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Snoop Lion, ‘Reincarnated’ (Berhane Sound System/Mad Decent/Vice/RCA)

Snoop Lion / Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
SPIN Rating: 4 of 10
Release Date: April 22, 2013
Label: Berhane Sound System/Mad Decent/Vice/RCA

A pimp can have a midlife crisis too, you know. And yet, while Calvin Broadus may be married happily with three kids, he’s already led the louche life that balding exurban plodders only flail toward from the wrong side of 40. So like many a spent celebrity before him, Snoop Dogg has sought solace in exotic spirituality — not Kabbalah or Scientology, of course, but the one that lets you smoke a lot of weed.

And thus the Rastafari convert returns from Jamaica rechristened Snoop Lion, bearing a Diplo-helmed reggae disc and claiming to be literally Bob Marley reborn. The man whose lightweight charm once effortlessly rendered adorable the reprehensible (gang-banging, Girls Gone Wild, Wiz Khalifa) now implores us to stop the violence, alternately calls for unity and revolution, and augments his THC intake with “Fruit Juice” (“Number one / You know me can’t lose”).

Snoop’s sing-song flow might seem ideal for pop-reggae, but he disappears into the background of his own album. On “No Guns Allowed,” for instance, his daughter coos the chorus, Diplo samples Beirut, Stewart Copeland drums, and Drake drops the album’s most genuinely heartfelt rhyme. Snoop? He’s in there someplace, waving his arms thoughtfully. The rapper has never neared the gravitas of the beloved beagle whose name he jacked, so while he’s renounced slackness, he can’t tap into the moralistic faith in a vengeful Jah that’s the cornerstone of his new religion (pronounced “ree-lee-zhon” here, in that “fake patois” Das Racist once mocked). He doesn’t want to lead us into Zion; he just wants to smoke out Babylon.

The bulk of these beats are credited, in part, to Major Lazer, and with onetime partner Switch long gone, that means it’s essentially Diplo and his hired hands. “Sell-out” is such an unfashionable term, and Diplo is nothing if not fashionable, so let’s just call a hack a hack, and acknowledge that for all his tricky sonic nuances — the busy horn figures on “Torn Apart,” the crossfaded vocal effects on “Get Away” — dude’s knack is for popularizing the far-flung and unfamiliar, not re-branding a known quantity. A track is not a song, and catchy as these tracks can be, few are sticky icky icky.

Snoop expresses his intent baldly at the album’s start: “I wanna be loved while I’m here.” But he clearly doesn’t grasp how loved he already is, or why. For two decades, he’s helped kids feel that a quick toke after class and a quick poke before mom gets home are both a little naughty and no big deal. So, Reincarnated‘s highlight is “Ashtrays and Heartbreaks,” with, yes, Miley Cyrus, still in her first flush of post-teen stonerdom, sounding every bit like the sort of suburban teen was led not-quite-astray by Snoop’s previous incarnation. Yet, it may just make you feel sad for the minors of the future to whose delinquency Snoop will have nothing to contribute.