Over two decades into a post–Doggy Dogg World, we really shouldn’t be surprised much by what endeavors Snoop Dogg gets into. From claiming he’s the reincarnation of Bob Marley to selling Swedish socks, Snoop’s life is rivaling the quirkiness of a late-season Simpsons episode in the best of ways.
Recently, a special guest star in an episode of Snoop’s sitcom of a life, Iranian pop songstress Amitis, linked up with the Dogg for a crossover duet on her single “King.” But perhaps the only thing more unexpected than the collaboration itself was the controversy that followed.
In the video, Snoop sits on a throne while smoking what appears to be weed in front of a sacred Zoroastrian symbol. Zoroastrianism, among the world’s oldest religions, dating back to at least the 5th century B.C., still has pockets of devoted followers around the world. This includes Parsi Zoroastrians in India, who have taken issue with the use of their iconography and filed litigation against the video’s producers in an effort to cease its distribution. They also have launched a petition calling for the video's retraction via Change.org.
We corresponded via email with Amitis, who was born in Iran, came to America via Atlanta, and recently relocated to Beverly Hills, about linking up with Snoop, the controversy and the challenges as an Iranian pop artist of crossing over to a mainstream American audience.
Being you lived in Atlanta for about a decade, and now live in Beverly Hills, is it challenging to maintain such a strong Iranian influence in your music?
My Iranian influence will always be a part of me. I learned very early on in my career that if you’re good at something, you shouldn’t stray too far away from it. Being that I became popular in Iran for my Iranian music, I always make sure to never completely shy away from that sound. While my new music may be in English, the sound is pretty similar to my earlier records.
How did you first link up with Snoop Dogg for “King?”
I knew that I wanted a rapper on “King,” and my dream was always for Snoop Dogg to hop on the track. I had my team reach out to his team and from then on it was a very organic and natural collaboration. He is an absolute genius and one of the nicest, most humble artists I have ever met. He made “King” extraordinary.
There was some controversy over the use of Zoroastrian iconography in the video. Do you feel "King" has been misunderstood by some audiences?
I believe that “King” has most definitely been misunderstood. It was never meant to offend anyone or have many people take issue with it. We wanted to put out a track that was fun, and I believe that we did that. I think there’s a total miscommunication between the video and those taking issue with it. We never meant to cause controversy.
Is this the start of you planning to release more music in English? Does singing in a different language present any challenges?
Yes it is! I will always be proud of my Iranian roots, but as a crossover artist who is now living in the United States, I have wanted to appeal to my American audience by singing in English. As I mentioned before, however, my sound will always have that Iranian flare to it.
Your bio reads that you started singing at age 3, and by 14 you mastered piano, guitar and violin, among other instruments. What inspired you to take to so many instruments at an early age?
What inspired me to take on so many instruments at an early age was my passion for music at such a young age as well as the ability to challenge myself. I always have wanted to push myself and test my limits. When I put my mind to something, I make sure that I accomplish it.
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What are the greatest benefits and challenges of pursuing being a crossover artist?
I love that as a crossover artist, I am gaining fans from all over the world while still keeping true to my Iranian fans back home. It’s been a completely positive experience for me so far. I am excited to see what the future holds and which other talented artists I will be working with in the future.
I've read that you're an avid horse rider. Is horseback riding any different in the United States than it is in Iran?
It’s actually quite similar! I absolutely love horseback riding. It is one of my biggest passions outside of music. I love to get on the back of a horse and forget about my worries for a bit!