Beliefs Culture

Why did Snoop Dogg change his name when he became a Rasta?

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(RNS) Back in in 1993, Snoop Dogg scored a huge hit with the hip-hop anthem “What’s My Name?” Announcing his conversion to Rastafarianism on Monday, the rapper unveiled a new answer to that lyrical question.

“I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion,” he said at a press conference

So, did the onetime gangsta rapper have to drop the “d-o-double-g” when he became a Rasta? Yes, and no, said Ennis Edmonds, a scholar at Kenyon College and an expert on Rastafarianism. 

The religious movement doesn’t require converts to change their names. But the faith was born in Jamaica, where calling someone a dog is deeply insulting, Edmonds said.

“Rastas would probably see calling yourself a dog as an indication of lack of self-knowledge,” Edmonds said.

Snoop Dogg performas at Coachella 2012 on Sunday, April 22.

Snoop Dogg performas at Coachella 2012 on Sunday, April 22.

It expressed how the corrupt world — Babylon, in Rasta theology — had distorted the rapper's true spiritual nature.

Little surprise, then, that a Rasta priest in Jamaica shook his head and said “no more” when the man born as Calvin Broadus introduced himself as Snoop Dogg. 

The priest, a member of the most traditional branch of Rastafarianism, Nyabingi, rechristened the rapper Snoop Lion. The new documentary, “Reincarnated,” captures the rapper's conversion in Jamaica last February. 

Unlike dogs, lions hold a place of pride in Rasta theology, explained Edmonds, author of a forthcoming history of the religious movement.

Rastafarianism holds that the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was not only the messiah, he also descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. According to the biblical Book of 1 Kings, the two rulers met briefly and seemed to hit it off.

The lion was the symbol of Solomon’s Tribe of Judah (Christians see Jesus as the lion of Judah). Bob Marley, the reggae star and most famous Rasta, sang often of the “lion of Zion,” referring to Selassie.

Speaking of Marley, Snoop Lion also said that he considers himself a reincarnation of the late musician. Edmonds said that some Rasta theology bears the influence of Hinduism, in which reincarnation is a core belief.

Judging from his lengthy arrest record for marijuana possession, it seems Snoop Lion is already acquainted with a chief Rasta sacrament. Smoking weed, or ganja, as many Jamaicans call it, creates peaceful feelings and communal harmony, Rastas believe.

It’s also an aide to introspection. Just as Buddhists sit in meditation to uncover their “Buddha nature” and Hindus seek to unite their soul with Brahman, Rastas believe a divine essence sits at the core of every human being.

“Marijuana helps them break through the mental boundaries that Babylon has placed upon them and return to their sense of self,” Edmonds said.

Or, as Snoop Lion said on Monday, “I feel like I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open.”


About the author

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke worked for Religion News Service from 2006-2013. He now co-edits CNN's Belief Blog.


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  • “Speaking of Marley, Snoop Lion also said that he considers himself a reincarnation of the late musician.”

    Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, died 1981
    Calvin Cordozar “Snoop Dogg/Lion” Broadus, Jr., born 1971

    I don’t think reincarnation works retroactively, at least not in most religions that preach it … If Rastafarianism does see it happening that way, that is worth an article all by itself.

    Maybe he was speaking figuratively.

  • Reincarnation, in many Eastern traditions, does not have to work in quite the linear way that you present, clasqm.

    Note, for instance, that the Dalai Lama is already said to be looking for his reincarnation, in part to prevent China from doing it for him.

    Buddhists have described reincarnation as a candle lighting another candle. I suspect that Rastas likewise might say that Marley’s flame lit Snoop’s soul before he died.

    Thanks for reading and writing,

  • I think you are misinterpreting recent reports about the DL, Daniel. He is organizing his next rebirth in classic Tibetan tulku fashion, even to the point of deciding whether to reincarnate as an idetifiable DL at all. A shrewd move: if he declares the Dalai Lame line will end with him, no Chinese candidate would ever be accepted. There is no suggestion that he next DL might already have been born.

    Buddhist philosophy is rather strict on temporal sequencing, otherwise karma would make little sense. If you could receive the outcomes from karmic acts you hadn’t even committed yet, you might as well give up

    .In fact, I recently published a short story suggesting a way that reincarnation might work backwards as well as forwards, but I would hardly call it orthodox reincarnation theory.

    But back to the point: you may be right. Perhaps that is what the Rastas would say. As I said, speaking figuratively. It would be better, though if instead of us debating the issue, if we could get an official Rasta POV (I am not a Rasta, and from your phrasing, I take it you are not either).

    I know, Rastas don’t really do official. And they are not likely to say that their new celebrity convert made a little error 🙂 But it is an interesting question.

  • Thanks again, Clasqm. Indeed I’m thinking about a follow up story for which I would seek an official Rasta POV.

    To the Dalai Lama point, I was referring specifically to reports like this, which leave little doubt that, though it is unorthodox, HHDL has thought about choosing his reincarnation before his death.

    “The Dalai Lama has openly speculated about his next life, his reincarnation, musing that he might upend historical and cultural practice and choose his reincarnation before his death, the better to safeguard his exiled people.”

    From here: