Q&A: Snoop Dogg and Diplo on Jamaican Inspiration, Bob Marley's Legacy

'I'm still the same person, but when it comes to reggae music, I engulf the whole spirit of it all'

snoop lion
Rebecca Smeyne
Diplo and Snoop Lion (né Dogg)
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On Monday night, Snoop Lion (né Dogg) and Diplo stood on the roof of Miss Lily's, a piece of Kingston in downtown Manhattan, and officially announced a couple of collaborations together: a new album entitled Reincarnated (Vice Records) and a documentary, both directly inspired by their time in Jamaica. Based on looks and demeanor, the two could be boxed in as Felix and Jack: Diplo, looking nattily tailored in a grey suit, searched for a place to charge his BlackBerry, while Snoop, draped in Kobe's Olympic jersey, puffed on long-rolled joints and hid under a rastacap and shades. After playing a few songs including "Fruit Juice," which earned applause from a room of journalists, their dynamic became clear: Snoop may be driving, but Diplo has his hand on the wheel.

The L.A. City Council just approved a ban on medical marijuana shops. I was just wondering how you're going to treat your glaucoma from now on.
Snoop: Are you serious? They really passed that?

Diplo: My dealer's gonna be really sad.

Snoop: Well, I'm gonna go to Northern California.

Diplo: I think you can still go to Colorado.

Snoop: Northern California's closer.

You announced the project with a trailer that uses a song by the Abyssinians; the first single utilizes one of Diplo's favorite samples, "Artibella" by Ken Boothe. These are sounds from the Sixties and Seventies; how do you make the old sound new again?
Diplo:
You know, when it comes to reggae music, they've been using riddim since the Seventies – like, "Truth and Rights Riddim" – you have that still being used, you still hear that getting played on new records in different riddims. But no one ever used "Artibella" like that; [Boothe] loved the record when we first played it for him. You know, reggae's a really cool genre because it always reinvents itself. Old versions, new versions, taking elements from the rock world, hip-hop world, everything. It's like a sponge. Our record, like all Jamaican music, is a mash of that culture, and you never really hear about making new things again. Reggae's just a fresh sound, you know?

I don't want to put a label on your relationship, but would you say it's complicated? It's serious? It's ... uh, widowed?
Snoop:
[Laughs] Man, we have so much fucking fun, but when it's time to get serious, we get serious.

Diplo: It's all fun and games until about 2:00 a.m., when he smokes enough weed and it's time to record the vocals. [Laughs] Then we're kind of scared of him, and then we get it done. We have those four hours of primetime, and then it's back to fun again. He's fast. It takes like, 20 hours, but those last four, it's fun.

Snoop: My pre-game is like a motherfucker. Gotta get your pre-game, baby!

Rastafarianism is all about positivity. Can you say one nice thing about each other?
Diplo:
He's funny as shit! Working with him is hard, because he's so funny.

Snoop: And I love his ... leadership. The way he organizes and puts together the right team. Like, that means a lot that he cares enough about the project to put the right people on the case. The people who can handle and can take criticism and make it work: bend it, break it, make it fit, and at the end of the day, play team ball.

Diplo: Big shout to Ariel [Rechtshaid], Dre Skull, Angela [Hunte], Jahdan [Blakkamore] and Moon. That's the team. We made this record together. It's like seven of us, and we couldn't have done the record without any one of us. It's like a puzzle, together.

Snoop, if everyone is your nephew, what are your family reunions like?
Snoop: A bunch of old motherfuckers saying, "What's up, Uncle Snoop?"

Back in 2002, 2003, your "izzle"-speak spread beyond the songs and became a sort of cultural touchstone. Do you foresee the same thing happening with Jamaican patois?
Snoop: Oh, most definitely, because I inspire and I influence. It's not by gimmick or intention; it's just feeling, and hopefully my feeling becomes your feeling. It just feels good, and hopefully it'll make you feel good.

Diplo: There's a young artist we worked with in Jamaica named Popcaan; he's on the record. He makes up words that nobody ... he just makes shit up! He's crazy! He's like a young Snoop. We were down there, and – my patois is what it is – but he's on some next-level shit. He was an inspiration to us. Jamaica's like that: always reinventing itself, up to the minute. Like, the slang, you've got to keep up with that shit. And that's what Snoop's always done.

Snoop, I saw a video of you meditating with the Nyabinghi rastas back in February. How much would you say your trip to Jamaica was like George Harrison going to India, or was it closer to Mac and Devin going to high school?
Snoop: I think it was more closer to Malcolm X going to Mecca.

Diplo: Yeah, 'cause that's bigger than all of it.

You're credited with bringing hip-hop to the suburbs. Recently, you've taken to calling yourself "Bob Marley reincarnated." Is this all an effort to win over those last few remaining white kids out there?
Snoop: Crazy as a motherfucker, man! [Laughs] Nah, what it is is trying to bring some love and awareness to some great music that was created, that was made to grow and made to have a life, to have the right attention put on it, so hopefully it'll do what it's supposed to do. People, no matter who they are or what color they're made, this is some great music and it's made for everybody.

Diplo: I think that when Snoop talks about "Bob Marley reincarnated," he's been saying that for years in his lyrics. It's not literal, but I think what he's saying is that Bob Marley's message is so important and what he represented was important. It wasn't about Snoop or the person, it's about the message that Bob Marley has – his family and legacy. He changed the world! I didn't even like Bob Marley's music when I first heard. Like, I had "Legend," but I was like, "Ugh, all the white kids have it in their high school dorms!" Then as I became older and a producer and a music fan, he became my favorite. I got into what he was, and I saw him as a songwriter and as a person who changed the world and changed Jamaica and the worldwide music-scape. I thought, this guy's super-important, and that's what Snoop alludes to with that. It's bigger than all of that: it's about the message and the positivity in the music. [Snoop]'s a big fan of the Marley family and we connected down there with them, and I think that what they represent is bigger than ... anything. Positivity is what we shine through on our album.

Is this just a one-project collaboration, or do you see yourselves working together in the future?
Diplo: Snoop Lion will make 200 records. This is the first one. As long as we're alive, we're going to keep making records that are amazing, because I think people are gonna say this is a gamechanger. I already see, as the producer, people are going to be like, "Damn. He's bringing back the idea of an album." People don't think about that anymore.

And what is the status of Snoop Dogg? Is he coming back?
Snoop: You act like I'm motherfuckin' Batman and Bruce Wayne and shit! You crazy as a motherfucker. I'm still the same person, dog! It's just when I make the music that I make, when it comes to reggae music, I engulf the whole spirit of it all. It's just like when I do rap music or whatever style of music I do, I have to engulf the character I do and bring that to life. The stage that I'm at with it right now, it's just like, the Lion overrules. So it's not like you won't hear me being Snoop Dogg, but this is where I'm at. This is where I feel is best for me right now, best for us, for music in general. It's to project this.

Over the past 20 years, you've built up the Snoop Dogg brand: you've sold millions of records, done a few movies, at least one TV show. When you decided to change your name, just how high were you?
Snoop: [Laughs] Actually, I wasn't high. I was on the ground. [Raps] I was low, to the flo', like Han Solo. You doubt his hand solo, you might not see him hit you!

Diplo: That's the perfect way to end this.

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