If you haven't heard, now you know: Snoop Dogg is no longer Snoop Dogg, but "Snoop Lion," a moniker given to him by Bunny Wailer, one of the original and last living "Wailers" who helped to put reggae on the musical map. Snoop's latest revolution from gangster rapper to reggae soul artist is beautifully chronicled by Vice films and director Andy Capper's forthcoming (and acclaimed) documentary on the musician, Reincarnated, which opens in NYC this Friday.
There are, of course, the obvious bits: Snoop smoking weed in Jamaica where he recorded his new album with Diplo and Bunny, Snoop smoking weed with the locals, Snoop smoking weed in the jungle, Snoop smoking weed in the studio (you get the point), but there is also a telling narrative that shows just how this industry vet has been able to stay at the top of a treacherous game all these years. The most touching moment of the movie comes with unique and original footage of the late Nate Dogg's funeral, and a reflective journey on a make-shift raft back in Jamaica where Snoop Dogg (or should we say Mr. Lion) thinks back on it all. Ahead, read our exclusive interview with documentary director, Andy Capper, and make sure to check out the flick when it hits Sunshine Cinemas this weekend.
How did the idea for the documentary and your relationship with Snoop come about?
"Snoop was a fan of Vice documentaries like Heavy Metal in Baghdad, The Vice Guide To Liberia, and Mandingo!, so his management company got in touch with us and asked if we wanted to film the making of his new album in Jamaica with Diplo. Suroosh Alvi, Vice's co-founder commissioned me to direct the film."
How much direction did Snoop need in terms of narrative and interviews — was the process collaborative as well?
"The process was very much a collaborative one. I would direct the interviews to make sure that we were covering the important themes of the movie but everything that Snoop says is 100% from his heart."
The film gave a really good look at Snoop's multiple evolution — his motivations, his drive to change. Have you seen his passion for reggae change since the movie wrapped?
"Whenever we meet up there's always some reggae playing. Plus soul, funk, and rap. He likes it all."
Smoking weed is obviously inextricably linked to the film and Snoop's process, but was there ever a time the two conflicted or got in the way?
"Snoop's weed definitely got in the way for me a couple of times. It is the strongest weed I have ever smoked. At one point I found myself in a bathroom, totally unable to work out where or who I was. Was I in Sweden? Germany? I had recently come back from a gnarly trip in Nigeria and I remember thinking to myself: 'I hope I'm not back there again.'"
Photo: Courtesy of Vice
The footage from Nate Dogg's funeral followed by Snoop on the wooden float is by far the most heartwrenching part of the film — talk a bit about how that sequence came to be.
"I knew that the passing of Nate Dogg was a big thing for Snoop and I was warned by his manager to be very careful about how to talk about it with him. It was a very sensitive topic. After a couple of weeks of being with Snoop every day I finally got to talk to him about it and he was very honest about it all. I asked Willie Toledo, Snoop's personal photographer, if he had any footage of the funeral and he said yeah. I was expecting like 20 seconds shot on an iPhone, but Willie had shot two hours with two or three cameras with tracking shots and everything.
I remember being in a hotel room in Austin watching the footage for the first time and being blown away by what I was seeing. I put the track 'Cool Waves' over it as an experiment because I'd used 'Spiritualized' in a film before (Swansea Love Story). It just all clicked. I don't think anybody would have ever put those two artists together before and I'm so happy it worked out. Jason's my favorite white drug-related performer and Snoop's my favourite black drug-related performer so maybe that's why it worked. It still makes me wanna cry every time I watch it. RIP Nate Dogg."
The only time anyone seemed skeptical of the album was Bunny before they collaborated — was that the only time this sentiment was expressed?
"I think there's been a bunch of skepticism around the record, but I'm not keeping track of it. I think the album is great. It's very soulful and honest to what Snoop wanted to do."
There must be some crazy scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor — any you can tell us about specifically?
"Driving eight hours into the jungle to meet remote communities, meeting Muhammad Ali, Puffy, Quincy Jones in Las Vegas, the Long Beach stuff, the five hour Nyabinghi baptism. There's so much extra stuff."
Has there been continued contact with any of the Jamaican locals, artists, or priests since the film was finished? If so, what was their reaction to the doc and what was Snoops'?
"Yes there has. Suroosh has been talking to the Nyabinghis and I think Snoop has bought them a bus and is talking to them about spreading their message wider. Snoop set up Mind Gardens in Kingston, the sustainable fruit and vegetable project that he planned with the Patron tequila guy. I made a video with Popcaan for Dre Skull's label, and of course the 'Lighters Up' video with Mavado and Popcaan."
What projects do you have coming up? "LIL BUB & FRIENDZ: It's the story of the world's cutest internet cat. [I went from] dawgs to cats. The film was actually just accepted to the TriBeCa Film Festival, so everyone should go see it in NYC when it premieres!"
Photo: Courtesy of Vice