Published Mar 14, 2013Given the collective eye-roll that met Snoop Dogg's announced musical foray into the reggae world as Snoop Lion last year, it's hard to imagine many giving a film capturing that transformation more than a moment's attention.
Frankly, there's a strong desire to simply dismiss Reincarnated — a documentary look at all that went into the recording of Snoop's upcoming album of the same name — as an indulgence in a gimmick few ever really bought into. Fortunately, the film doesn't exactly play out that way.
Sure, there are many moments — some cringe-worthy — of the rap legend revealing himself as knowing next to nothing about the Jamaican (and, more specifically, Rastafarian) culture he appears determined to embrace, as he puts on his "Jafakin'" accent and dismayingly jumps from one blunted moment to the next. But it's the long swathes of running time dedicated to the Long Beach native's winding backstory of a childhood-criminal-turned-22-year-rap-veteran and a lengthy journey of personal growth that provide the film's most compelling moments.
Reincarnated begins rather predictably, in a thick cloud of weed smoke, with Snoop (real name Calvin Broadus) in the midst of a Nayahbinghi baptism ritual revisited at the end of his quest. Within a short time, we're presented with the rapper's plainly surface-level desire to "understand reggae, Rastafarianism, everything," and the Diplo-led cast of players brought together for the month-long Jamaican jaunt to make Broadus's debut reggae record happen.
That album, as Snoop proclaims, was a chance for a man who's played both gangsta and pimp extensively to actually say something for a change, a point he makes to sceptical reggae legend Bunny Wailer, before (of course) asking to smoke with him. In fact, there are very few moments throughout the film in which you don't see the lanky rapper with a blunt in his hand, and it's scenes like these, or those of him being lead by local Rastas into the Blue Mountain hills in search of herb, his completely blazed "cousin" Daz in tow, that make his mission difficult to respect.
It also doesn't help that, despite Snoop's desire to apprise himself of the ways and wisdoms of Rastafarianism, apart from ganja smoking and the simplistic calling for peace and love presented on film, little about the religion is ever exposed.
But while the birth of Snoop Lion results in many of the film's weaknesses, nearly all of those are outshone by the way in which Broadus articulately recounts his tale. Carrying his story from misguided youth, through his tumultuous years with Death Row Records, a new life at No Limit and fresh beginnings alongside Dre on Chronic 2001, you soon realize that the film's running theme of spiritualization began years ago in the life of this now married father of three.
Reincarnated is as much about a man who long ago separated himself from the violence that killed Tupac Shakur and threatened his own life, and who today has set down the pimp hat and re-affirmed his love for his family as it is about some fanciful conversion to Rastafarianism.
Against an inspiring and curiosity-stoking backdrop of Jamaica's land, culture and history, Snoop and director Andy Capper manage to create a documentary that could have easily fallen flat, but survives due in large part to the unshakable personality of its indelible protagonist. (Vice)