Snoop Lion (nee Dogg) has always been the type of person to admit that he has lived his life in various different stages and phases, and given the structure of Andy Capper’s “only slightly better than a Behind the Music episode” documentary Reincarnated, it’s nice to hear the words come from the man himself. While telling the historical background of its main subject quite well, Reincarnated ultimately doesn’t answer, or even ask, any of the central questions that come to mind watching it because it’s too focused on chalice puffing and nostalgia.
The film follows Snoop on his journey to Jamaica to become immersed in Rastafari culture and leaving a changed man. His journey was always to create an album free of the references to hustling, pimping, and gang banging that permeated his previous work, but the trip leaves him a relatively changed man despite not really working with true dyed-in-the-wool Rastas on the record (mostly just song writers and Major Lazer).
There are three key elements to Capper’s film, but only one of them works really well. The first and easily the most pleasurable is watching just how much the trip has loosened Snoop up to becoming extremely open about his past. When the film focuses on tracing Snoop’s wild journey from a drug dealing high school footballer to his time at Death Row under Suge Knight, to his attempted murder charges and the loss of two of his closest friends, to working with Master P, to finding solace in the Nation of Islam movement, and finally to being dubbed by Rolling Stone as “the world’s most loveable pimp,” it’s refreshing to watch Snoop get really introspective about the life he’s led. The way the man tells his own story with such little effort and a surprising amount of spryness and energy for someone often seen as being lanky and laconic is something to behold and consistently enthralling.
Where the film really stumbles hard is that Capper is obviously so sycophantic towards his subject that he never asks the most obvious question to arise from Snoop’s own story. There’s no desire to question if Snoop’s enlightenment is just another passing fancy in a life that’s bounced around so wildly. There’s no mention of the period in his life where he was a soccer father that was living clean and had his own E! reality show, because that clearly wouldn’t make him as much a G to a casual audience, but Capper is obviously showing the man’s life, and within that life are a bunch of glaring inconsistencies and shifting whims that can’t be ignored. It might be because Snoop co-produced the film that such a question becomes a thorny subject, but not broaching the topic makes everything feel like a carefully orchestrated hedging of bets. He doesn’t seem all that changed. He still talks reverentially about pimping and dropping b-bombs and n-bombs all the time, so really what is the point to all of this? It’s a question that’s never asked because the film simply bows down and fawns at the feet of the man at the centre of it like he’s never done anything wrong in his life; a point that Snoop himself repeatedly and thankfully refutes on camera, saving this from being an unwatchable slog.
Capper plays the film so straight and sincere to a fault that the film’s journeys to schools for the underprivileged, lower class Kingston neighbourhoods, and its myriad of weed smoking scenes feels like carefully calculated obfuscations rather than genuine gestures. There are touching moments here and there and fleeting moments of realness, but this isn’t a particularly interesting look at one man’s revelations about himself so much as it’s a 93 minute commercial for his new album. It’s easy to understand Snoop’s desire to chill and to not harsh his buzz, but the narrative of people in any given profession stepping away from the top of their game and class to do something they genuinely want to do has been done far better than this promo piece. It’s a film about a man trying to get in touch with his own heart, but without an examination into his own fluctuating sincerity, it all goes up in a cloud of smoke.