What’s My Name? Chatting to “Snoop Lion” at Sziget

“Heavens to Betsy!” exclaims Snoop Dogg as he stumbles into the brightly-lit press room backstage at Sziget festival in Budapest, Hungary. The rap legend was still on a metaphorical high after finishing a headlining set which included classics like “Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang” and “Gin & Juice”, as well as more recent tracks such as his Wiz Khalifa collaboration “Young, Wild & Free” and a mumbled version of his Katy Perry hook-up “California Gurls”. Despite his much discussed rebranding as “Snoop Lion” he performed wearing shades bearing the name “Snoop Dogg” and played just one reggae track, “La La La”, the first single from his forthcoming album Reincarnated. Settling down and sparking up, Snoop opened up about the influence of Bob Marley, collaborating with Diplo and the secret of his longevity.

Snoop Dogg on…

The reaction to changing his name to “Snoop Lion”…
“I’m gonna always be Snoop Dogg, because that’s who I am. Snoop Lion is for when I’m making reggae music and is a progression of Snoop Dogg. I do believe that any time you’re doing what I’m doing, you have to have progression and growth. I feel like my fans have grown with me and understand what I’m going through. They don’t get mad when I make decisions to change, to add on or to enlighten. I believe they know who I am as a person because I’ve been so personal with them since day one. They never react with surprise, but with excitement.”

The legend of Bob Marley
“The reason Bob Marley is such a heavy influence is that I feel like we have the same spirit and way of life. His kids are like my brothers. It’s like we all grew up together. That reassures me that I’m a part of the seed that he planted. When he started making music and putting out songs it reached all the way to me during my upbringing. Even now, 20 years later, it’s still influencing me. I feel like I have to make a reggae album. I feel like I have to go through what I’m going through because I’ve done so much in the rap world, in terms of changing the rap game and elevating it. Now this other genre is calling me because it needs a spotlight. It needs to be talked about and it needs to be glamourised.

Converting to Rastafarianism
“The thing about the spirit is that when it calls you, its not that you have to wake up and put a plan together about what you’re going to do or who you’re going to be. The spirit is who I was anyway. The spirit was in my way of life and my liberty. It was always me anyway, it was just a matter of me waking up to that. I found out about my origins and learning about it made me change my lifestyle a little.”

The best advice he got from the Rastafarian priests
“Just to be strong. Rastafari has always been under scrutiny and it’s always been criticised. It’s always been an ‘outcast’, so to speak. When I embrace it I have to take on all that: those years of struggle and Rastafari not being respected. They’ve been held as villains and bad guys. I have to put a whole new look, feel and style on it because its grown to a point where its reached me. I know I have a lot of influence and a lot of people following me. I’m not trying to convert nobody, I’m just trying to live a righteous life. Hopefully if I put a clean glass next to a dirty glass, and I drink from the clean glass… you know the rest.”

Working with Diplo
“Diplo, or Major Lazer, has been heavy in the reggae scene for years. They’ve brought some old school cats back to life and given them the chance to sing again and do their thing. They’ve put a lot of attention on reggae music and Jamaica. They have a foot in the streets and understood what I was looking for. As producers, I felt that they would put the right team around me to project the sound that I was looking for. I wasn’t looking to make a Snoop Dogg album and then make it sound reggae. I was looking to make a reggae record with no Snoop Dogg, no rapping, just straight reggae. Putting the right team together was important, and I felt that a strong producer like Diplo would be able to give me the world. It turns out awesome. I can’t wait to play it for everyone.”

His connection to his fans
“One thing about my music, I love to keep it up close and personal. I love to be up close and personal with the people who follow me. Giving interviews means a lot. Sometimes record labels say not to but personally I love to do it because that way you get the story directly from me. Whenever I’m in Europe, or in other parts of the world where people don’t get the chance to see me all the time, I like to make it special. I want it to be an experience that they’re going to be talking about for years and years. I want them to feel like it’s their show. It’s not me coming to town and stealing, it’s me coming to town and leaving a piece of me behind.”

Originally published by British GQ.