By now you’ll have heard the news: Snoop Dogg is no more. From the ashes of his Hip Hop career a new Snoop has risen, a dreadlock-sporting and Jah-worshipping Snoop Lion. Snoop is not the first artist to completely change his spots and so we look at five world-famous artists who have reinvented themselves, why they did it, and, most importantly, if it worked.
Who they were: One of the best and most successful rappers the world has ever seen, Snoop has dominated Gangster Rap for two decades. From his iconic album Doggystyle to Rhythm & Gangsta, Snoop was phenomenally successful.
What happened: Since R&G, which was released in 2004 (yes, 2004!), Snoop’s creativity and music has been in a slow decline. Stuck in a gangsta-rap rut, his albums became very repetitive, and he could not reproduce the party vibes of his previous albums. His last album, Doggumentary, optimised this. Although debuting at no.8 on Billboard, by the second week it was no.35 in the charts, with critics seeing it as mediocre and repetitive. Increasingly left behind by the evolution of rap and the crossover with dance music, his biggest selling point became his pre-2005 music and his place in rap history.
Rebirth: Snoop Dogg has dropped the gangsta dogg and adopted a Rastafarian lion. Explaining it as a spiritual rebirth experienced whilst in Jamaica, Snoop is now forging a new path as a reggae artist.
Will it work?: We don’t know yet, but there are some good signs. Reggae is a genre which is very close to hip hop, producing some of the first mixes and mcs, and Snoop’s laid back style will fit well into the caricature of a reggae artist. There is synergy between the two. He is also on board with Diplo, a big Jamaican producer both in the local dancehall scene and in the international mainstream (working with MIA, Beyoncé, Das Racist, Shakira and many more). If he can make the impact on reggae that Doggystyle did on rap music, this will be a very exciting time.
Who they were: Charlotte was the darling of Wales, Great Britain, and most of the world in the late 90s and early 2000s. A fresh-faced, pretty teenager with a great voice, she sang classical songs for dignitaries all around the world. She even made it onto Have I Got News For You.
What happened: An attempt to move into pop music in 2005 did not get Charlotte very far, with a mixed reaction in the UK and failure in Australia. Her two pregnancies and subsequent children undoubtedly contributed to her absence from the music world, although she still performed at concerts.
Rebirth: Charlotte Church, keeping the same name, has represented herself as an indie-rock/dream pop artist in a similar vein to Bjork and Florence & The Machine. Church has been touring venues across the UK (e.g. The Brudenell Social Club) to see how her new persona will play with fans of the genre.
Will it work?: Maybe, but this will be very difficult. Charlotte is incredibly well-known in Britain as a classical singer and, as with all musicians who become world-famous very early on in their lives, it becomes very difficult to move onto something new. This genre, like many niches, is characterised by artists who are authentic to the genre, born and bred in it. Given her past, she’ll need to convince prospective fans that they can take her seriously.
Who they were: Nelly Furtado started out singing in her local church, before moving onto performing in Toronto for a trip hop group. Feeling it did not represent herself or her talents, she left and began her path towards releasing Whoa, Nelly! which included the hit single ‘I’m like a Bird’.
What happened: Nelly Furtado was initially very successful but by the mid-2000s her material had dried up. She had been moonlighting on other projects (including Jurassic 5) but ‘I’m Like a Bird’ had her in a box she could not get out of.
Rebirth: She began to collaborate with Timbaland and in 2006 produced Loose. Taking a complete break from her previous good-girl image, Furtado changed her persona to become a much darker and raunchier character, optimised by her single Maneater.
Did it work?: Yup, Nelly Furtado was catapulted straight back to the heady heights of pop music stardom. However, she has not stuck with it. Her follow-up album was an entirely spanish affair, and since then she has collaborated with various artists including K-OS and N.E.R.D., and set up her own independent label. All in all, it has been a creative explosion from her. Nelly’s next album is set for release later this year. What will be in it?… That’s a tough one.
Who they were: Katy Perry started out as Katy Hudson, performing Christian Rock in Nashville, Tennessee. Heavily influenced by Gospel Music during her formative years, Christian Rock was the natural progression for an artist who had never been exposed to ‘secular’ music.
What happened: Her Christian Rock efforts went nowhere. Her first album failed to gain any momentum and her label folded. Her second album, in a slightly more poppy vein, was equally unsuccessful and she was dropped from her second label. Her third album, with Columbia records, was never completed when the label dropped it and her. By 2006, she was working for an A&R company
Rebirth: Katy was selected as the break-through global pop act that Virgin Records were looking for in 2007. Jason Flom set her up with the writer-producer Dr. Luke and the rest is history.
Did it work?: Have you ever heard of Katy Hudson?
The Beastie Boys
Who they were: The Beastie Boys started out as a four-piece hardcore band in New York in 1981. The four original members were Mike D, Adam Yauch, John Berry and Kate Schellenbach. They were relatively successful, supporting Bad Brains, the Dead Kennedys and The Misfits.
What happened: First, John Berry left in 1983, and was replaced by Adam Horowitz. Then, in the same year, the group released the experimental hip hop 12-inch ‘Cooky Puss’. Based on a prank phone-call, the song became a hit in underground clubs in New York.
Rebirth: The Boys switched over to hip hop, producing very energetic, fun and danceable music. They began to work with Rick Rubin (who founded Def Jam at the same time), Kate left, and they set about producing their unique style of hip hop. In 1986 they recorded License to Ill.
Did it work?: They were one of the most successful and entertaining trios we’ve ever seen in music.