The widely publicised re-branding of one of Hip Hop’s most iconic figures, Snoop Doggy Dogg (a.k.a “The Doggfather”) was the hot topic at Sziget Festival in Budapest, where the rapper-cum-reggae artist was scheduled to headline the event as it reached its climax and I was fortunate enough to be there.
Would Snoop stay loyal to the game and spit verses from his early 90s classics or would he use this opportunity to share the products of his pilgrimage and subsequent epiphany on the island on Jamaica? This was the question on mine and everybody’s lips as the DJ playfully teased the audience with a West Coast medley from across the ages.
Would he use this opportunity to share the products of his pilgrimage and subsequent epiphany on the island on Jamaica?
As it happened, he had found something of a safe haven at Sziget, which has traditionally been known as a Rock Festival, keeping him at a safe distance from the watchful eye of Hip Hop and Reggae aficionados alike. Whilst many have questioned his integrity as a rapper and accused him of pulling a cheap publicity stunt by suddenly subscribing to the teachings of Rastafari, this audience was not quite so discerning.
Despite publicly renouncing his “gangster ways” a few weeks previously, the opening 20 minutes of Snoop’s set did not spring any surprises. Those who had been expecting melodious Reggae ballads in the mould of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs et al were disappointed as Snoop bounded onto the stage and kicked off with punchy renditions of ‘Gin and Juice’ and ‘Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang’.
This was coupled with the appearance of a man in a full dog costume with “Nasty Dogg” inscribed on his back who proceeded to deliver a 3 foot novelty spliff to Snoop and unleash an even longer prosthetic penis on the rapper’s command. One thing’s for sure: this would not have sat well with the Niyabingi and Rastafari patriarchs who Snoop claims were the inspiration behind his “Reincarnation”.
It was clear from the outset, however, that the rapper’s heart was not in it. Even though this performance had all the hallmarks of the Snoop Dogg of old, his enthusiasm for the lyrics and the beats had clearly evaporated and he was visibly itching to try his new material on the expectant audience. Having appeased the crowds with these chart-topping tracks, Snoop saw an opportunity to test the water with the first example of his new brand of reggae. An introduction or explanation for the change was deemed unnecessary as he veered seamlessly into the only reggae song which he has released to date, namely “La La La” (a collaboration with super producer Major Lazer).
Having appeased the crowds with these chart-topping tracks, Snoop saw an opportunity to test the water with the first example of his new brand of reggae
Despite the apparent lack of any lyrical complexity, this went down a treat with the audience, who clearly appreciated the novelty of the situation and felt privileged to be playing a part in such a notorious transformation. It was beginning to dawn on people that the concept of a hybrid set composed of hip-hop and reggae was not such a bad idea after all, since the two genres are far from mutually exclusive. Both had their roots in similar parts of the world and, at least in Snoop’s case, are heavily focussed on the consumption of copious amounts of Marijuana.
Snoop has both adopted and coined a series of terms associated largely with his music (G, fly and bumpin’ being obvious examples) so he shouldn’t have any trouble investing his lyrics with heavy doses of Jamaican patois.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this hybrid set was the ease with which Snoop slipped from one genre into another. If anything, this brought home a reality of live Hip Hop at such events; that the emphasis lies mainly on the instrumentals as opposed to any particular lyrical content.
The singer plays second fiddle to the DJ and thus the switch from lyrics advocating promiscuity and excessive inebriation to ones promoting peace and harmony was less pronounced than you would expect. The song which immediately followed this burst of reggae (“Young, Wild and Free” by Wiz Khalifa) could be conceived as an attempt at compromise between the two genres, highlighting the common ground which Snoop was seeking to exploit.
If anything, this brought home a reality of live Hip Hop at such events; that the emphasis lies mainly on the instrumentals as opposed to any particular lyrical content
There was a general sense of admiration amongst those I spoke to for Snoop’s reluctance to pander to the contemporary taste for mindless, auto tuned dance tracks and whatever you may think of his motivations behind the transformation, there was no doubting that many of the ideas contained in this set were highly innovative. To cap it all off, Snoop blew caution to the wind with his final track and almost as a statement of intent, performed a highly convincing cover of “Jamming” by Bob Marley. Publicity stunt or not, Snoop’s commitment to his reincarnation is undeniable, at least on the evidence of Sziget.
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