A Snoop by Any Other Name Would Sound as Swizzle

Is he a devil-may-care, cannabis-loving celeb or a whip-smart PR pro donning a laid-back mask?
Is he a devil-may-care, cannabis-loving celeb or a whip-smart PR pro donning a laid-back mask?
Photo by Uncle Snoop's Army
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We live in uncertain times. But through all the ups and downs, one man has remained reliable, if only in his inconsistency. That man is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., better known as Snoop Dogg.

Deliciously chill, Snoop answers to no one and nothing. His is a brand that has left a timeless legacy, defying shifts in popular music and aging generations. Loved by fans for being refreshingly devil-may-care, Snoop is someone who says what he wants and gives zero thought to consequence.

He's young (if only at heart), wild, and free. His laid-back persona has made the rap superstar a success for decades — and its evolution, silly as it might seem, proves Snoop is a savvy, spotlight-seeking businessman. 

It all began with a name. Remember when IHOP was rebranded to "IHOb" and everyone freaked out? Snoop Dogg pulled a similar stunt in 2012. After a trip to Jamaica, the 40-something returned to the States revitalized, a newly established Rastafarian who announced to the world he was reborn. Fourteen years into his career, the star officially changed his name to "Snoop Lion." His album Reincarnation dropped months later, a tribute to the rapper's newfound fixation with reggae and all things Bob Marley.

But "IHOb" and "Snoop Lion" met similar fates: They didn't stick.

IHOP ultimately came clean about its promotional gimmick to launch the company into the burger business. Snoop, on the other hand, did not. For him, aliases are like new pairs of shoes — something to slip into, get comfortable with, and admire for a minute before they're discarded in favor of something flashier and trendier.

The rap mogul's attempts at rebranding go way back. Before "Snoop Dogg," there was "Snoop Doggy Dogg" — the artist's first stage name and the brand associated with his debut album, 1993's Doggystyle. In 1996, there was "Tha Doggfather," a moniker and self-titled album tying into the hype surrounding his murder trial and eventual acquittal. "Doggfather" was retired when the performer returned to a version of his roots.

"Snoop Dogg" was the only name that stuck. Ironically, this was the only brand change he was forced to make because of contractual obligations. Still, it wasn't an instant seal of success. Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told — his first album under the pseudonym — was released in 1998 to poor critical reviews. As a result, the man, the myth, and the legend did the unthinkable: Leaving his new label in 2002, Snoop renounced his past, quit smoking weed (for a minute), and rebranded again and again. From his early-2000s-era "responsible" alter ego, Big Snoop Dogg, to his producing byname, Niggarachi, in 2009, no sobriquet was immune from what could be heralded as "The Many Phases of Snoop."

But these were technically just nicknames; the artist was still formally known as "Snoop Dogg" from 1998 to 2012, when he became "Lion." But like the others, "Lion" didn't last. In conjunction with an upcoming funk project, the entertainer unveiled he no longer wanted to be known as the king of the animal kingdom. "Snoop Lion" was laid to rest, and a new byline took its place: "Snoopzilla." The album 7 Days of Funk followed, making zero references to the enormous Japanese monster (a small blessing). At this stage, fans began to wonder: Who was this rakish, ganja-loving rap idol, really? Was he a dog, a lion, or a distant cousin of a dinosaur? Emotions, accompanied by confusion, ran high among his followers.

Two years, one documentary, and one album later, the performer did a 180 and returned to his original alias. Like the phoenix rebirthed in the flames of underperforming albums and confounded masses, "Snoop Dogg" was reincarnated.

Some might look back on the evolution of Snoop and see nothing but an artist's fickle whims. Others might view the changes as the audacious tendencies of a star who did it all simply because he could. Fewer will consider his many makeovers calculated PR stunts. Maybe it's a bit of each.

But one thing is certain: Snoop's success is indisputable. Alter egos allied with music projects aside, Snoop has a reported net worth of $143 million. He's a singer, songwriter, record producer, record executive, film actor, and film producer. The dude is a moneymaker, risk-taker extraordinaire.

Talents like his extend beyond the conventional celebrity universe too. From costarring with Martha Stewart in a VH1 cooking show to setting the 2018 Guinness World Record for mixing the largest gin and juice ever concocted, coaching a youth football team, and cofounding the cannabis-related venture-capital firm Casa Verde Capital — which recently raised $45 million in capital — Snoop has his hand in every pot (pun intended).

Merry Jane is his cannabis-news business, and Leafs by Snoop is a mainstream brand of cannabis products that's been growing steadily since 2015. He's also created an app that lets users put stickers of his face or $99.99 joints into photos. A paragon of entrepreneurship, Snoop is all over the place.

Critics might be tempted to separate Snoop's goofy shape-shifting from his success, to think of those short-term nicknames as obstacles he overcame to earn his fame and fortune. But what if those name changes were actually savvy marketing moves that have made him one of the longest-standing successful rappers on the planet? Even now, years after the smooth-talking star first announced his new identity, fans are still talking about his curious legacy of rebranding. 

Like a sublimely bizarre magic trick, that revolving door of monikers has made a lasting impact. Gen-Z'ers, millennials, and baby-boomers are all fascinated with the public image of a 47-year-old who perpetually finds new ways to remain relevant. Snoop has tacitly revamped the adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Maybe we shouldn't be asking, Is he a PR genius? Instead, we should wonder, Do Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. and his abundance of aliases ever sleep?

Snoop Dogg. With special guests Tha Luniz and Afroman. 8 p.m. Thursday, December 20, at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 954-327-7625; seminolehardrockhollywood.com. Tickets cost $70 to $155.

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