on where we at. Certain parts of the world don’t have real good shit, so we’re limited, because we don’t like putting bullshit inside of us.
How did you like the weed in Jamaica? I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and it’s all outdoor, which is very different from what you’d get in America.
It’s all organic and all natural from the ground, with no THC, no additives, or preservatives. Where we’re from they put that THC: tetrahydrocannabinol … Say it with me. Tetra-hydro-cannabinol.
So you prefer the Jamaican stuff?
I prefer tetra-hydro-cannabinol [laughs]. That thing is addictive.
Early on in the film, you say you wanted to get away to Jamaica, because in America, you only get “half the story.” What are some examples of that?
History, for example. When you go through school out here in America, they teach you history. But is it black history, white history, Asian history? Whose history is it? It definitely ain’t ours. But you get taught it, and then you try to go through life, and you try to figure out what it is about this history that will try to help you through life, and why did I have to pass this shit in order to graduate through high school? Do you research to find out if you have black history or even know where your people come from and what they’re about? That’s what it’s about with me.
Why did you choose Diplo to be your album producer?
Diplo is the shit, man. He understands that world and also knows how to put together a team, which is necessary for what we were working on. Whenever you’re working on a record like this with such magnitude, you need a lot of spirits together. I’ve never heard a hit record created by one motherfucker; it’s always a body of people that bring ideas. It takes a lot of people to create a masterpiece, and that’s what we were going for. Diplo, to me, is what Chris Blackwell was for Bob Marley—that other ear, that other eye, that other trust, so you can be more comfortable in your own skin and just do you, and not worry about what your people are gonna say. I’m not trying to make a black record, or a white record, or a record to make you mad, I’m just making a record in general.
What was your wildest night out in Jamaica during those three weeks of recording?
There were a few … I don’t even know if any of ’em stand out too much, because a wild night to me ain’t really wild, because I’ve seen it all. It’s just regular [laughs]. But to the people around me, it may have been a wild night for them.
One of the film’s most poignant scenes in the film is where you talk about visiting Tupac in the hospital right before he died. You don’t mention it to the interviewer in the film, though. What did you tell him?
So you think I’m going to tell you? The director and me kicked it for three and a half weeks! But I like that, you got heart like a motherfucker. It was just something personal, like what would you say to your friend if you knew that he may not ever speak to you again? What would you say if you know y’all had a misunderstanding? I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was just connecting with his spirit and having him know that his friend loved him no matter what.
A portion of the film is dedicated to Minister Farrakhan and his impact on you. How did he shape your outlook on things?
Minister Farrakhan came around at a very important point in my life, because Notorious BIG had got killed, and they didn’t know who was next, and a lot of people were saying it was me ’cause it was tit for tat. I wasn’t afraid, but I was longing for some assistance about what to do next. I reached out to Minister Farrakhan and expressed my concerns to him, and he suggested me and him get together. I flew to his house and got with him, and then we put together a day where all the rappers met there who had a beef and sat at the table, and whoever had a problem said something to the n---a right across the table, and then the other n---a said something back, and then they shook hands and got it over with. That made me really appreciate Minister Farrakhan, because he did something that OGs were supposed to do: bring ’em together, make ’em end it, and make ’em move forward.
People are always hatin’ on Minister Farrakhan, but when when the rap game was gettin’ bad, he’s the motherfucker that stepped in, and now the white folks can breathe again, because they’re the ones that had all these people signed [to their labels]. When you sign me, you gotta take all my Crip homies, all my other homies, and when you take a meeting with me, you gotta take all them as well. White people weren’t used to all that shit. But Minister Farrakhan came, broke it down, and made it all about business. Now people can make money, venture off, and go endorse things. People don’t give him credit for that, but I do. When it comes to hip-hop, that’s our leader. He’s the only guy we look up to who is for us, even more than the president.
Why did you decide to make a documentary in the first place? It’s a pretty risky move to make a movie about yourself.
It ain’t ever risky for me, because my shit’s always been up close and personal from day one. I told y’all when I came up that I sold dope, I gangbanged. I didn’t hide nothin’, because I didn’t want motherfuckers pulling up my files and finding it out. I put it all out there and allowed you to roll wit’ me. In this movie, I went even more in depth to give you stories that I never would talk about and to let you know that I’m willing to put it on the line, because if you’re rollin’ with me, if you’re on the journey, you deserve to know this.
How long do you think you’re going to stay Snoop Lion?
[Pause and grin] I think we’re going to see another Snoop Lion album for definite, just because it feels so good, and there was some untapped water that I didn’t get a chance to swim in on this record. It’s not a gimmick, it’s a part of what I am. It’s really a message vessel. Whenever I want to make music, to make love, to make a message, that’s the lane. But if I want to make gangster shit, I still got that lane wide open.
I loved you as Huggy Bear in Starsky & Hutch. Are we going to see more acting from you?
More acting, for sure, but I think I’m going to be more the creator and controller as far as making the role that fits me, because I don’t really like being in people’s movies where the movie makes a lot of money, and I’m in the movie for a little time and people love me in the movie, and I only made a little bit of money. I don’t like the way that shit add up. I want to make a whole lot of money if I’m making a whole lot of impressions in the movie.
What’s your dream role?
Probably a serial killer or lawyer. A lawyer has to have intellect, conversation, and persona, and that’s acting to me. Every time I’ve been in court, a lawyer has been either a bad motherfucker, or he was horrible. If he was a bad motherfucker, he was swagged out, had his hair right, cologne’d up, and could interrupt the other motherfucker and go, “You bitch-ass n---a, objection!” Bam. And then as for as the serial killer, I could really do some things on screen that I’ve been really wanting to do ... like cut a bitch up [laughs].