Snoop Lion arrives as the alter ego of veteran west coast rapper Snoop Dogg. Switching gears from a comfort zone of gangsta rap, Snoop’s 2013 effort Reincarnated, released via RCA, is a reggae album. Throughout the course of the 12-track set (16 tracks in deluxe form), Snoop Lion sings or pop-raps, never assimilating into his traditional MC flow. Another break with the past comes with Snoop’s eschewal of the infamous parental advisory label. The ‘reincarnated’ artist keeps things relatively clean. While the new Snoop refrains from many of the excesses of his gangsta past, he does, in Jamaican/reggae tradition, continue to assert his love for weed. Look no further than Reincarnated’s smoke-filled cover art.
“Rebel Way” opens Reincarnated with great promise. The production work balances traditional reggae cues while keeping in step with contemporary production work. Snoop Lion delivers his verses soundly enough, though it is the hook that highlights: “You can’t run away, run away / you gotta face this… time is moving fast.” “Here Comes the King” follows capably, featuring vocal assistance from Angela Hunte, who thrills on the hook. Even given the positive message of rising above haters, Snoop’s best line comes way of “Ganja makes me lord of the land.” Closing a solid opening trio, “Lighten Up” features Mavado and Popcaan, both Jamaican musicians. Possessing the total package, “Lighters Up” benefits from superb production and being enjoyable.
“So Long” remains pleasant, if less alluring, adhering to more of a traditional reggae sound. “Get Away” proves even less triumphant, in spite of slick production work. Manic and overambitious, the song is all over the place. Single “No Guns Allowed” atones, featuring Snoop’s daughter Cori B as well as Canadian rapper Drake. Drake delivers one of the best moments: “Bullets do not choose a victim / it is the shooter that picks ‘em / they just can’t wait to get you in the system / the district attorney could use a conviction.” “Fruit Juice” contrasts by going smaller, while the obligatory ode to marijuana arrives via “Smoke the Weed”, featuring Collie Budz. The hook is simple and direct: “Smoke the weed, everyday / don’t smoke the seeds, no way / smoke the weed.” Profound it ain’t, but Snoop also manages to tie in mother nature.
“Tired of Running” is assured, given its cover status (from Akon’s 2006 album Konvicted). From thereon, things take a questionable turn. “The Good Good”, featuring Iza, is merely good enough and nothing more while “Torn Apart”, featuring British pop star Rita Ora, sounds more quirky and unexceptional than valedictory. Worse is the album’s most shocking collaborative effort, “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks” featuring Miley Cyrus. Cyrus’s vocals are incredibly quick, over-processed, and barely decipherable on the hook. While the song has good intentions with its weighty message, it just misses the mark. The deluxe version is four cuts deeper. “La La La”, the best of the bonus quartet, would’ve been at home on the standard edition.
Uneven though sometimes enjoyable, Reincarnated is surprisingly better than expected. That said, the effort still stumbles into the pitfalls of a musician altering his direction and leaving his comfort zone. Snoop Lion pulls off this album off stronger than Lil Wayne did rock (Rebirth), but still, Snoop is best suited spitting over luxurious west-coast beats.
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// Notes from the Road
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