For over 20 years (and counting) Snoop Dogg has made a career by mixing a melodic drawl with his more aggressive, punctuated bars. It’s been a career that’s seen peaks both during and after his Death Row years as well as the valleys of at least one No Limit album some would just as soon forget. Both on and off the mic, Snoop has constantly reinvented himself—even at his worst when he’s opting to only rhyme basic phonetic vowel patterns. His latest album, Reincarnated, showcases him melding the theology of a spiritual reawakening in Jamaica with an associated interest in Reggae music. The drawback is that Snoop’s most powerful asset—his voice—is misappropriated. He alternates between being a bit player on some of his own tracks (“Get Away”) or venturing outside of his vocal range with a forced Caribbean patois.
Like any quality Reggae offering, Reincarnated is both catchy and uplifting when it’s firing on all cylinders. “No Guns Allowed” is an excellent casting of Drake, allowing him to showcase the trademark vulnerability he’s alternately praised and derided for via a personal anecdote about violence in his native Toronto. And after the recent bombings in Boston, Snoop’s decision to address mass violence hits epescially close to home. Similarly, “Tired Of Running” strikes the perfect balance between vintage Snoop Dogg and the new Snoop Lion. Snoop shows an accountability we’ve rarely seen from him (or few other Top 40 emcees) when he sings, “I’m sittin’ on my porch watchin’ the law / As they roll pass in they patrol car / So tell me why I feel like the enemy / They supposed to be here protecting me / I might have went too far / Helping to contribute to making their job hard / Servin’ fiends like these people ain’t no kin to me / I can’t believe I’m out here killin’ my community…”
Ultimately, that’s the dilemma with Reincarnated. We’ve seen Snoop pensive and reflective—best executed on some of Blue Carpet Treatment’s standout cuts. And “Beautiful” allowed Snoop to showcase his chops over Caribbean-flavored Neptunes production. Yet the decision to half sing and half rap yields a surplus of tracks that are mediocre (“Rebel Way,” “So Long,” and “Smoke The Weed,”) or just downright unlistenable. For example, “Fruit Juice” has Snoop essentially droning on about—you guessed it—juice. It’s diffucult to understand the utility or motivation behind him singing, “Natural vibes are what I give ‘em / Me princess love it when me ride ‘pon de riddim / Natural berries are so very good for the system / Some tart some sweet, me just can’t resist ‘em…”
The road to discounted and discarded albums is paved with good intentions. Listeners fortunate enough to get the complete Reincarnated experience saw both Snoop’s moving documentary and got a brief taste of the music as well. Sadly, the album in and of itself doesn’t offer that similar window into Snoop’s evolution. Snoop Dogg (or Lion) has transcended Hip Hop and possibly music in general. He’s courting some listeners who had either yet to be born or were too young to remember exactly what he’s being reincarnated from. For a bit of perspective, his “Ashtrays & Heartbreaks” collaborator Miley Cyrus was about three-years-old during Hip Hop’s East Coast versus West Coast feud, Snoop’s Source Awards rant or his 1993 acquittal on charges to commit assault in connection with the death of Philip Woldemariam. Most of those events are a distant memory to listeners old enough to be active participants in Hip Hop culture when they actually happened. Maybe that speaks more to the continual evolution of Snoop Dogg than any possible music project. His immersion in Rastafarianism has produced a middling album, at best. But given his talents and charisma, it’s easy to see him eventually successfully merging his spirituality with the business of making music.