A New Documentary Captures the Metamorphosis of a Hip-Hop Superstar into a Reggae Master
Snoop Dogg is reborn as Snoop Lion in this exclusive excerpt from the new documentary Reincarnated, set for limited release in US theaters today. The hip-hop megastar spent much of 2012 in reggae’s spiritual home of Jamaica, accompanied by a diverse entourage of global heavyweights such as Diplo’s Major Lazer, Usher and Theophilus London collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid, and Kingston’s Grammy-winning Supa Dups. The result is a bass-heavy album due out next month that shares its title with this release from Vice and Snoopadelic Films. For the Long Beach, California-born star, the trip was as much a quest to learn the teachings of Rastafari and renew himself in the sun as it was to record under the guise of his reggae-infused alter ego. Along the way, the intrepid rapper met his hero Bunny Wailer, caught up with his friend and son-of-Bob Damien Marley, and was given his new name by a High Priest in a Rastafarian temple. “Being in Jamaica with Snoop for three-and-a-half weeks was a dream gig,” says the film’s director and Vice Global Editor Andy Capper. “February was a great time of year to film in this beautiful place, when everywhere else has disgusting weather—you just want to run around and shoot as much as you can.”
Is the Snoop Lion persona a rejection of Snoop’s past violent image?
Andy Capper: He's still hand in hand with gangsta rap but this is his attempt to do something positive for his kids and family. Singing songs that aren’t about shooting and saying “fuck the police.” The album is straight positivity.
The film shows crowds surrounding him in the areas of Jamaica he visited. Did people recognize him wherever he went?
AC: Yeah—his management company worked out that his global recognizability rating as a black man is higher than Obama’s. He is one of the most famous people in the world. You kind of forget that when you hang out with him just doing stuff. When you go into a public scenario you realize who you’re with.
Do you think he will keep going in this reggae vein?
AC: It depends on how people react to it. It's a risky thing to do—it’s not a banker. He’s going out on a limb. Snoop Dogg is always going to be there. Snoop Lion is just his new thing, but the motivation behind the change and the record is for real.
Director Jamie Caliri Conjures Up an Animation for the Indie Rockers
Three sinister gentlemen, a magician and an enormous rabbit populate the fantastical landscape of Emmy-winning director Jamie Caliri’s video for “The Rifle’s Spiral,” a new track by Portland-based indie rock heavyweights The Shins. Sketching the short’s narrative from any lyrics that grabbed his attention, Caliri had free rein to let his imagination run wild, resulting in a surreal stop-motion animation. “I have always loved Edward Gorey’s illustration work and his influence is apparent throughout the video,” says Caliri. “Also, seeing Martin Scorsese’s Hugo three times subconsciously veered my thoughts onto the magic theme.” Founded in 1996 by singer-songwriter James Mercer, The Shins played Coachella Festival last weekend as part of a US tour in support of their grandiose fourth album, Port of Morrow. Featuring guest appearances from Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer and Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss, Port of Morrow took five years in the making after Mercer put the group on hiatus to become a father. Enthusing about the current renaissance in music videos after also making a 3D version of the film exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, Caliri observes: “It's now more like the years before MTV, when music videos did not have a formula. You can be expressive and idiosyncratic.”
Benjamin Millepied Hails the Dancer’s Mastery in Part Two of Our Jookin’ Double Bill
French ballet dancer and Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied captures the freeform movement of rising dance star Lil Buck in his new short. Set to an electric guitar rendition of Bach’s 1741 “Aria” from the Goldberg Variations, performed by Millepied’s brother Laurent, the film showcases the richness of Jookin’ as a dance form and Buck’s ability to navigate different melodies and rhythms. While shooting another film together, Bacchanale, the classically trained Millepied invited Buck to collaborate on the unscripted piece, shot over an afternoon and evening against the backdrop of downtown Los Angeles. Millepied played “Aria” to Buck in the car on the way to the location, before allowing the Memphis native the freedom to simply improvise on the street. “He knew the mood, and improvised in a naturalistic manner,” says Millepied, who has previously worked with the likes of David Lang, Nico Muhly, Thierry Escaich and Philip Glass. Leading his own dance troupe called the New Styles Krew, Buck sprang to fame through a series of viral videos to perform with Madonna at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show and feature on her new MDNA tour. “Lil Buck's dancing embraces all styles. He does steps that can be baroque, Indian or Russian, without ever having been exposed to those styles. There's a complete physical freedom in his body,” says Millepied. “Buck makes me want to dance. He opens doors to my imagination.” Here the rubber-limbed Buck shares his discovery of carpet-gliding moves and the rib-tickling joys of touring with Madonna.
How did you first get into ballet?
A hip-hop choreographer who was teaching me introduced me to ballet. She saw some of my movements as being similar to ballet and got me a scholarship to train in it. I was always an open-minded kid when it came to dance. I saw something that I thought could help me out in my own dance style.
What was your first experience of Jookin’?
There was a guy named Harlan Bobo who I saw at a place called the Crystal Palace Skating Rink in Memphis. He was gliding across the carpet like Michael Jackson, but better. Everyone was looking at him in amazement and I'd never seen anything like it. It was the first time I had ever come across it. From then on I knew that that was what I had to do, I was about 12 years old.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Back in Memphis it really was about the other dancers. Jookin’ was the only dance style that we had that was original. It was started there and it was our own. So we just learned from watching each other, I learned from the other people we saw. Watching my fellow Jookers, my peers and learning from the original people.
Do you preconceive what you're going to do or is it improvised?
It is genuinely spontaneous. I like to act in the moment, that is kind of how my life is. Quite often I am dancing to something I have only heard once and I just let myself go. I'm quite an experimental dancer, so if my body feels like a project is a good one, I go with it.
What have you learned from working with Madonna?
Never stop being humble and never forget where you came from. And love your fans, because they are the people that have put you where you are. We talk a lot actually, we all go out with her on day trips, kind of like her entourage going out to museums with her. She is quite a joker as well, she cracks a lot of jokes and keeps you smiling. She gives you a lot of energy. It really is a lot of fun being on tour with Madonna.
See part one of our Lil Buck double bill, directed by Jacob Sutton, here.