Periodically, pop stars need to have creative religious makeovers. The Beatles became involved with transcendental meditation, Bob Dylan became a born-again Christian and Madonna embraced Kabbalah. And last year, rap star Snoop Dogg took a trip to Jamaica to record a reggae album, adopt the Rastafarian faith and rename himself Snoop Lion.
That journey is the subject of the casually entertaining documentary Reincarnated. Co-produced by Snoop, the film is too slapdash and self-serving to take seriously (it’s release is timed to the precede the same-named album’s release next month), but it’s a casually entertaining trip, aimed at fans of the charismatic rapper and his recreational substance of choice. There are enough blunts, spliffs, bowls, sacks and fields of primo ganja on display here to induce a sustained visual contact high.
Director Andy Capper, the global editor of VICE magazine, follows Snoop into the studio where he works with the boyish producer Diplo (M.I.A., Usher, Beyonce) on reggae-inflected songs to be included on his album. Otherwise, we see Snoop smoking with everyone from Bunny Wailer to young men in a Kingston slum. The star and his crew also take a jaunt to a mountainside pot field, and stop by reggae’s birthplace in Kingston: There’s a visit to Bob Marley’s Trench Town and to the Alpha Boys School, where the Doggfather offers an improvised rap and fist-bumps with the wide-eyed students, and charms the nuns who teach them.
Later, in a ceremony at the Nyabinghi Temple, Snoop smokes some more and gets baptized as Berhane, which means “shining light.” The decision to choose “Snoop Lion” instead of the more accurate “Snoop Berhane” seems commercially astute.
The film’s second half turns introspective as the rapper hears of the death of a friend (rapper Nate Dogg died of a stroke). Snoop reminisces about growing up without a father in a violent community in Long Beach, California, and offers a conciliatory summation of his gangsta rap career, including his complex relationships with Death Row Records founder Suge Knight and his murdered label-mate, Tupac Shakur.
An interview with the controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan testifies to Snoop’s transformation from womanizing gangsta rapper to a respectful husband and loving father. If that sounds slightly promotional , rest assured that Snoop remains much more of a roll model more than a role model to his legions of young male fans.
“I’m wiser, or a bit wiser. Like Budweiser,” says Snoop, with a distinct emphasis on the word “bud.”