Why Is the Gospel Music Industry Afraid of Snoop Dogg?
He’s been a Dogg, a Lion and to some in the Christian community, a big bad wolf. A wolf in Snoop Dogg‘s clothing…a pied piper, even has encroached the sacred space of gospel music. He has long been an outsider, but no stranger, at all! His mother is a minister and he promised his grandmother that he would make a gospel album which brings us to where we are, today. His album currently sits atop the charts, and almost immediately after its March 16th release, “Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love” shot to the top of the gospel music charts, rivaled only by Jonathan McReynolds’ “Make Room” and rightfully so. The musicality matches a budget that seemingly spared no expense. The rapper’s use of household names in gospel music isn’t what makes the project special, it actually sounds good and is put together well.
After much consideration, I too agree that Snoop Dogg’s entry into the gospel music marketplace, should actually be welcomed. Initially, I too sought to keep Snoop out, but some things deserve more consideration than others. I wasn’t alone in my derision of the rapper and his album and this irrational fear nearly kept me from experiencing a musical marvel and modern-day marketing masterpiece. For starters, as Maeve McDermott of USA Today put it, Snoop Dogg’s role on the album is actually more of “curator” and not necessarily featured artist (alas “Snoop Dogg Presents…”, only guesting on a few of the double cd’s 32 tracks.
Some things only a fool would debate. However, music production, song choice and even song writing are not up for debate on “Snoop Dogg Presents: Bible of Love”. You can debate a number of things pertaining to this project, but those three elements are beyond debate. What is debatable and open to interpretation is Snoop’s cold-turkey conversion. Suffice it to be said that many inside the gospel and secular music industry are skeptical, when considering Snoop Dogg as a believer.
Many who have been in his presence as of late recount a different, calmer side to the rapper whose last album was an effort to “Make America Crip Again”. What are the odds that on the heels of an offering like that, Snoop Dogg has answered the call to make gospel music, without fanfare…without a Lebron James-like announcement that he’s taking his talents to church? It’s not uncommon for country and pop artists to turn to their roots. It regularly happens and Reba McEntire is the latest to enjoy critical acclaim for her religious project, winning Dove and Grammy Awards for her “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope” album. Jazz giant John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” has been known to elicit varying stages of spirituality for listeners and remains an open-ended ode to spirituality in general, though Coltrane only referenced God and not other deities.
In Mark 5:1-20, the bible tells us of a demoniac who was uncontrollable, naked, hurt himself, lived in the graveyard and had to be bound by chains until he met Jesus! As was the case with most people, Jesus changed his life and he was never the same! The bible records that when people saw him- that he was clothed and his right mind, they were afraid (Mark 5:15). Yes, they were afraid, so afraid that they ran Jesus out of town (v17). The man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him to stay and instead go tell everybody what he had done for him (vv19-20).
The former demoniac was on his own to tell everyone not only about his deliverance, but to convince them that it was not fake news! In my opinion, this is where Snoop Dogg finds himself now that his album has been released! While detractors remain, only time will tell exactly what impact this work has had on his life. Some in the Christian community believe and are rejoicing, some are apprehensive with a ‘wait and see’ attitude, and other are still protesting everything about the album and his persona.
It comes as no surprise that some of Snoop ‘s hip hop fans feel betrayed and alienated. They have been as critical as the gospel community, labeling him a sellout, a traitor and much worse. The gospel community isn’t alone in its cynicism, the Rastafarian response to the rapper’s short-lived time as “Snoop Lion” was also hotly derided. Perhaps they are more discerning that Christians, or maybe a confession of Christ is easier than ascribing to the Rasta principles. Rastafarians were much harsher on the rapper and much bolder in their rejection of his Rasta rhymes and reasoning. There was trouble before the album and documentary hit shelves and the screen. Bunny Wailer and even the Ethio-Africa Diaspora Union Millennium Council lobbied some hefty allegations against the rapper who they felt used their religion and lifestyle only for commercial gain.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to hate Snoop Dogg! His 25 plus years in music have endeared him as one you either love or love to hate. Christian rejection to the album has been re-branded as unloving to the unlovable. Snoop Dogg hasn’t done much talking about the album, but did speak about directly to cynics in a recorded clip during this year’s Stellar Gospel Music Awards saying: “…if you finding (sic) somebody trying to find their way back home, the natural thing to do is to be welcoming, open your arms and say brother we accept you for who you are…” In the same clip, Snoop speaks directly to the critics and cynics showing that the conversion may not have been as sudden as we assumed! That’s the beauty of following Christ; we are all a work in progress (Philippians 1:6), it’s the touch of the Master’s hand however that makes the ultimate difference!
Snoop Dogg as a Christian is a frightful idea. I think many fear for Snoop, who will be forced to leave behind gangsta-rap, marijuana and pornography enterprises and think this turn toward a pure life will be short lived. Some fear that this may only a pit stop and that Snoop Dogg’s success will prop the door open for other ‘one and done’ gospel experiments. It’s my opinion that the fear goes deeper than that: many are hoping against the success of the album out of fear that in some weird way that he will be successful in his efforts to open the door to those the church has been patently unsuccessful reaching.
The bible makes clear what we are to do with fear…love! “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18)
Love is powerful…the Apostle Paul said that love “seeketh not her own” (I Corinthians 13:5) meaning that love doesn’t seek to have its own way. In this context, this means that churches, gospel music artists and fans can’t clamor for the expansion of the Kingdom to be only one-sided, achieved by one method or one group. For those “Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love” will send to church and to other gospel music artists and their ministries, shouldn’t we be ready to with open arms, embrace them and lead them to Christ, the greatest love of all?