On Wednesday morning, the artist also known as Snoop Dogg unveiled the newest work under his reggae pseudonym, Snoop Lion. The rapper from Long Beach announced last year that he’d decided on both a new name and style of music he’d be making for the foreseeable future, and was working on a documentary, "Reincarnated," about his shift toward righteous reggae positivity. Snoop Lion started wearing Jamaica’s national colors of yellow, red and green -- and started referring to his herb of choice as "ganja" instead of "chronic."
Called “No Guns Allowed,” the new track -- the fourth to be teased from the album -- is a righteous sermon of Rastafarian-inspired messaging from one of the godfathers of gangsta rap. Like his already released tracks “La La La” and “Here Comes the King,” the song was produced by Major Lazer, the production team headed by producer Diplo. And like those two tracks, the new single illustrates why Bunny Wailer, a founding member of Bob Marley’s original vocal group, is understandably wary of Snoop’s move into reggae.
"The Rastafarian doctrine is not something that someone can act, pretend or seem to be," Wailer told the Jamaica Observer last week. "It is one that exists through His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I and who Rastas see as the substance of their existence... It's not something you can play with.”
“No Guns Allowed” offers further evidence that Snoop's dabbling in a style more than he is on a quest for the Ark of the Covenant. Although he doesn’t overuse the ridiculous faux-patois that he did on “La La La,” the rapper sounds like he’s internalized about as much of reggae’s message as your average Marley-loving frat guy. While the message may be positive, his take is almost as ill-advised as Sandi Shaw’s jaw-dropping performance in 1972 on British television.
Major Lazer's riddims aren't the problem; Diplo knows his reggae and dub, and has the excellent reggae and dancehall mixtapes to prove it. The beat on "No Guns Allowed" isn't devastatingly great, but it's good enough support.
Still, those looking to spend a buck on a new song would be better served adding a classic to the mix, and keeping Snoop Lion's "No Guns Allowed" as a YouTube freebie.
As a way to wash away the failure, below are five lesser-known classic (non-Bob Marley) roots reggae jams.
The Congos, "Open Up the Gate"
This Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced gem features the classic Congos trio going deep into the roots of Old Testament texts to celebrate Rastafarianism in its most spiritual form.
Burning Spear, "Marcus Garvey" and "Garvey's Ghost (dub)"
The entirety of Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey" and its full-length dub "remix" album are essential, but the title track, which celebrates the legendary Jamaican civil rights activist and political leader, is especially transcendent.
Niney the Observer, "Blood & Fire"
Fire and brimstone are ubiquitous symbols in classic Rasta-inspired reggae; the end is always nigh, and Niney the Observer captures the horror of the final days in "Blood & Fire."
Angela Prince, "No Bother With No Fuss"
Roots reggae was unfortunately male-dominated, though artists including Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, Hortense Ellis, Marcia Griffiths and Dawn Penn put out essential singles. The lesser-known Angela Price's "I Don't Want to Feel Ashamed" is a righteous ode to courage.
U-Roy, "Stop That Train"
No explanation required.
Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit
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