"Smoke the Weed" for the Planet: Snoop Lion's Green Reincarnation of Hip Hop
Keywords:Performativity, Gangsta rap, Reggae, Sincerity, Authenticity
While early hip hop could still offer social commentary, global issues began to disappear from the genre by the late 90s and early 2000s. Due to gangsta rap’s emphasis on authenticity and on the individual’s ‘realness,’ issues of social and environmental justice seem to have become increasingly inaccessible to rap music: any attempts to address wider, ‘real’ issues, if they were to happen, took the risk of appearing not ‘real’ but inauthentic, cynical capitalizations on social issues at best. This paper seeks to outline how Snoop Lion’s Reincarnated (2013) and in particular its eighth track “Smoke the Weed” employs the imagery of Reggae and Rastafarianism to reconstitute, transform, or “reincarnate” hip hop and thereby once again open it up to social and environmental commentary. While at first sight it is merely another glorification of recreational marihuana use in line with Snoop Dogg’s earlier, pre-Lion oeuvre, “Smoke the Weed” offers a highly complex critique of the environment and humans’ place and agency within it. “Smoke the Weed” can be seen to discuss, primarily through the metaphors of seeds, plant-growth, and marihuana use, the interconnection between (the necessity for) social action and (the necessity for) environmental action. Snoop harnesses the performativity of gangsta rap to offer a sincere, if never really ‘authentic,’ vision of green street consciousness. Through his clear lack of ‘realness’ as a Reggae artist, Snoop Lion can mobilize ‘naturalness’ for hip hop.
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