Rapper Snoop Dogg made an impromptu stop in Magnolia on Saturday morning to discuss plans with Mayor Anthony Witherspoon for a music festival he wants to bring to the small town where the star still has family.
Snoop Dogg and his chief of security and tour manger, former Pike County resident Thomas Brider, outlined details of the proposed festival dubbed “Snoop Fest.”
The rapper made the brief stop in Magnolia before taking the stage later that evening at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Snoop’s uncle, Magnolia resident Willie Martin, was even more surprised to see his nephew on his 86th birthday.
“I didn’t even know it was his birthday,” Snoop Dogg said. “I re-routed the bus so that we could come through Mississippi.”
The rapper, born Calvin Broadus, said he wants to do something that reaches out to everyone. He said he comes to Mississippi at least three to four times a year, although no one gets to see him but his family.
“I want to do something so that everyone will get to see me,” he said. “If I wanted to do a show and leave, I could’ve done that. I wanted to do something to make a mark here. I just wanted to make an impact on the people here because I know how much I mean to them.”
He said he’s been wanting to do this for quite some time, and finally got the opportunity to do so.
“We’ve been wanting to do something for Mississippi, but we haven’t had the right connects. We always come, but no one gets to see us,” Snoop Dogg said. “I feel like we want to do something to let everybody see us.
“We always stop in New Orleans but we never book a show here. We might as well do it ourselves because my booking agent just won’t do it.”
The festival will be a two-day event featuring artists of many genres, including blues, gospel and hip-hop, with Snoop closing out the show.
He said the festival will have a feel of both Jazz Fest and Memphis in May but with his own twist.
Snoop’s father Vernell Varnado is from Magnolia. His father and his brothers had a gospel group, the Varnado Brothers.
“He used to play the tamborine,” Snoop said. “I went on the road with them for four days with them on a gospel tour.”
He said he remembers coming to Mississippi and helping his grandfather with his landscaping business.
“This had to be like ’85. My father was doing landscaping work,” he said. “My granddad had a landscaping business when blacks weren’t suppose to own their own businesses. I would see all these big mansions and they would be empty. He was able to be cool with everyone and have power.”
Witherspoon said Pike County is a hub and is a place where people can get to easily and is the perfect place for the festival.
He said the fact that Magnolia is an hour and a half from Jackson, Hattiesburg, Baton Rouge and New Orleans hasn’t been taken advantage of, and this festival will give the city a chance to do just that.
Snoop Dogg said his festival will be his way to pay homage to his roots and give back to those who’ve helped him.
“The youngsters are going to come off the top because they’ve never seen me out here, but I don’t want to leave out the older generation,” he said.
The proposed festival would be a two-day event, with the first being a show for the “aunts, grandmas and uncles” with blues, gospel and country acts, and the second night featuring hip-hop and R & B performers.
“When people leave the first night, I want people to say they were thoroughly entertained,” Snoop Dogg said.
“I think the first should have what the heritage of Mississippi is about and then the second day should be about the generation that took it to another level,” he said.
Snoop said there is a lot of talent in Mississippi but no one stays in Mississippi.
“Mississippi makes it when they get it out of here. They go. They have a drive and that drive was instilled in me. I wasn’t born here but I have the same drive in me,” he said.
He said he wants to knock the first festival out the park and make it an annual event.
“All about your first impression, you don’t get a second chance to do a first impression,” he said.
Snoop said he wants to bring back Mississippi natives Brandy and Ray J Norwood of McComb, David Banner of Jackson, Souljia Boy of Batesville and newcomer La’Porsha Renae, also of McComb.
He said he even wants to give underground artist in Pike County a shot to perform on the concert also.
“We can give the top five hottest artist a chance to open up,” he said.
“Who gives artist a shot like that?” Witherspoon asked. “That means they don’t have to give you a mixtape, they now a have a shot.”
“Because they don’t know who’s going to be in the crowd,” Snoop said.
He said he wants to meet with his booking agent to compile a list of artist from Mississippi to perform for the festival.
“I’m gone bring back my cousin, too, Aunjanue Ellis,” he said, referring to the actress from Magnolia.
Snoop said the two met on the set of Undercover Brother, and he didn’t know they were actually cousins.
“She said ‘You know we’re cousins right?’ She started naming people. I told her them people my people,” he said laughing.
Witherspoon said he reached out to Snoop.
“The same spirit went to Long Beach and everyone that’s successful has roots in Mississippi.” Snoop said. “Why isn’t anyone coming back here and saying this is where we’re from?”
He said he wants to give hope and inspiration and show that even if a person has a rocky past, they can still make it.
Snoop said Witherspoon made him feel comfortable. The two spoke as if they’ve been friends their entire lives.
“It wasn’t like talking to some stuffy politician. He gets it. He’s from here, so he understands what they need,” he said.
Witherspoon said he’s going to work on the logistics of the festival.
There’s no set date for it yet.
“We want to try to get it done this year, but if not we will definitely do it next year,” he said.
But Snoop Dogg said this is the conversation that began all of the work.
“This a great starting piece and it’s good that we’re on the same page,” he said. “That’s what the mission was today, creating a conversation to execute this festival. I want to inspire someone to be greater than me.”