Jamming, by Sarah Brinks
Reincarnated is a well put together documentary that is pleasantly entertaining.
It chronicles Snoop Dogg’s journey to write and record his new album Reincarnated. He challenged himself to make a reggae album instead of a hip-hop album. As part of this journey he took a one month trip to Jamaica in order to understand Rastafarian culture and reggae music better. On this journey her meets reggae legends, Jamaican locals, and smokes an impressive amount of marijuana. The film explores Snoop Dogg’s personal history and musical history and how events in both his personal life and musical career have affected him as a man and a musician. The film also explores the history of hip-hop in the 1990’s, the East Coast/West Coast rap feud, and also the history of reggae. I will have to beg a little patience in this review. My understanding of hip-hop in the ‘90’s is coming from pop culture, MTV News Breaks, Wikipedia, and now this film. As a white Mid-Western suburbanite in the 90’s I was partial to West Coast rap particularly Dr Dre and Tupac. I knew who Snoop Dogg was and that he had excellent advice such as; when the pimps are in the crib to drop it like it’s hot.
After watching Reincarnated I have a much better idea about who Snoop Dogg is and about his music. The whole reason for the trip and the documentary is for Snoop Dogg and his team to write and record a reggae inspired album. Snoop Dogg goes to Jamaica to learn the “truth”, he wants to use his music to enlighten and say something that he was wasn’t able to with rap. The music you hear them recording throughout the film is really great. There are some beautiful lyrics and music, all with a message of positivity and hope. There are also some silly songs like one about fruit juice. Snoop Dogg meets some young Jamaican rappers in a particularly tough and poor neighborhood who he brings into the studio to record with because he is so moved by their lyrics and rap skills. Some of the best moments in the film are when Snoop Dogg or other people are moved to rap spontaneously. Snoop Dogg goes to visit a home for wayward boys and drops in on the music program. Band practice is going on and Snoop Dogg is listening as the band plays, the conductor breaks out into a spontaneous rap and passes it to Snoop Dogg. It is a real pleasure to watch Snoop Dogg just flow and have fun while the band supports him.
Snoop Dogg talks openly throughout the film about his past both good and bad. He was in a gang and was making some dangerous choices before he became a rapper. When Suge Night signed him to Death Row Records he broke off from the gang and joined a different world of success and violence. There are moments of real honesty in the film when Snoop Dogg discusses loosing Tupac during a drive by shooting. Also during the making of the film Snoop Dogg’s cousin’s nephew dies. This inspires a lengthy look back at the effect of Snoop Dogg’s life-long friend and fellow rapper Nate Doggs’ death. Snoop Dogg talks about running with gang, selling cocaine, and being a real-life pimp. Some aspects you feel that he truly regrets like the shootings and the gang violence, but others like being a pimp he still sees as a status symbol and seems to be proud of.
A lot of the film is shots of Snoop Dogg and his associates smoking marijuana. It appears that his cousin Daz’s job in his entourage is simply to roll joints and smoke with Snoop Dogg. In one segment of the film Daz rolls a large joint and then proceeds to broil it in the oven to get the outside hard so it smokes better. He gives tips to the camera about the best techniques for broiling a joint (turn it like a sausage for even heat application). It’s almost like a segment from a cooking show. This is just one of the many absurd moments in the film. As someone completely removed from the hip-hop community and life-style I could not help but laugh out loud at some of the things they said and did. One scene that happens right after a long reflection on the loss of Nate Dogg is Snoop Dogg floating down a river on a small raft singing “Here comes the king”. He then tosses a joint in the river as a way of “pouring one out for his lost homies”. There are times in the film where you have to wonder how much money he spends on weed alone. There are scenes especially when he is with a large group of Rastafarian’s when you can only wonder about the smell between the copious amount of marijuana being smoked and the volume of unwashed dreadlocks.
The balance between the real and the absurd keep this film entertaining the whole way through. The movie is full of great music both new and old, reggae and rap. Jamaica and its people are beautifully shot without shying away from the obvious poverty. It is clearly a community rich in faith, music, and family. It is easy to see why Snoop Dogg went there for inspiration. It is also an in depth examination of Snoop Dogg; the rapper, the celebrity, the gang-banger, and the family man. I went in thinking this film would have little to offer someone like me but I was wrong. It is worth watching this movie just for the great music and the beauty of the setting but there is much more to stay watching for.