Editorial: Has Snoop lost his Dogg, or is he lyin’?

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There’s a new word being bandied about the music industry — and no, it’s not a clever portmanteau for “this industry is dying.”

The word is “reincarnation,” and it’s being applied to veteran hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg, who plans to release an album called Reincarnated accompanied by a documentary of the same name that will screen at September’s Toronto Film Festival. The 40-year-old self-professed pothead has said goodbye to his canine identity and hello to a feline one: Snoop Lion. He’s said it’s the dusk of his rap career and the dawn of a reggae one.

Snoop [Insert Mammal Name Here] has even gone so far as to claim that he’s Bob Marley reincarnated, which has some onlookers sniping that he should go with “Dogg Marley” for a new moniker, while others point out that both men were alive at the same time, making reincarnation, well, technically tricky.

Most bewildering of all is the fact that, in spite of all this talk of reincarnation, the artist formerly known as the Doggfather is still playing rap-inflected shows. Snoop held a press conference on July 31 to detail his rebirth, yet on Aug. 4, he performed a muddled and tardy set at Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal. He sported the classic tri-coloured slouch cap and a rasta-hued t-shirt with his own face on it, but sang mainly songs from his rap catalogue (into a blinged-out microphone, no less). Aside from his new reggae single, “La la la,” fans were hard-pressed to see the transformation he’d so recently touted.

There’s a better name for what Snoop’s going through. It’s called “diversification,” and most financial planners swoon over it. In the music industry, though, diversification can easily reach a point of diminishing returns.

Consider country star Garth Brooks’ stupefying foray into alt-rock. Affable Brooks, who has sold more albums than any other artist in America since 1991 (and that includes the Beatles), released an album as his gaunt, glowering alter-ego Chris Gaines in 1999. He planned to release a film called The Lamb in which he would play Gaines, but fans’ chilly response to Brooks’ alter-ego ensured both the film and the persona were shelved.

It’s not that musicians can’t branch out. Norah Jones moonlights with a country band called The Little Willies and has other fanciful collaborations under ever-changing names like Puss ’n’ Boots and Fangbangers. She even dons elaborate costumes to sing with comedy group White on Rice. The difference is that she doesn’t hold press conferences to declare that she is now, completely and unequivocally, changing her identity to One Long Grain of Rice and swearing off all piano-playing, only to launch into “Come Away with Me” at a show the next day.

It’s difficult enough to hear sycophantic music writers declaring that musicians have “reinvented” themselves with an album that is barely distinguishable from the artist’s last offering. Let’s save “reincarnated” for those who have actually made a physics-defying transformation. And in the meantime, let’s make a betting pool for Snoop’s next iteration. If he keeps moving up the food chain, he’ll eventually have to settle on Snoop Homo Sapien, right?

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