Snoop Lion, née Snoop Doggy Dogg, knows how to keep people interested. Last July, nearly 20 years after appearing on The Chronic, he announced his rebirth as a Rastafarian and admirer of all things Jamaica. That explains his name referencing the king of the jungle rather than man’s best friend. Like a handful of Snoop’s prior reinventions, this one stands to benefit him financially. How better to sell Reincarnated, his documentary about Rastafarian culture out today in limited release, than by becoming a follower of Jah himself?
Here, we look back at the long history of rappers taking on new lines of work, through twelve of its best-known MCs. It’s enough to make us wonder how Lil B will transform himself. Our money’s on cult leader.
Reinvention: From original gangster rapper to star of family-friendly movies.
If you would have told an old white dude in 1990 that he’d take his grandkids to see a movie starring a guy from NWA, he would have thrown his bible at you. But it happened. Cube’s first acting role in Boyz n the Hood was true to form, but by the mid-aughts something changed. He made the kids movie Are We There Yet?, its sequel Are We Done Yet?, and in 2008, the girl-playing-football movie The Longshots. Since then he’s halfheartedly tried to reestablish his edge, but as long as this picture is floating around, that’s not going to happen.
Reinvention: From Wu Tang mastermind to kung fu film director.
Unlike Cube’s, this is a transition everyone saw coming. Wu Tang Clan was, after all, named for a kung fu movie. If there’s anything surprising about Rza’s move to directing it’s that it took so long. After years of making cameo appearances in movies like Ghost Dog and Coffee and Cigarettes, he finally got the chance to helm his own movie with last year’s The Man with the Iron Fists. As with most good things in life, we have Quentin Tarantino to thank.
Reinvention: From the rapper who was shot nine times to businessman.
As a kid in Queens, 50 used to sell drugs. On the downside, that led to him getting shot so many times. On the upside, it prepared him for a second career as a successful entrepreneur. His rebirth started with the G-Unit clothing line in 2003, expanded to sports drinks in 2007, and now encompasses everything from a boxing promotion company to a line of condoms. His business prowess even led Forbes to declare him a future billionaire. Watch out Warren B.
Reinvention: From self-conscious rapper to fashion designer.
In 2007, Yeezy told Complex, “I was a designer before I was a rapper.” Still, it took him making a name in music before anyone paid attention to his designs. His first attempt at the clothes game was the line Pastelle, which had a website and a look book but shut down before anything was put up for sale. Kanye had better luck working with established brands. His Air Yeezy sneakers, a partnership with Nike, have been a huge success, and he’s teamed with Louis Vuitton to design fancy kicks. Finally, the line he premiered at last year’s Paris Fashion Week was met with positive reviews.
Reinvention: From Cash Money Millionaire to aspiring pro skater.
When Lil Wayne announced plans last year to put his rap career on hold to make it as a pro skater, not a single person who cared to have an opinion took him seriously. But then YouTube videos of him skating started making the rounds. Not too shabby! Weezy’s got a long way to go before he can live up to his vow to become the best skater alive, so until then let’s all enjoy videos of him falling down.
Reinvention: From hip-hop deity to sports team owner.
Everyone knows Jay-Z owns a piece of the Brooklyn Nets. The team has made sure of that. What many might not know is that he owns only 0.67 percent. Sounds small, but it’s a bigger portion of a major sports franchise than any other rapper owns. And as he said at a show last October at the Barclays Center (or the “House That Hova Built”), “[I’m] a young black African male who was raised in a single-parent home in low-income housing and I stand before you as an owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Don’t let anyone diminish your accomplishments.”
Reinvention: From one-hit wonder to home-improvement show host.
The former Rob Van Winkle has had a hell of time reinventing himself post-“Ice Ice Baby.” He tried disappearing entirely, starring on reality shows, and releasing independent records. None was successful. Then he stumbled on home improvement. Putting his experience as a construction worker and house flipper to use, he launched The Vanilla Ice Project, a show on DIY Network that has somehow become a hit. It’s even allowed the use of a phrase once thought unimaginable: “Award winner Vanilla Ice.”
Reinvention: From nasty Uncle Luke to high school football coach.
At its peak, 2 Live Crew was a lewd, offensive, and incredibly entertaining rap group. More than 20 years later, the dude who once wrote a song called “We Want Some Pussy” is a no-nonsense high school football coach. The former corrupter of America’s youth is now a leader of young men who doesn’t allow his players to curse. No one tell Tipper.
Reinvention: From too legit to venture capitalist.
Hammer’s always had an eye for creative business deals. Way back in 1991, he bought a stable of racehorses and one of his Thoroughbreds finished third in the Kentucky Derby. In 2007, he got into the tech world, starting a dance website called DanceJam.com. Hammer’s time in Silicon Valley has seen him start a search engine he expects to compete with Google (good luck!) and even dipping into VC, making angel investments in companies such as Square Inc. and a bunch of other start-ups.
Reinvention: From Diddy’s buddy to pastor.
Remember Mase? He was that dude with a round face who mumbled beside Diddy and Biggie in “Mo Money, Mo Problems.” In 1999, he retired at the height of his career to become a pastor. He attempted his first comeback in 2004, sold a few hundred thousand albums, and went back to church. Last year, he flirted with another comeback, annoying some people with the will-he-won’t-he routine. Chief among them was Jadakiss, who said, “If he gon’ come back, he’s got to come all the way back or stay over there at the pulpit.” Burn? Burn.
Reinvention: From dude with a grill yelling “OKAY” to winery owner.
It’s only natural that the chaliced one would start his own winery. In 2008, Lil Jon started the The Little Jonathan Winery, so named to invoke an upscale feeling, after discovering a taste for white and dessert wines. One year later, he was winning awards. The Los Angeles International Wine and Spirits Competition gave his 2006 Central Coast Chardonnay a silver medal. And Lil Jon gave them a “YEAH!”
Reinvention: From band-aid face to fitness DVD host.
St. Louis’s favorite son was always kind of ripped, but recently, he’s looked downright beastly. In 2010, he released the secrets behind his muscles on a fitness DVD called Celebrity Sweat. With the help of morally upstanding athletes Michael Vick and Ray Lewis, Nelly takes people through the routine that helped him get jacked. A quick warning about this DVD, though: It’s “not intended as a workout program. It is intended to be informative and entertaining.”