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It’s right there on page 316 of the first edition of William James’ Varities of Religious Experience. James describes the phenomenon of religious conversion in a Rastafarian context — which is particularly astonishing since the Rastafari movement didn’t develop until some twenty-odd years after James died. (See James on reincarnation!)
In any event, as every thinking person now knows, rap pioneer Snoop Dog has announced a “born again” experience that took place during a February visit to Jamaica. He has not only embraced the tenets of Rastafari and given up hip-hop to make family-friendly reggae music, he claims to be Bob Marley reincarnated.
Yes, one’s first thought is that there’s a helluva lot of Snoop Dog merch that’s going to be donated to Salvation Army shelters. Sorta like what happens when sports teams pre-print championship t-shirts before the Super Bowl or World Series Game 7 — and then the team loses.
The second is that, while “Lion” is doubtlessly an allusion to the Lion of Judah symbol of Ethiopian and Rastafarian culture, “Snoop Lion” doesn’t exactly roll rhythmically off the tongue — whether one’s chanting it in a reggae song or a hip-hop verse.
There are plenty of other possibilities for a name-change that are consistent with Jamaican culture. Curried goat and mutton are world-famous cuisines from the island. Why not Snoop Goat? Snoop Mutton? I prefer either to Snoop Lion, but perhaps that’s just me.
Even if he stays Snoop Lion, that’s decidedly better than another famous rapper’s mid-life name change — and, no, I don’t care about Diddy or whatever he calls himself this week. Rather, actual Jamaican native Bushwick Bill of the Geto Boys decided at an interesting point in his career that he would thenceforth be referred to as "Dr. Wolfgang Von Bushwickin the Barbarian Mother Funky Stay High Dollar Billstir." Now, there is nothing in James’ book that expains what if any spiritual event might have led to that decision, but it’s worth noting in any case. It's also hard to get all of that on a t-shirt, too.
Anyway, in the whole spirit of this Snoopish development, I look forward to hearing his first reggae album, which will be released in the fall. There is also a film in the works and — this is real, btw — a coffee table book that will chronicle Snoop’s transformation into the New Marley. It will fit neatly on my own coffee table, right between a first edition of Stan Lee’s Comics Edition of Varieties of Religious Experience and the newly updated Essays and Aphorisms Inspired by Being and Nothingness — by none other than Dr. Wolfgang Von Bushwickin the Barbarian Mother Funky Stay High Dollar Billstir!