Street Sounds: Snoop Lion reaches a new high

Rapper Snoop Dogg has changed his already changed name to Snoop Lion, and shifted his musical focus from hip hop to reggae.

Never one to stand still for long, rapper Snoop Dogg has changed his already changed name to Snoop Lion, and shifted his musical focus from hip hop to reggae.

Album number 12, Reincarnated, bears meaty-beaty witness to Snoop’s enlightening trip to Jamaica, and brings his rap-friendly thump to some righteous skanking.

In keeping with Snoop’s rap/hip hop roots the sound of Reincarnated packs a blunt low end that’s generous with electronic embellishment. The thump is well contained though, and enhances Snoop’s easy embrace of scratch rhythm and message rhymes.

It takes a few tracks into the album before the Rasta influence makes a strong appearance, and then it piles on with intent.

Lighters Up is another definition of blunt, with a plodding low-end riff that sonically squishes a horn double-up riff behind a hopeful gang-truce rap. So Long is a happier sound with a sunny duet between Snoop and Angele Hunte – a straight-up jam between horns, keys, and choppy guitar, and a convincing rock-reggae hybrid.

The hip hop roots are always lurking alongside the island beats, and the two merge on the club-heavy Get Away, with Snoop intoning over the flash and deep beats; the mix is fine-tuned in for big-ass speakers, courtesy of producer Diplo.

There’s a cast of featured guests: Rita Ora shines on the frenetic Torn Apart, but Miley Cyrus adds a no-vibe pop sheen to Ashtrays and HeartbreaksNo Guns Allowed is the serious song on the album, and is the most evocative, with an anti-violence rap by Drake fronting a pensive ska arrangement.

But this being a Snoop (Dogg) Lion album, humour and high spirits will appear. His cartoonish persona shines through on the soon-to-be definitive reggae/rap mix-up Smoke the Weed. So simple and effective, it advises: “Smoke the weed (everyday), Don’t smoke the seed (no way).”

Ha – right on!

In the end , this album’s not a big departure for Snoop. There’s grooves, bumps, killa rhymes, and messages of anti violence and urban unification.

And there’s  weed, lots of weed.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a Vernon-based musician and freelance writer who reviews new releases for The Morning Star.