Name changes in hip-hop aren’t exactly new. Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan notoriously conjured up a litany of rap aliases, including Big Baby Jesus and Osirus. Rapper/actor Mos Def recently decided to call himself Yasiin Bey, even though no one else seems to have gotten the memo. But for undisputed hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg, the transformation into Snoop Lion was more than just aesthetic. Snoop’s new reggae persona was born from the genuine inspiration of spending time in Jamaica and getting in touch with his inner Rastafarian.
“It’s not that I want to become Snoop Dogg on a reggae track,” Snoop said during a recent New York press event according to Huffington Post. “I want to bury Snoop Dogg, and become Snoop Lion. I didn’t know that until I went to the temple, where the High Priest asked me what my name was, and I said, ‘Snoop Dogg.’ And he looked me in my eyes and said, ‘No more. You are the light; you are the lion.’ From that moment on, it’s like I had started to understand why I was there.”
To realize his reggae dreams, Snoop connected with globe-trotting DJ and producer Diplo and his Major Lazer project to create the debut Snoop Lion album, Reincarnated, featuring the chill island vibes of first single, “La La La.”
“He wanted to do real reggae,” Diplo said at the press event, calling the album “some of the best” music he’s ever produced. “To sing and find a new voice. It was a dream to work on an entire record [as opposed to a single]. That’s very rare.”
Snoop Lion has already received a heavyweight co-sign from none less than Rohan Marley, the son of music legend Bob Marley.
“Music is universal,” Marley said when asked if he had any doubts about Snoop Lion’s commitment to real reggae sounds. “Jamaica is just a part of music, so we were open to Snoop.”
Get into the island groove of “La La La” below and feel the Rastaman vibrations of Snoop Lion.
–Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local