Ruff. Roar. Snoop Dogg Rebrands

After a long stay in Jamaica, legendary music icon Snoop Dogg has announced that he is moving from rap to reggae and will now be known as Snoop Lion.

In the tens of millions of years since their genealogical split, this is the first known spontaneous evolution of anyone or thing from canine to feline.

Along with the name and musical style, he is shedding the violent associations of gangster culture and embracing his inner Rastafarian. “There’s a lot of killing going on in this world, and nobody ever speaks on it until it happens. And I’m tired of it,” Snoop Lion is quoted as saying by the Huffington Post. “This reggae music is music of love — happiness and sadness.”

The Lion’s Share

Snoop Lion in the wild (artist's reconstruction). Image by Andrew Howley.

What he may or may not be aware of is just how much lions themselves, once symbols of indomitable power, are victims of wanton killing as well. In the 1940s, there were an estimated 400,000 lions in the world. Since then, the numbers have dropped by as much as 95%.

It’s not just lions’ numbers that have shrunk, but their range as well. For us in the 21st century we think of the lion as a decidedly African animal, and so the association with Rasta culture through its roots in Ethiopia seems natural enough.

The real origin of the Rastafarian use of the lion as a symbol of strength and virtue goes much deeper though. It starts with Ethiopia’s tracing its royal line back to King Solomon and ultimately to Judah, who is called a “young lion” in a famous blessing from his father Jacob in the book of Genesis (49:9). Jacob, who also took a major name change to become Israel, lived not in Africa but in the Near East.

Far from being only an African symbol, the “Lion of Judah” is actually a reminder of how widespread these great cats once were, before human hunting, extermination, and retaliatory killings dethroned the king of the beasts and put him on the fast track to extinction.

Need for a Lion Revival

Today lions roam freely only in Africa and a few small pockets of Asia, but they are a powerful and beloved symbol for cultures all around the world. For those who live near them, the fear and competition is sometimes all they can see. Lions, like Snoop, could use a rebranding effort to help people including those who live most closely with them to get past their violent image and see their role in the world more fully.

National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative is working to educate people, learn more about lions and other big cats, and help ensure that these animals will always have a home in the wild. If gangsta icon Snoop Dogg can carve out some new space as the love-loving Snoop Lion, maybe his new totem animal has a chance as well.

Or should I say maybe his new animizzle totemizzle has a chance as wellizizzle?

Help us Cause an Uproar for big cats.

Listen to Snoop Lion’s first single, “La La La.”

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • Iesha

    Its very different but I like it

  • A C

    I’m diggin it, Snoopy.

  • pmwfotos

    sending love and blessings to snoop lion! sending love to forever8! the mayan prophecies 12.21.12 the parable of the fig tree i knew you were waiting for me <3

    (Isaiah 40 The Greatness of God)

    Matthew 5.14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

  • cyndee

    Jesus loves Snoop Lion! Tribe of Judah.

  • andy

    anything that can bring attention to the lions plight … even a mediocre rapper changing his name ….. can only be for the good.

  • Trevor Browne

    It is red gold green no green gold red.

  • Annmarie

    wow , very different , but I like

  • Tomy

    Inakshi, I love also how your angel messages often eniltery connect to my life, so dreams and daydreams are the way God speaks to us. Thank you for giving that spirit of dreaming to us!

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