Snoop's 12th studio album is a pleasing evocation of sunny roots and dancehall reggae with shades of propulsive electro.
Snoop Lion is having fun in the shadow of a legend
Berhane Sound System / RCA
Religious conversions in music rarely delight the existing fans of the artist in question, but when Bob Dylan embraced Christianity circa 1979's Slow Train Coming and Prince became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001, one sensed they hadn't done so on a whim. As the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg jettisons gangsta trappings and embraces Rastafarianism and reggae that professes a spiritual dimension, it's difficult not to be sceptical about his motivations, however.
That Snoop Lion has claimed he is the reincarnation of Bob Marley hasn't helped. Indeed, Bunny Wailer - Marley's stepbrother and the famed percussionist in Bob Marley and the Wailers - has deemed Snoop's conversion to Rastafarianism "outright fraudulent".
It could be argued, moreover, that all Snoop really has in common with Rastafari and Bob Marley is a proclivity for the ritualised smoking of cannabis. It's a bit like deciding that because you tend to enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you might be the reincarnation of Elvis Presley.
To be fair, Snoop's 12th studio album is more appealing when judged on purely musical terms. Even if they are shoring-up a persona that seems more clever marketing ploy than genuine metamorphosis, the album's producers, spearheaded by Diplo's Major Lazer collective, have dreamt up a pleasing evocation of sunny roots and dancehall reggae with shades of propulsive electro. There's also a lengthy guest list including Drake, Busta Rhymes, Akon and Miley Cyrus. On a reggae album inspired by Jimmy Cliff and Gregory Isaacs, Cyrus seems a particularly improbable accomplice.
Here Comes the King, featuring Angela Hunte, is an obvious standout track, but it is No Guns Allowed, Snoop's duet with his daughter Cori B, that repositions him as an unlikely advocate for tightened firearms laws.
Snoop Dogg was charged with glamourising gang violence from the moment he released his 1993 debut Doggystyle, but Snoop Lion, it seems, is your typically concerned parent.
"For me, the message [of No Guns Allowed] is particularly powerful because I am a father," he wrote in a recent essay for the site The Boombox. Snoop's been a father for almost 20 years, though, so his concerns seem a little tardy.
His honeyed vocals and laid-back delivery are still extremely easy on the ear, but if he wants to be taken seriously as a Rasta and humanitarian, Snoop still has many rivers to cross.
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