The marijuana smoke-filled opening of Reincarnated, the documentary chronicling the personal and spiritual evolution of rapper and one-time gangbanger Snoop Dogg to reggae artist and Rasta Snoop Lion quickly cuts to shots of a bonfire and singing.
The context isn’t revealed until near the end of the film, which screened Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival.
As Snoop’s journey to find out the source, struggle and meaning behind the peaceable Rastafari ideological movement unfolds, the fire scene reappears as part of a holy groundation ceremony at the Nyabinghi Centre in Jamaica. It’s a significant moment: Snoop, who is given the name “Berhane” (which means light) during the baptism, has been embraced by true Rastas. “I feel love right now,” says Snoop, beaming.
In the film, Snoop’s daughter Cori B says her father comes home happier, smiling and singing Jamaican music. His forthcoming album, Reincarnated, made in Jamaica with executive producer Diplo and various producers and co-writers, is expletive-and-negativity free, something he could perform at an invitation to the White House. That wasn’t always, or ever, the case before.
The making of the reggae recording in Jamaica is the main reason Snoopadelic Films teamed with Vice Films for this documentary, directed by Andy Capper, but the context that led them to this surprising place in Snoop’s 40-year-old life is provided throughout the film. They hammer home the fact that Snoop grew up in Long Beach, CA, surrounded by violence, and the idea that this peace and love vibe was not in the cards, at least not musically.
“That was my first calling, out of the gangbanging and into the rap,” Snoop says of that early stage of his life, which was reflected in his violent and misogynist lyrics.
Reincarnated reminds its audience of everything Snoop – born Calvin Broadus, Jr., and known earlier in his career as Snoop Doggy Dogg – has been through: acquitted of a murder charge; a record deal with Suge Knight’s Death Row; losing his friend 2Pac to an unsolved murder; the recent death of his best mate, rapper Nate Dogg, who died of a stroke last March.
“That’s what forced me to find a new path,” Snoop says in the film, referring to Nate’s passing. A significant portion of Reincarnated is dedicated to the funeral service and procession.
But as he heads to LAX, bound for for Jamaica, Snoop plans to leave America for a month and “come back a whole new man.” And he does.
The new path is shown gradually as Snoop and his entourage – as well as his family, wife Shante Broadus, and Cori B – head out on little adventures and fact-finding missions about the Rastafari movement and culture. From picking fresh herb deep in the Blue Mountain Range and visiting Trenchtown, the birthplace of the late Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer – who now, at 65, shares his wisdom with the rapper and and calls him “Snoop Lion” – to partaking in many “reasoning” ceremonies, where Rastas hang out and smoke cannabis, Snoop’s reincarnation unfolds. And in the end, he finally realizes a mission Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave him 11 years ago: “To be an advocate for peace,” Snoop Lion says.
(content courtesy of rollingstone.com/Bliss; image courtesy of newswetv.com)