For those of you who don't know me, I have a very bi-polar taste in music. I have days where I can't resist the old-school pop song, I have days where I love to jam to old-school Beatles-esque rock ballads and sometimes I need to switch to the dark side with heavy metal. I treat music the same way I treat movies, I give any type of music a honest shake, and I have found a lot to like from all types. Yes, rap/hip-hop is a favorite genre of music of mine. Particularly the 1980's early 1990's hip-hop scene. The early days of NWA, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G and the like. Its essential to my musical diet, and totally beats any type of hip-hop around today. Many people dismiss this type of music as something negative. And I'll admit, there is a lot of talk of killing police, committing crimes and using women, but if you look deeper than that, these are smart guys with something to say.
Snoop Dogg is among the artists I listed above. He's a rapper I have liked for a very long time now, and he has a new documentary out called "Reincarnated." The documentary tells the story of Snoop's pilgrimage to Jamaica, where he learns much about the reggae culture and plans to become a reggae artist himself.
I know what your thinking, its a pretty shocking description. I know many people who watch rappers try something new and off-the-wall, or take their music in a different direction and they get torn apart for it. Sometimes I agree with the attacks, other times I don't. I will admit that I was ready to write-off this whole movie from the start. I was completely ready to dismiss this as one big publicity stunt. However, I was blindsided by how much "Reincarnated" affected and surprised me in equal measure.
What is fascinating about "Reincarnated" is that it seems Snoop has very clear motives for traveling to Jamaica. The rapper is 40 years old with a family. He's not the same pimp/gangster that he used to be and it seems in his age he wants different things from his career. Not that he writing off what he did in the past..."hip-hop is a form of reggae and reggae is a form of hip-hop" says Snoop. It seems that his career, and the competition, the prestige, the tragic deaths of many of his friends, so on and so for, its all catching up with him. He wants something that is a bit more positive out of his life without washing away everything that made him who he is today. Its a very deep message, something I did not expect to see. This trip is a personal journey of a man trying to find a new part of himself and its bracing.
Not only is the documentary effective as a personal journey, but also as a look at Jamaica. Snoop gets very in-depth with Jamaican customs and culture. This is not a movie that is totally Snoop Dogg all the time and I like that. Snoop takes the time really get to know Jamaica and their culture and history. As Snoop learns more about the country, we as the audience are in Snoop's entourage, and we learn too. Its a tremendous look at a new culture, and it seems like icing on the cake of this documentary.
There are a few problems I have with the movie and they are common in some documentaries. Pacing, pacing, pacing. For a movie that is one hour and thirty-five minutes, it feels longer. There are moments that seem to go nowhere and I definitely got impatient at some moments in the movie. There are just so many scenes of Snoop smoking weed with Jamaicans, sitting in a studio, or talking to Jamaican elders that it eventually seems like overkill. The documentary also features a look into Snoop past and sadly we don't really learn anything new. Everything about Snoop's past career and life can be summed up in any rap magazine he's been interviewed in. There are no new revelations or insight. I don't need every rapper in the business to tell how hard their life was in South Central, or how inspiring and shattering Tupac's murder was. I know all of that was a shock to them in the first place, which led all them to go to a studio and make a record. I just wish we got new insight into these guys, not more of the same.
Those small nitpicks above are minor compared to the rest of the movie, which is truly innovative. I must say that Snoop Dogg (or is it Snoop Lion now?) still has the talent. And his reggae tunes that we hear are pretty awesome, and I look forward to exploring them in his future records.
This has been an outstanding year for documentaries, so I hope you guys are getting out there and checking them out. You can find "Reincarnated" on Netflix. I'll be back tonight with reviews for the OFW and Essentials, still keeping up with the red, white and blue theme of this week so keep an eye out. Tomorrow I will be seeing "Despicable Me 2" at some point, so expect a review of that to come. Right now, I've got a busy Saturday ahead of me, but I will be back tonight.
FINAL GRADE: B