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Snoop Dogg scored a huge hit with the hip-hop anthem “What’s My Name?” back in 1993. Announcing his conversion to Rastafarianism on Monday (July 30), the rapper unveiled a new answer to that lyrical question.

“I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion,” he said at a press conference.

So, did the onetime gangsta rapper have to drop the “d-o-double-g” when he became a Rasta? Yes, and no, said Ennis Edmonds, a scholar at Kenyon College and an expert on Rastafarianism.

The religious movement doesn’t require converts to change their names. But the faith was born in Jamaica, where calling someone a dog is deeply insulting, Edmonds said. Rastafarians believe the Messiah is Haile Selassie (hay´ -lee s« -lah´ -see), the last emperor of Ethiopia. As emperor, Selassie was actually called “Ras Tafari.” One of the outgrowths of Rastafarianism is its heavy influence in Raggae music, which was made popular and gained worldwide recognition through the late Bob Marley.

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“Rastas would probably see calling yourself a dog as an indication of lack of self-knowledge,” Edmonds said.

It expresses how the corrupt world — Babylon, in Rasta theology — had distorted the rapper’s true spiritual nature. Snoop Lion said on Monday, “I feel like I’ve always been Rastafari, I just didn’t have my third eye open.”

Rastafarianism holds that the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was not only the messiah, he also descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. According to the biblical Book of 1 Kings, the two rulers met briefly and seemed to hit it off.

The lion was the symbol of Solomon’s Tribe of Judah (Christians see Jesus as the lion of Judah). Bob Marley, the reggae star and most famous Rasta, sang often of the “lion of Zion,” referring to Selassie.

Speaking of Marley, Snoop Lion also said that he considers himself a reincarnation of the late musician. Edmonds said that some Rasta theology bears the influence of Hinduism, in which reincarnation is a core belief.

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