Snoop Dogg has made a gospel album. If this is the first time you’ve heard this news, we’ll give you a few seconds to process it.
Caught up? Good. Now, the next thing to tell you is that he’s performing at the Stellar Awards. Yes THE Stellar Awards – as in, gospel music’s answer to the Grammy’s.
Still with us? It’s a lot to come to terms with because this whole scenario would have seemed unimaginable even as recently as two years ago. You probably don’t need us to tell you about Snoop’s reputation in the gangsta rap scene. He was one of the industry’s pioneers. In fact, if we even mentioned the titles of some of his songs, many of you would hit that ‘back’ button on your browser real quick. And that’s just the titles.
It’s because of such a switch in Snoop’s perspective that this is such a huge story for the gospel music industry. The poster child of what gospel music has spent years trying to counteract, has now seemingly become an ally. And he’s taking to the biggest stage in gospel to make sure the message is heard loud and clear.
Now, let the controversy begin
Snoop Dogg’s gospel album is called Bible of Love and sees the rapper working with the likes of John P Kee, Kim Burrell, Tye Tribbett and the Clarke Sisters. Yes, bonafide gospel heavyweights. Going off the features alone, it could stand to be far and away the biggest gospel album of the year. But the means through which Snoop entered the scene won’t be to everyone’s taste. It didn’t come about through a Damascus Road-type conversion that we know of (that’s not to say one doesn’t exist, of course), it came about just because he wanted to make a gospel album. It will cause many to question the sincerity of the music.
That brings us to the Stellar Awards. Snoop’s appearance was announced by the award organiser at the same time as the rest of the bill. But the standout on the lineup wasn’t Tasha Cobbs Leonard, it wasn’t Kierra Sheard, it wasn’t even the Stellars reunion of Mary Mary. It was, of course, Snoop Dogg. The chances are Snoop will be the talk of the town when the event takes place on 24th March.
The question is this. What is the purpose of the Stellar Awards? Is it to honour the top table of the gospel scene or does it want to look further than its own front gate? If it’s the latter, Snoop is the perfect booking. We wrote in a previous article about the mainstream hip hop scene becoming more comfortable talking about its faith. We argued then that the gospel scene should avoid being sniffy when approaching this new wave of faith-based conversation. These artists want to be frank about what they’re experiencing and if their faith is part of that, then it’s inevitable that it comes out in the music.
And look at it this way, are you likely to hear Anthony Brown on Capital Radio? No, but they play Stormzy. Suddenly, there’s some semblance of substance in the music, and it’s coming from places you’d least expect. It’s an unprecedented situation in the music industry that we’re not quite sure how to deal with.
One for the unchurched?
“We wanted to put together something that felt good,” Snoop told ET. “[It] feels like church[goers] have a different perspective of people who don’t go to church every day.”
By that token, maybe Snoop’s music isn’t just for the church. But make no mistake, the Stellar Awards is viewed predominantly by those who sit in pews on a Sunday. And so is it worth alienating the core audience of the award show to bring a few more column inches?
But what it all boils down to is this. Snoop’s Bible of Love album, which doesn’t actually feature massive amounts of Snoop himself from what we’ve heard so far, is the biggest story in gospel music right now. And as the Stellar Awards founder Don Jackson said, “…there’s no way we couldn’t bring this explosive performance to the Stellar Awards stage.” The danger is that gospel’s mainstays, and particularly its newer artists trying to break through, could stand to lose out if Snoop dominates the headlines.
A rising tide lifts all boats, the saying goes, and indeed Snoop’s appearance at the Stellars could bring the event some new pairs of eyes. But will they be coming for the novelty of a gangsta rapper singing church songs or will they be coming to hear the message of the music? They might get both, which would be good thing, even if it’s the only thing we’re talking about the morning after.
See our breakdown of this year’s Stellar Award nominees here. http://bit.ly/2FmqDc7
What do you think about Snoop’s appearance at the Stellar Awards? Comment below!