The Lion Smokes Tonight

The artist formerly known as D-O-double-G has unveiled a new persona that’s all about getting in touch with his inner Rasta-mon, mon. Becoming Snoop Lion, it turns out, didn’t require much of a transformation. As Drew Magary discovered, all it took was some fresh island beats, an enlightening journey to Jamaica, and pounds and pounds of weed:

"You always think 21 is your number in the hood, you know? Twenty-one. I’ve doubled up. As you become a man, you start having kids and living. You put the guns away, and your music becomes Hey, I’m with my kid and I’m living now… as opposed to Fuck that—I’ll shoot you on sight."

In recent years, Snoop has come to believe that his old music was a self-fulfilling prophecy, an ill omen. “If I focus on death,” he tells me, “it’s going to come closer than what it’s supposed to be. You’ll become it. I’ll say it to my friends: Write songs about being shot at and then the shit happens. And I don’t want to dwell on it long, but I wrote a song called ‘Murder Was the Case,’ and I never had a murder case in my life. But when that song came out, I had a real murder case.” (As it happens, Snoop’s life-imitates-rap time line is a bit fuzzy. He was charged with murder in August 1993 after his bodyguard shot a man named Phillip Woldermarian; both men were later acquitted. “Murder Was the Case” was recorded afterward and came out in 1994.)

The Snoop Lion thing is about exploring a more positive sound, one he never could have attempted when he was hanging around gang members and in and out of jail on minor drug-related sentences back in the early 1990s. Instead of writing songs about smoking weed and killing people, the newer, more mature Snoop is all about smoking weed and then smoking, like, more weed.

Like most rappers, Snoop is a master raconteur, the world’s mellowest loudmouth, and many of the questions I ask him over lunch spark long and fantastic stories about wild nights back in the day. Like the time in 1992 when he was marooned outside a hot downtown L.A. nightclub, trying in vain to get inside. “And motherfucking ‘Deep Cover’ “—Snoop’s first hit—”was playing louder than a motherfucker in there: boom, boom, boom. And there was a nigga in the club, and he told security, ‘Nigga, you don’t know who that is?’ Security said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Nigga, that’s the nigga who’s singing on that song right there!’ Yeah. And guess what, kid? I didn’t get in!”