Reincarnated – Review

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When news first hit the gossip columns that Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg, had embarked on a journey of self-discovery to Jamaica and returned with the moniker Snoop Lion, I’m pretty confident I wasn’t the only one who found the whole affair quite amusing. In recent years, Snoop has become a bit of a joker of the rap genre. Rather than the drug pushing gangster he was when he first burst on the scene as a fresh faced 18 year old under the tutelage of rap legend Dr Dre, he has grown into the sort of class clown of hip hop. An exponent of fun in the genre, he’s often seen to be lampooning the clichés of the culture with a smile on his face. Whether he’s donned from head to toe in the attire of a pimp looking like a modern day Dolemite, or singing about “Sexual Eruptions” in a 1970s style music video, you can’t help but smile with him. So when popular counter-culture magazine Vice teamed up with Snoop to document his time in Jamaica, it would’ve been fair to expect a bit of a farce. Instead, Snoop and Vice veteran Andy Capper, who takes up the role of director, deliver a sincere and often enlightening film that occasionally offers glimpses of the real Calvin Broadus as opposed to the seasoned showman with the silly stage name.

The film itself follows Snoop through a spiritual journey of self-discovery as he explores the Rastafarian culture of Jamaica whilst recording a reggae album with Major Lazer producer, Diplo. Cutting between three main focuses (recording the album, exploring Jamaica and past reflections), Reincarnated begins with a brief and stylish prologue based around the career of the man, which then quickly leaps straight into the crux of his trip in the guise of a familiar ‘making of’ doc you’d likely find on VH1. We are then privy to a very personal journey around the country where he visits a number of iconic locations and meets the people that inspired his own musical career. From a heartwarming visit to a boys orphanage that culminates in an impromptu jam session, to an eye-opening visit around the Jamaican equivalent of his own drug and violence filled home town, Reincarnated takes you around parts of Jamaica that you won’t see in the tourist brochure. Quite apt coming from Vice, then, but the people Broadus meets and the places he visits are for him and him alone, ultimately contributing to his own metaphorical rebirth as Snoop Lion even if there’s the odd bit of bizarre awkwardness between himself and the locals.

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Flitting between his exploration of the country he feels spiritually linked with and the recording sessions, the films first half is almost entirely themed around marijuana; the drug the country, and Snoop himself, are commonly associated with. Although offering an interesting insight to the making of his maiden reggae album, the access all areas recordings offer little more than a healthy dose of fan service for followers of the one time Death Row Records stars. And while the film is guilty of drifting in and out of self-indulgent forays into weed smoking a little too often, it is most certainly at its best when Snoop Dogg is completely bamboozled on weed. His wrestle with a grapefruit tree is particularly hilarious, but these moments of drug-fuelled intoxication expose Snoop at his most candid. The resulting straight to camera reflections are interesting, intimate and often incredibly poignant. Capper manages to unfurl a number of home truths from Snoop and his honesty is wholly refreshing. Openly admitting to a once indecent and illicit lifestyle, but never really apologising for it, it becomes clear that at 41, the motive for his rebirth is that of finding peace within a career previously littered with violence, debauchery and indecency rather than a public issue of apology for a mischievous life. Rarely admitting regret, or asking for forgiveness, he comes across as an honest man simply reaching a period of transition in his career. Capper therefore manages to craft a film that is very much a personal journey of reflection and enlightenment for the charismatic rapper, rather than the throwaway whimsical documentary it first appears to be. There is the odd instance where the supposed reality does feel like a manufactured catalyst merely to set up proceeding chapters, but the few occasions this does occur only cues up the strongest parts of the documentary. Snoop’s complications with the Death Row camp, where he once feared for his life, and the loss of his dear friend and colleague Nathaniel Hale (aka Nate Dogg), are quite easily the most gripping and emotionally bounding of the film.

Yes there is weed...lots and lots of weed.

Yes there is weed…lots and lots of weed.

At 96 minutes, it is long enough to feel fulfilling for the most ardent of fans but when the vast majority of the film is shot through a blinding haze of weed smoke, it’s hard to ignore the lull of repetition presumably used to pad out the run time. While somewhat essential to illustrate the character of the man, it does become a bit of bore to just see shot after shot of his entourage partaking in the inhalation of doobs, getting baked off their tits and blowing smoke into the lens. Despite this however, Reincarnated still offers a supremely interesting insight into one of the most charismatic artists of this generation. Naturally, fans of the man himself will want to watch Snoop’s journey, and despite it sagging slightly at the half way point, with disjointed darts between past and present, fans of both reggae and hip hop will probably find enough to warrant a watch. There are moments when it’s hard to take everything seriously when it’s all about the weed, but for the most part it does attain a heightened level of substance and honesty that suggests it is more meaningful than the publicity stunt it could easily be accused of being.

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Reincarnated is in cinemas nationwide as of now! 

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