Snoop Dogg’s ‘Bible Of Love’ Is His Latest Testament To Everlasting Life In Rap
Snoop Dogg’s foray into the world of gospel with Bible Of Love is just his latest evolution in a long line of charismatic + captivating changes in sound.
Snoop Dogg has lived more lives than Tekashi 6ix9ine has tattoos. The 46-year-old rapper and entrepreneur recently released his Bible Of Love album, a turn to Jesus that no one saw coming — but couldn’t have been too shocking. Just how did the ever-evolving Snoop grow from a gangsta rapper who was too shy to look at the camera in early interviews, to one of the most well-known rappers in the world, to the owner of Billboard’s current no. 1 gospel album?
Phonte pegged him just about perfectly when he compared Snoop to Law and Order in 2013, tweeting that the rap icon has the “same formula for over 20 years, but it’s a show where your whole family knows at least one episode by heart.” From “Gin ‘N Juice” to “Beautiful” to “Sensual Seduction,” Snoop has a classic song in the catalog for seemingly every hip-hop generation though he hasn’t exactly employed the same formula.
Sure, Snoop’s raps have tended to bleed into each other throughout the years, but he’s not always rapping. He’s similar to Kanye [West], in that they both envelop their personal idiosyncrasies into a variant range of sonic approaches. Snoop is as musically ambitious as it gets, but he doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves for it.
He went from albums featuring Kurupt, Daz, Nate Dogg, and other rappers trying to out “b*tch!” each other, to his most recent project where he collaborates with Patti Labelle, Fred Hammond, and other gospel music heavyweights. In between, he’s explored reggae on Reincarnated, autotune on “Sensual Seduction,” funk on his Bush and 7 Days of Funk projects, and even dropped a Christmas album ‘cause why not?
Throughout it all, he’s never been braggadocious. These days it feels like some artist’s entire marketing scheme is “I’m an artist’s artist who makes art,” but Snoop has never been pretentious or even forward about the variety in his music. And he doesn’t merely appropriate sounds, he does every musical scene justice and on each project reaps co-signs and collaborations from music heavyweights. Snoop engulfs himself into their culture — but never enough to lose himself.
The three million first-week streams of Bible Of Love — a straight-up g’d-up-styled gospel record — opened new eyes to talented gospel artists like Tye Tribbett and The Zion Messengers. He collaborated with Stones Throw artist-producer Dam-Funk for his 7 Days of Funk project. He went all the way into Rastafarianism for his Reincarnated documentary. When then-Snoop Lion got into a conflict with Reincarnated co-star Bunny Wailer, he didn’t take the opportunity for publicity-stirring “beef,” he told Rolling Stone (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/q-a-snoop-lion-strikes-back-at-reincarnated-collaborator-bunny-wailer-20130424), “If I’m gonna be Rasta incorporated, loving energy is the only way I can match his negative energy.” Though, to keep it funky, he also noted, “I’m still a gangsta.”
It seems like even before then, Snoop was a beacon of positive energy. Maybe the joy of overcoming the odds of your treacherous Crack Era surroundings will do that for you. Or perhaps it was being so close to being convicted of murder. Or, maybe it was being one of the last men standing from hip-hop’s darkest chapter: the so-called East Coast-West Coast beef.
Snoop was discovered by the infamous Death Row Records in 1992, which vaulted him to stardom. In less than five years, Dr. Dre, his musical mentor, fled the label, lead artist Tupac [Shakur] was murdered, and Suge Knight was in jail. It was then that Snoop made a fateful decision to get away from the drama in L.A., and move to Louisiana to sign with Master P’s No Limit Records. He was one of the first non-Southern acts to embrace the rap scene in the South, which was a harbinger of his willingness to try new styles that would shape the rest of his extensive, evolutionary career.
Not only did he learn a new musical approach, he credits Master P with teaching him how to take advantage of his visibility and become more business-oriented. “Master P was a real n***a to put his loving arms around me, and show me the business,” he recalled on an episode of his online talk show GGN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rtg3JQJ2Fdk). From that point on, he wasn’t just on MTV. He was on the big screen as an actor. He was on E! showing off his life as a father and husband. He’s on TBS as a game show host, and Netflix as a football coach. And now he’s on VH1 with Martha Stewart — which, when he debuted in 1992, seemed as unlikely as the current odds of Chief Keef doing a show with Rachel Ray in 2035.
Whereas similarly longstanding rap icon Jay-Z occasionally gripes about his fan’s expectations of him as he grows, Snoop Dogg has constantly pivoted from venture to venture without much backlash. His constant metamorphoses seemingly defy convention in the fickle rap game, and young artists would be wise to follow his moves.
From hip-hop to funk to reggae to gospel, Snoop’s catalog showcases multifarious influences that was only hinted at on his debut album Doggystyle. Hip-hop critics contend that he’s never topped that project, but perhaps that’s because he was too busy experimenting with other musical genres — and getting them right. But it’s not just the music.
From his laid back demeanor to his hilarious online presence, Snoop come across as one of your uncles at a family gathering. It’s hard not to like him. It’s not just about likability though. Consistently “staying in the mix” within hip-hop culture is key, as he’s noted. Instead of “beefing” with the new generation like some of his fellow veterans, he uplifts young artists by jumping on their songs and commending them for “making the game more interesting.”
He’s never seemed unsure of who he is, and that allows us to embrace him being himself in whatever role he plays, from comic foil to co-chef of Martha Stewart to gospel music curator.
Hip-hop is currently the most influential musical genre in the world, but it still feels like too few of its progenitors and pioneers are receiving a fair share of the reported $10 billion in annual revenue. Snoop Dogg is one artist who’s laid an impeccable blueprint for what can happen when a person capitalizes on opportunities and isn’t afraid to grow into their potential — especially when they have the personality and musical prowess that Snoop carries. As he recently told former NFL star and podcaster Arian Foster, his stature in hip-hop wasn’t given, he “deserves it” based on his continued growth, faith in his ability to redefine himself and his legendary music catalog.
Andre Gee is a New York-based freelance writer with work at Uproxx Music, Impose Magazine, and Cypher League. Feel free to follow his obvious Twitter musings that seemed brilliant at the moment @andrejgee.