Giving Out Flowers

N.O.R.E. went to school to be a human resources manager. He never imagined he’d be the co-host of one of the biggest hip-hop podcasts in the world, let alone an accomplished rapper. But in 2016, he and DJ EFN (short for his real name, Eric Fernando Narciandi) turned what was a passion project into a legitimate platform—Drink Champs. Seven years later, they’ve fielded hundreds of guests, some more controversial than others, and thrown back way too many shots to count, but they’re thriving.

“My vision in life was to be a rap star,” N.O.R.E. tells High Times. “That was my goal. But now that we’re being honest, my first goal was to be the biggest drug dealer in the world, and I realized I wasn’t going to achieve that. Pablo Escobar did that already. Then I wanted to be the biggest rapper in the world. But then I realized rap is probably one of the most dangerous jobs in life. We interviewed Bert Kreischer yesterday, and it’s probably one of our favorite podcasts ever.

“It’s all about identifying with human beings. I really feel like I’m a therapist at this point. I really feel like I can break a person down. I can make you cry if I want to. I can make you spill the beans if I want to. I can make you talk about everything if I want to.”

High Times Magazine, August 2023

And Drink Champs has accomplished that. Over the course of 363 episodes (and counting), N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN have watched DMX get emotional just months before his death, Kanye West go off the rails about the police killing of George Floyd (the episode had to be pulled after Floyd’s family threatened legal action) and Murder Inc. Records co-founder Irv Gotti make some wild claims about his romantic relationship with Ashanti. It’s all par for the course in rap journalism these days—the more outrageous, the better. But that’s not necessarily Drink Champs’s motive. As N.O.R.E. mentioned, the show is very much like a session with a therapist; feet up, inhibitions removed and more fact than fiction. Add alcohol to the equation, though, and there’s no telling where it can go. Luckily, N.O.R.E.—whose loud, gregarious personality can often trump anyone in the room—has DJ EFN to act as the anchor for the show.

“If you ask people that have known me over the years, they would actually say I be pretty wild, I’m a loud Cuban guy from Miami,” DJ EFN says. “I would drink and get tipsy and talk even louder. But when it comes to me and N.O.R.E., I don’t try to outdo somebody to prove something to the person next to me. I’ve always hated conference calls for that reason. So naturally, I’m gonna take a step back. I’m not gonna try to out character N.O.R.E. I’m used to being behind the scenes and that’s always been my role. I never really wanted to be in the forefront. I’m in the DJ role, N.O.R.E is gonna be the MC who’s in the forefront.”

It took some convincing on DJ EFN’s part to get N.O.R.E. to agree to do a podcast. In fact, N.O.R.E. was initially resistant to the idea because he thought podcasts were for “nerds.” Then veteran hip-hop producer Alchemist inadvertently changed his perspective.

Photo by Adrian Enningham @drainflix.

“I didn’t like the name podcast,” N.O.R.E. admits. “I just thought the word ‘podcast’ was corny. I thought they were for nerds, but I didn’t realize I was a nerd, too. Alchemist did something for me. I was stuck in hip-hop purgatory, which is like being stuck between heaven and hell. You’re not exactly broke, but you’re not exactly rich, so you’re just stagnated. I was at Alchemist’s studio. He was like, ‘Do you know who you are?’ And I was like, ‘No.’”

N.O.R.E. was about to find out. That night, Alchemist ended up taking him to a Kid Cudi show in West Hollywood.

“It was nothing but nerds in there,” he says with a chuckle. “They were all nerds, these millennial kids.”

Kid Cudi asked N.O.R.E. to perform a couple of songs, so he wound up rapping two of his classic singles for the unsuspecting crowd, 1998’s “Superthug” and 2002’s “Nothin’.” Then it dawned on him—he was a nerd, too.

“I go into the crowd and there’s nothing but a whole generation of Pharrell kids,” he remembers. “They came up to me and they’re like, ‘Yo! You’re the God.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ Pharrell birthed a whole generation of kids who are not tough. They’re sensitive people, and I have something to do with that. For that simple fact, that makes me the biggest nerd in the building, so I realized I was a nerd at that very moment and I embraced it. I went and bought the glasses and everything [laughs]. I’m a full-fledged nerd.”

With that, Drink Champs became a reality. But there were many moments where they nearly threw in the towel. At that time, they weren’t making any money. N.O.R.E had just relocated to Miami and there was “no way” his accountant was going to let him go back to New York City after the amount of money he’d just spent on his new penthouse. He had no choice but to make it work.

Drink Champs chops it up with DMX. Photo by Adrian Enningham @drainflix.

“We was $80,000 in the hole between us both,” N.O.R.E. says. “Six to eight months into making Drink Champs, we never made nothing. We didn’t want to take the $500 ads or the $200 ads and we didn’t want to take the $15 ads. We knew what we was worth, so we sat around and waited eight months before we actually took an ad.

“We just didn’t want the normal people to invest in us. If you’re going to invest in us, we wanted the highest quality. So we used our own money. There were at least three times we called each other like, ‘Are we sure we want to keep doing this?’ It was definitely scary at first.”

The risk paid off. In January 2023, Drink Champs signed an audio exclusive licensing deal with Warner Music Group’s podcast network, Interval Presents. Under the new agreement, Interval Presents gained the exclusive licensing rights to the audio version of the podcast on all major podcast platforms. The best part about the deal is N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN get to continue doing what they’re already doing: providing an entertaining platform for important conversations with their flurry of high profile guests, while banking on their innate chemistry to keep people coming back week after week.

“I think people see themselves in us,” DJ EFN says. “I think that’s why we inspired a lot of people to start their own podcasts. I don’t want the legacy of Drink Champs to inspire people to get drunk, but I think it’s cool we’ve inspired people to give podcasting a shot. People always tell me they feel like they’re drinking with their friends or their uncles or their crew. We’re not journalists having this real serious Q&A with a guest. It’s just crazy, off-the-cuff talking, but you’re still going to get some stuff you’ve been wanting to know about these artists’ careers and backstories about the culture.”

N.O.R.E. adds, “Giving out flowers is the most rewarding part for me. I’ve had a successful career. I have platinum and gold records. Me giving flowers to a person who has probably never had one gold record or never even toured the world always makes me a better person. It takes nothing away from me as a grown ass man who’s done phenomenal things to give somebody their flowers.”

Drink Champs smokes out the studio with Wiz Khalifa. Photo by Adrian Enningham @drainflix.

DJ EFN knows their “livers can’t sustain this forever,” but N.O.R.E.—who’s been smoking a blunt full of moon rocks during the entire interview and admits to having a half ounce to three ounce a day weed habit—has a method to his madness.

“It’s a lot,” N.O.R.E. says of the drinking. “That’s why I only drink what my body’s used to. Usually, I get up and run two to three miles then put on a suit, sit in the sauna and sweat it all out. I drink a gallon of water a day. I do all the precautions.”

But one thing N.O.R.E. isn’t going to do is let society dictate what “living your best life” means for him. He explains, “There’s so many people who live life and don’t actually live life. And I’m not saying alcohol is the way to live life, and I’m not saying even cannabis is the way to live life, but you have to choose your version of having fun. You have to have fun. There’s so many people out here that’s living a boring, corny, stupid, miserable, dumb life because they’re living the standard life of what America says. Go live your fucking life.”

This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

The post Giving Out Flowers appeared first on High Times.

‘The Machine’ Keeps the Party Going

Crusher of irreverent comedy and podcasts, master storyteller, and the king of all parties, Bert Kreischer is a man of many hats—and it would seem, few shirts. There are numerous things that keep “The Machine” running, and one of them happens to be that sweet, sweet green (although he prefers his green in a shade of Blue Dream). We sense he’s down for more than just that though because, let’s be real, what isn’t this man down for?

Traveling across the country on The Berty Boy Tour while also recording his popular podcasts Bertcast and 2 Bears 1 Cave (co-hosted by Tom Segura), Kreischer is partying and puffing the whole way. Before his stops in Colorado and Canada, this insanely busy bear made time to chat with High Times about his weed preferences, high hobbies, and cringeworthy cannabis memories. Spoiler: You’re gonna want his life.

High Times: How old were you the first time you smoked weed, and how did you get it?

Bert Kreischer: I was 15 years old. We went to a pool hall in West Tampa, [Florida] and we bought weed from a big Native American dude. It’s so funny because nowadays, I look back and think it was so hard to get back then. We walked to a pool hall, and my buddy Sal went in. I don’t even know how we knew that we could get it from that guy. Back then, it was almost like panning for gold. You go in there like, “Does anyone have weed in here?” It’s that fucking crazy.

Oh yeah, back then, it was like my friend’s third cousin said if you “ask for Earl,” you can get a 40 and a dime bag. So we’d drive an hour away for “Earl.” Do you remember the first song that you got high to?

Yup! Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. We planned it! We went to my friend’s house and turned on Pink Floyd because we were told that’s what you get high to. So, we smoked weed, and I waited for the song to get better. All I knew was that the song was supposed to get fucking good! I didn’t get high the first time because it didn’t work. Everyone was like, “Yeah, you don’t get high your first time. It’s your second time or third time.” My buddy came in and was like, “It’s my third time, and I’m really high.” I was like, “Oh man! I can’t wait until I’m three times in!” It’s so crazy because we did all the stereotype things you “should” do if you’re smoking weed. It was all stuff someone’s older brother had done. My buddy was like, “Hey, if I put this jar over my head, you won’t hear me speak.” Then, as he pretended to put a jar over his head, he’d stop talking, and we’d all laugh at the dumbest fucking joke because we thought, I guess, we’re supposed to laugh.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

When did your “third time” finally hit?

I smoked weed a bunch from freshman to sophomore year. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I got really fucking high. Like, really high where I had a panic attack and thought, “Oh fuck. This is a drug.” I was like, “Oh shit, it’s working this time. I can’t feel my face.” We rolled the joint out of the back pages of the bible, and I was like, “God’s getting even with me! Fuck!”

Good God. Literally. What’s the highest you’ve been as an adult, and how did you get there?

I was pretty high last night! There’s a club in Toronto that you can do stand-up at, and Doug Benson told me, “Write your set down because you will forget your set just from the contact high.” The smoke was so thick that five minutes into my set, I was high, and my throat was burning.

Edibles are the thing that fuck me up the most, though. Joey Diaz gave my dad edibles one Easter, but he didn’t know it, so I took them too, so he wasn’t high by himself. We had one of the best conversations. We were drinking whiskey, high as fuck sitting in my backyard having a cigar. I said to my dad, “I feel like you don’t like me at times.” He just goes, high as fuck, “You make me uncomfortable.” My dad was high as shit, and he goes, “You know, I lost my dad at a young age and I’m afraid I’m going to lose you because your lifestyle makes me uncomfortable.” I asked what I could do to fix it and he said he wanted me to go to a cardiologist of his choice to have the tests that he felt like needed to be run. I was like, “Of course! I want a better relationship with you.” He was like, “This is the greatest night ever!” Two weeks later, I went to the cardiologist and had everything scanned and tested.

And then did you roll up some weed in the cardiologist report and smoke it?

I should have! I should’ve been like, thank God marijuana was here the night Joey Diaz roofied my dad!

What is your go-to weed on the road, and what’s it like when fans bring you any type of drug these days?

After I was roofied by Ari Shaffir, I started becoming very skeptical about everything. I never once thought about it before. Now I’m very specific. I have my own weed, and I have a certain strain that I like, which is Blue Dream. It makes me feel very comfortable. It makes me feel relaxed, so I can sleep better too. I also have a couple vape pens in rotation and some Durban Poison and Jack Herer, a couple strains that are good creative ones.

Even though I don’t think everyone can pull them off, I want to support your passion for Speedos. Mostly because I hear they make you “swim like a fucking dolphin.”

Water is fucking fascinating when you’re high. I always end up in a Speedo, high, and in the pool every time I get high when I’m home. Every fucking time. I end up in my Polar Plunge, or I end up in my pool—it’s my favorite thing. The first time I realized how great water is when you’re high was when we were having a pool party, so there were a bunch of kids there. We also hired two lifeguards, so everyone felt really comfortable. One of the dads was like, “Hey, you wanna get high?” I said, “Yeah sure, we’ll get high.” I just ended up in the pool playing sharks and minnows with the kids laughing hysterically like, this is fucking awesome! And I was in a Speedo, so you know I was like a dart in that water!

Photo by Troy Conrad

I don’t understand how you became the coolest human alive. Your promos? Also cool. Do you come up with those, or are they a group effort?

I wish they were a group effort! We have a drone and it’s literally about turning on the camera and figuring something out. We just made one for Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in the middle of nowhere. I had some ski pants that I just bought, and we grabbed the drone to make it look like I had just got done hiking. Red Rocks is going to be the best because they tell you that you can either leave the venue right when you get off stage or you can hang out. But if you hang out, you have to stay for three hours while traffic leaves. Three hours? You get a caterer there and you plan a party there! Why wouldn’t you stay in Red Rocks and party? There’s no one there!

Because people don’t think like you. Please refer back to “you being the coolest.”

Yeah, people are like, “Get me the fuck out of here,” and I’m like, “Keep me at this venue!” Last time I did Red Rocks, we were having a party, and everyone is backstage. Around midnight, no one is in this venue, so I go out to the stage with a joint and a cocktail. I lit the joint and sat there and looked up at the stars and rocks thinking, “Fuck, I just did this!” It was the greatest. I’m looking forward to that moment again after the show.

Any thoughts on uninvited party crashers?

I’m so unaware of everything that’s going on. I played The Greek [Theatre in Los Angeles], and it was so fucking fun, and the security was slam-packed. People were coming up to the stage to give me joints, and I was like, “Yeah! This is great!” I was just oblivious to all of it and why there was so much security. I was like, “Don’t charge me for the extra security! That’s on you!” I also think if you’re one of my fans, and you come rushing the stage, you’re gonna get winded. If you do that and get past security, just give me a hug.

This article appears in the August 2022 issue of High Times. Subscribe here.

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