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.
As Snoop's journey to discover 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, which premiered on Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Snoop's daughter Cori B says her father comes home from his trip 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 the White House. That wasn't always the case.
"It's not that I don't want to do it anymore; I just didn't want to do it on this particular record," Snoop explained of his once-frequent profanity at the TIFF press conference for Reincarnated. "That was the language that hip-hop communicates, but reggae music can articulate with different language, which is the language of love, struggle and peace at the same time."
The recording of the reggae album in Jamaica is the main reason Snoopadelic Films teamed with Vice Films for this documentary, directed by Andy Capper. However, the film also gives plenty of context for this surprising shift in 40-year-old Snoop's career; the filmmakers hammer home the fact that Snoop grew up in Long Beach, California, surrounded by violence. "That was my first calling, out of the gangbanging and into the rap," Snoop says in the film.
Reincarnated reminds its audience of all the turmoil that Snoop – born Calvin Broadus, Jr., and known earlier in his career as Snoop Doggy Dogg – has been through during his chart-topping career: his tenure with Suge Knight's Death Row label in the early Nineties; his acquittal on a murder charge in 1996; the loss of his friend 2Pac to an unsolved murder that same year; and the recent death of his best mate, rapper Nate Dogg, who died of a stroke last March. A significant portion of Reincarnated is dedicated to the funeral service and procession.
"That's the part of the movie that I don't ever watch ‘cause I'm still touched by it; I'm still hurt by it. When you lose somebody that close, it's never a reality,” Snoop said at TIFF. In the film, he cites his friend's death as the reason he wanted to find a new path; as he heads to Los Angeles Airport, bound for Jamaica, Snoop explains his plan to leave America for a month and "come back a whole new man." And he does.
The transition is shown gradually as Snoop and his entourage – along with 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, a place of significance for the late Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer – the latter of whom, 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 rebirth unfolds. In the end, Snoop Lion finally realizes a mission that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave him 11 years ago: "To be an advocate for peace."
Reincarnated does not have an official release date yet.