Verbally astute and always entertaining, Snoop Dogg shared his new, more spiritual perspective on life and music at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, ahead of the premiere of his documentary film Reincarnated.
A project of Vice Films, Reincarnated captures Snoop's month-long sojourn to Jamaica in early 2012 to infuse himself in the homeland of reggae and Rastafarian culture, as inspiration for his first reggae album (expected to be released later this year).
The hip hop icon revealed his transformation earlier this summer when he announced the new musical persona tied to his forthcoming reggae endeavours: Snoop Lion. In Reincarnated, it's reggae pioneer Bunny Wailer who's among the first to use the new moniker.
"They just crowned me the lion, because it's Rastafari. It's associated with reggae music. It was given to me, it wasn't that I chose it," Snoop told reporters gathered for a press conference Friday afternoon.
"It's a natural transformation, from the dog to the lion. It's not anything but the transformation and the growth of an artist, a person and a man."
'Emotional roller coaster'
Snoop described his time in Jamaica — surrounded by close family members, a creative team hand-picked by hit producer Diplo and the documentary-makers — as "an emotional roller coaster."
Reincarnated shows the artist soaking up wisdom from figures like Wailer, Bob Marley's youngest son Damian, as well as local reggae musicians, while also finding inspiration in all manner of places — from a jungle mountainside to a renown music school for troubled boys to historically key, but impoverished, neighbourhoods.
'People got to the point where they were forgetting what Snoop had been through, as an artist and as a person ... I wanted to remind them.'—Director Andy Capper
"I wanted to just figure out how could I get into the minds, bodies and souls of the people of Jamaica. Not steal their culture and take their music and run off with it, but go be a part of what they're going through and understand their struggle," Snoop said.
The film also ventures back into the performer's difficult background, from his days as a young gang member through his rise in hip hop and run-ins with the police.
Reincarnated director Andy Capper delves into how several major deaths — especially that of childhood friend and longtime collaborator Nate Dogg — deeply affected Snoop and set him on his current path. The segment about Nate's 2011 death is a portion of the doc the artist admits he still can't watch.
"People got to the point where they were forgetting what Snoop had been through, as an artist and as a person," Capper said. "I wanted to remind them."
Both Snoop and the filmmakers described his current transition as an organic progression and move towards maturing, both musically and as a man.
Still, at a time where musicians take on and shed personas like stage costumes, critics have met the metamorphosis with skepticism. Some have even blasted him as an outsider expropriating Jamaican culture.
"I don't believe you have to address [criticism] as long as your actions show it's real," Snoop said.
"For those who feel like it's not real or it's not authentic, that is what it is," he continued. "You can have your own opinions. I'm just doing me. I can't do you. I can't make you like what I like."
Spiritual awakening aside, however, the hip-hop star still remains devoted to fans of his rap oeuvre. He acknowledges that while he's moving towards making music about love, peace and struggle rather than dwelling on the gangster or pimp life, he still remains true to himself.
"I'll always continue playing [past hits]," he said.
"I'm still Snoop Dogg. This is me right now. I'm Snoop motherf--king Dogg 'til I die, but when I'm making my reggae music, I'm in the light of Snoop Lion. You have to respect both worlds. There's a softer, more gentle, peaceful side in the Lion, but if you disrespect me ... you will get the motherf--king Dogg."
TIFF continues through Sept. 16.