EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview originally ran during the Toronto International Film Festival. "Reincarnated" opens in theaters in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, and Austin today.
An unlikely presence at this year's Toronto International Film Festival was the man formerly known as Snoop Dogg (and Snoop Doggy Dogg before that), Snoop Lion. Snoop was at the festival with a film that explains the rather epic story behind that name change, "Reincarnated."
Directed by Vice Magazine global editor Andy Capper, the film depicts the professional and spiritual upheaval that Snoop experienced during a trip to Jamaica in which he would abandon his career as a hip hop artist and record his first reggae album. During his time in Jamaica, Snoop spent time with reggae legend Bunny Wailer. After sharing some smoke with Wailer in his home, Wailer enthuiastically dubbed Snoop "a lion!" And thus, Snoop Lion was born.
But "Reincarnated" isn't just about Snoop's new name. It's about the legacy of Rastafari music culture. It's about a man leaving behind a career for a new one. And, more than anything, it's about a spiritual reawakening. Unlike many other musical artists who have switched around their monikers (Puff Daddy/Diddy/P. Diddy/Sean Combs, for example), there's clearly a substantial sincerity behind Snoop's decision, which the film makes clear.
Ahead of its premiere this past weekend, Snoop sat down with Indiewire on the roof of TIFF's Bell Lightbox to talk about his journey and why he chose to share it with audiences through "Reincarnated."
Congratulations on the film, and the remarkable professional and spiritual journey it depicts you going through. Do you want to talk a bit about the Reincarnated Project as a whole?
This project is the journey of a man who has done it all in the music field that he was born and raised in -- which was hip-hop -- and making the transformation into reggae music. It's about being able to capture it, the whole journey and the experience and the transformation at the same time. Just being able to do it, but do it with love and in the spirit of great music and harmony. Being able to show you rather than tell you.
What made you want to film that experience? It's a pretty intimate portrait. Did you feel vulnerable putting yourself out there like that?
One thing about Snoop Dogg is that he's always been up close and personal. I've always been able to allow the fans to be a part of my journey and my life. Because they made me who I am. So I felt like when I was doing this project I would have to open up and let the world see exactly what it was, to judge it for themselves. Because a lot of the time if I just do it and present it, you won't understand it. But this time, by allowing you to be there with me, you can have some sort of understanding about the why and how.
What made you decide to trust Andy Capper and the folks at Vice to take this on?
We chose the company Vice because they were edgy and knew how to push the envelope. Once we hired Vice, we knew that they were going to make the right decisions for us, like who the director and crew would be. And once we had a chance to meet with them and talk it out before we started filming, we got an understanding about what we were going to do and what we were not going to do. It was a beautiful relationship that shows at the end of the day with the product.
What's it been like being here at the film festival? This must be a new experience for you.
Man, so far, so good. I don't know what to expect. I don't have have any expectations. I'm happy they opened the door for somebody like me. I didn't think I was good enough for film festivals like this here but I guess the game is changed.
Have you seen the film already?
The first time I saw it was maybe like three months ago.
Will you watch it at the premiere here with an audience?
I don't know if I am tonight. I think they want me to but I don't know. I don't know if I'm good at that. If I do watch it with an audience, I don't think they're gonna know I'm in there. I might just slide in 10 minutes after it comes on. That way nobody sees me. You know what I'm saying?
Totally. And I was curious about how the reggae community has reacted to your move from hip hop into reggae music. Have you experience any resistance from them?
Not at all. It's all in good spirit. It's all the spirit of love, peace and struggle. The reggae community knows who Snoop Dogg is. And I don't have to fake anything. This is something that's a natural, real calling. It's true. It's original and it's authentic. The people from that community know and understand who I am. They see the transformation and they know when the spirit of Rastafari calls, you must answer it.
Do you want to talk a bit about the Mind Gardens program, which is another element of the Reincarnated Project that helps plant self-sustainable gardens in Jamaica?
We came up with an idea to give back to the community and to show them how to reproduce and grow products. Sell it and make money off of it and give back to the kids and the people that really need it. As opposed to just coming through and taking and taking and taking, we want to come back and give. If we show them how to build, 50 to 100 years from now they'll have a resource to help them eat and take care of themselves.
That's great. And hopefully inspires similar projects. And on another note, hopefully your entire journey inspires others to make changes they want.
There's nothing wrong with being free. You know, I had a song called "Young, Wild and Free." And sometimes in life you must be young, wild and free, and be able to understand when something calls on you that makes you personify who you are. The spirit of reggae music and Rastafari called me. So I was forced to go to Jamaica, do a record, shoot a movie, do a photo album book, come back and plant and show the people how to grow. That was just the calling. That's just what it is. So when you find that out in your life... What your calling is... Stick to the script. Do it and be the greatest at it.
Listen to full audio from this interview here.