Hip-Hop Mogul Jay-Z Invests in Cannabis Retail Platform Flowhub

Cannabis point-of-sale platform Flowhub announced on Tuesday the closing of a $19 million round of strategic funding, including significant participation from venture capital firms Headline and Poseiden as well as a personal investment from entrepreneur and hip-hop billionaire Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. 

The new round of funding for Flowhub brings the total amount of capital raised for the company to $50 million with a valuation of $200 million, according to a statement from the cannabis dispensary payment transactions processor.

“We are thrilled to announce this capital raise,” said Kyle Sherman, founder and CEO of Flowhub. “Headline is an incredible, Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Poseidon is a pioneer investor in the cannabis industry, and Jay-Z is a cultural and creative global force no matter the industry he is involved in.”

“I couldn’t think of a better group to be working with as we take this company to the next stage,” Sherman added. “This funding not only underscores the significant value that Flowhub provides to our customers, but also the maturation of the cannabis industry at large. We remain committed to developing innovative products that help our retail customers run better businesses.”

Flowhub processes in excess of $3 billion in cannabis transactions annually, providing more than 1,000 marijuana dispensaries a retail sales platform to serve their customers while maintaining compliance with strict regulations. The company will use the new round of funding to accelerate its expansion into emerging cannabis markets while developing new products for its expanding line of services.

Supporting Cannabis Social Equity

The company also plans to use the new funding to support and grow its social equity program, which was launched by Flowhub in June to invest in communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. 

Through the program, eligible social equity cannabis business owners can receive Flowhub’s POS retail management and compliance software for only $4.20 per year, which represents a reduction of 99.97 percent over regular pricing. The discount is available for up to three years at the social equity owner’s first cannabis dispensary business location.

The Flowhub social equity program also provides participating cannabis retailers with the company’s Stash inventory management and Greet customer check-in mobile apps, as well as the View mobile analytics app and free implementation of the technology. 

To date, Flowhub has awarded more than $1 million worth of software products to eligible cannabis entrepreneurs participating in the program. More information about the Flowhub cannabis social equity program is available online.

Software Allows Debit Transactions at Cannabis Dispensaries

Because of the continued illegality of cannabis at the federal level, most banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions do not offer traditional banking services to cannabis businesses, even those operating legally under state law. As a result, most dispensaries are forced to conduct transactions with their customers and suppliers via cash.

“We’re still a cash industry, and it’s 2021,” Sherman told Forbes. “It’s hard to believe when we barely have cards in our pocket anymore with Apple Pay.”

Flowhub’s POS software addresses the cash issue by allowing customers to use their debit cards to make sales transactions at cannabis dispensaries. But instead of being processed as a debit card sale, the transaction is technically an ATM withdrawal.

“It’s not really debit, but it feels like it,” Sherman said.

Jay-Z and Cannabis

Jay-Z’s stake in Flowhub isn’t his first foray into the cannabis industry. In 2019, he became the brand strategist for Caliva, where he developed his signature high-end cannabis brand Monogram. The following year, Caliva, Monogram and Left Coast Ventures were acquired through a SPAC deal that produced the Parent Company, where Jay-Z heads the social equity venture fund.

“When Jay says, ‘I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,’ it’s true,” said Sherman, recalling a sample of Jay-Z’s well-known lyrics. “He’s got incredible business acumen—he really knows how to surround himself with brilliant people and build great companies.”

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Nakkia Gold on Weed, Uplifting Youth and Rising in the Hip-Hop World

When we caught up with singer, songwriter and producer Nakkia Gold, she was chilling in her kitchen, smoking a joint and happy to talk about her newly exploding musical career.

From uplifting women and weed to rising in the star-studded ranks (all while staying focused on paying it forward to youth), we talked all things positive with Nakkia Gold. Freshly riding the waves of success from her recent release of “Justice (Get Up, Stand Up)” featuring the powerhouses of Wiz Khalifa and Bob Marley and The Wailers, here’s the conversation.

How did you first get started making music?

I fell in love with music at a very young age. I was always dancing, and when I danced, I would be singing the song instead of doing the dance, or remembering the dance because of the specific words in the songs. And I was always in church. Then, when I figured out I was able to create my own world and write my own songs, and say and do what I want, it made me fall even more deeply in love.

Who helped you along the way, and what all went into your journey of getting into music?

I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, so I got to see a lot of hip-hop and street artists really make it from nothing, just by telling their story. When I found out I was able to create my own world within music and write my story, like Nipsey Hussle, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, like everybody from here, I wanted to do that for my community.

I kind of want to do that for my generation as well. There’s an opening for lesbian, gay women, and I want to be the face of LA and show that we can do it, too. So, just getting that confidence and assurance, and coming from where I’ve come from gave me more of a drive to do more for not just myself, but for my community.

How did you get into cannabis activism, and how does it show up in your music?

I dealt with social anxiety for a long time as a kid, so when I was introduced to cannabis, I was able to let everything go, no more stress. Now I don’t have to take medication for pain. When I feel sore after I go to the gym, I use CBD as well, so not just the THC part of it. I use the medicinal part. I use CBD bath bombs and body oil.

Also, cannabis really helps me create well; it opens up my creative space and my mind so that when I’m writing, I’m not concentrating on stress or what I’m going through in my personal life. I’m able to let it all go and really be myself and speak my truth without worrying about anything.

In terms of legalization, what changes do you hope to see, especially when it comes to people of color being incarcerated for cannabis?

I’d like people to be able to see the medical benefits, and finally just have legal use because it’s not hurting anybody. I feel like if the world would just hit a blunt sometimes, or a bowl, everybody would be cool. No one would be stressed out.

I think elderly people should be able to have a little weed sometimes if they want to. It’s not like we have deaths or people doing crazy stuff on it. I feel like everybody needs to be able to smoke up without consequences.

Do you find yourself working that, and other cannabis themes, into your music?

Oh yes, I definitely incorporate those themes. I mean, I did a song with Bob Marley and Wiz Khalifa, so how could I not? I think it’s well-branded that everywhere I go, I have a nice bag with me.

As a queer person in hip-hop, do you feel there is acceptance, or is there still a lot of work the community needs to do?

I feel like we have overcome a lot of hurdles, and I feel like there’s still a lot of teaching and a lot of learning out there for people to do as far as the people who don’t accept it. They have to understand, love is love, and we can’t fight who we love; we just can’t.

Where do you hope to see your career in five to 10 years?

In the stars, amongst those who are excelling. I want to drop a few albums; I want to go on tour. I want to do a lot of collaboration. I want to see more of people building their communities, and I want to see change in where I live. I want to help the homeless and make different foundations and organizations to help people. I want to create spaces for kids who don’t have money and benefits.

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to create those spaces for youth?

I was a teacher for a while, so I’ve seen the effect that music can have on kids in education, so that’s really, really deep in me. I’m going to create a foundation that’s like an after school program, but not one where you just give a kid a ball and let them go in the yard.

I want to incorporate and give them a trade, teach them something that they can do afterwords and carry on with their life so they can have skills that can make them money later on, whether it be music, dance, acting, plumbing or construction. I can give them a couple hours after school, and instead of sitting there just bouncing a ball, let’s do something physical.

Do you have anything in the works in terms of touring plans?

Nothing official yet, but when I tour, I want to head straight for Atlanta. I want to go to Atlanta first, and then back home and just go crazy all over again.

So you’d love to just play in those cities where hip-hop shows really pop off so that it’s a crazy time?

Yes, absolutely. That’s what it’s all about.

To stay up-to-date with Nakkia Gold, check her out on Instagram or her official website.

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B Noble to Expand to Six States and Enlist Gallery PR

Last July, hip-hop historian, artist and filmmaker Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite and former prisoner Bernard Noble launched B Noble, a symbolic cannabis brand sold in two-joint packs—the same amount of cannabis that initially led to Noble’s inhuman prison sentence.

B Noble recently teamed up with the Latina-owned Gallery PR as an agency of record which is based in Los Angeles and New York City. B Noble also announced six new states to its list of Curaleaf locations where you can find the company’s products.

In 2010, Bernard Noble was minding his own business when he was stopped by two police officers while riding his bicycle in New Orleans. He was stopped, frisked and arrested for possession of two joints’ worth (2.8g) of weed, leading to a 13-year sentence of hard labor in a Louisiana state prison. “I was labeled as a kingpin with a $5 marijuana charge,” Noble told High Times last month.

While difficult to comprehend—hard labor is tolerated as a punishment for felony charges in Louisiana. Noble was found guilty of the state’s “habitual offender” law, leading to his sentence “at hard labor.” The Atlantic called Louisiana’s forced labor laws “American slavery, reinvented,” as even the Thirteenth Amendment forbids involuntary servitude in most cases. It was a clear-cut case of how Black people are targeted by cannabis laws despite nearly equal rates of usage, and the racist elements of prohibition that are impossible to ignore—even today.

Thankfully, Bernard’s case eventually drew attention on social media. And as a result, Bernard was released after serving seven years into his sentence. “Bernard’s case happened to be the case that I decided to focus on to show the incredible injustice of these War on Drugs, sham cannabis laws that have plagued people for 80-plus years,” Fab 5 Freddy told High Times.

B Noble’s first product, “2 Joints” symbolizes the two joints that sent Bernard to prison years ago. B Noble pre-roll packs are available now at Curaleaf dispensaries in Maryland and Massachusetts. 

In September and October, B Noble announced the products will be sold at Curaleaf stores across Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado and Nevada. Curaleaf is “the world’s largest cannabis operator by revenue” and is B Noble’s operational partner. 

B Noble shared the core components they hope to envelop: 

  • Creating Prosperity for All
  • Education Through Storytelling 
  • Civic Outreach
  • Reparatory & Social Justice
  • Art, Music & Entertainment 
Photo courtesy B Noble Inc. and Curaleaf Holdings, Inc.

Fab 5 Freddy and B Noble

According to the New York Times, Fab 5 Freddy united the worlds of hip-hop and art decades ago. This important role of bringing Black representation to the music, art and cannabis industries has cemented Fab 5 Freddy’s legacy in America.

Street artists Fab 5 Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat became the first hip-hop element in a music video appearance in Blondie’s “Rapture,” debuting on Solid Gold on January 31, 1981. Subsequently, as MTV’s first hip-hop VJ and host of Yo! MTV Raps, Fab 5 Freddy brought some Black visibility to the network, after people like the late David Bowie slammed MTV for ignoring Black artists.

Because of Fab 5 Freddy’s contributions, in 2019 it was announced that Harlem, New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture will display his priceless collection of rap memorabilia for public view at the historical uptown library.

This eventually led to the important question of why the cannabis industry often shuns Black people, sometimes over nonviolent cannabis cases—such as in the case of Noble. Freddy’s Netflix documentary Grass Is Greener explores America’s complicated relationship with cannabis and racism. But his mission wasn’t fulfilled until Fab 5 Freddy decided he needed to include former prisoners in the business, which led to his partnership with Noble.

Fab 5 Freddy, with the help of former prisoner B Noble, are here to continue to bridge the divide between Black people struggling to take part of the industry, and commercial cannabis.

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Sen Dog Says Cypress Hill is the Cheech and Chong of Hip-Hop

Sen Dog, the co-lead rapper of the legendary multi-platinum group Cypress Hill, discusses the early days of rap and finding success through their connection to cannabis.

It’s been 30 years since Cypress Hill’s eponymous debut album, and co-frontman Senen Reyes—aka Sen Dog—is still feeling blessed. “It’s kind of surreal we’ve even made it 30 years, since we didn’t expect our careers to last this long. Our original concept was to be around for five or six, put out two albums and tour a little bit. No one thought about longevity in hip-hop in those days, so to hit this point in our careers where we’ve done our thing for 30—it’s hard to believe.”

To help commemorate the milestone, Cypress Hill will perform at Shrine LA Outdoors alongside Atmosphere on August 13, 30 years to the day of their debut album drop. Additionally, Legacy Recordings—the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment—will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Cypress Hill by releasing an expanded, 30th anniversary, digital edition of the album that features three bonus tracks.

When we connect by phone, Sen was fired up for both the anniversary album and the anniversary show, eagerly recounting Cypress Hill’s early days, the influence of cannabis on the group, and reveling in their newfound position as the “Triple OGs” of hip-hop.

Let’s start by clarifying something: It’s been said you gave B-Real his first joint when you were kids. Is this true, and if so, how integral was cannabis to the formation of Cypress Hill?

Cannabis has always been an important aspect of our lives and has always been part of the “Cypress way” in which we do our thing. I started smoking weed when I was 12—even though it wasn’t an everyday thing until 17 or 18—and around that time, B-Real wanted to try it one day. I guess he’d tried pot once before, but it was some boo-boo weed, and that day, I had a strong strain on me: Chocolate Thai weed. 

“I was on my way to work and was carrying a joint to smoke after, but B-Real convinced me to smoke it with him beforehand. So I got him high, and as I’m leaving for work, I see him just standing on my mother’s front porch. I’m wondering, “Is he alright?” About nine hours later, I come back, and he’s still standing on my mom’s front porch. I said, “Hey man, are you okay?” He said, “Yeah, man. I’ve just been waiting for you.” I go, “Where, all day, right here?” He goes, “Yeah.” I understood it, though. He got really stoned because I’d smoked him his first real good bit of weed.

When did he eventually leave? Or is he still standing there?

I drove him home that night, which was one of our regular things. He would come hang out, and then I’d take my dad’s car and drive him back to his mom’s house in Gardena. The next morning, he’d ride the bus right back to my house.

It was a good system.

Yeah, it worked for us.

In terms of systems—growing up, making music, smoking weed—was the vision to always create Cypress Hill or did you have other aspirations initially?

I was big into baseball and football—though I liked football more than baseball—and for a minute, I thought I was going to be able to play in the NFL. But I got into some trouble in high school and had to go to juvenile hall and talk to all of those people. They were like, “What do you want to do with your life?” I said, “I want to play in the NFL,” and they were like, “You know, you’re probably too small. At your height, you’ll never get there.” As a young kid, you pay attention to older people telling you shit like that, and it started to turn me into this little rebellious kid who thought people didn’t believe in what I wanted to be.

I said to hell with football, started ditching school and going to ditching parties. The only reason I tell you this is because later on in life, I’d see players like Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith—little dudes—whose line I would have fit in if someone would have believed in me. That’s why I let football go, because everybody kept telling me, “You’re never going to make it; you’re never going to make it.” As a 16, 17-year-old kid, you believe them. When a kid decides they want to do something, you’ve got to back them up.

So you took the energy of not being supported, channeled it into music, and things ended up working out in the end.

Yeah, I went to a ditching party around 11th grade, and there was this kid there named Porky who was known to be one of the baddest pop lockers you’d ever see in your life. He was from Compton or something, and he didn’t want to pop that day; he wanted to rap. At the time, the only rap I’d ever heard was from the East Coast. This was pre-Ice-T and all that shit, so I was like, “Wow, anybody can do that? I thought you had to be from New York.” It wasn’t too much longer before I talked my brother into rapping Run DMC songs together when they’d come out on the radio. That’s how we started our first little rap group, and one day, we were like, “Fuck it, let’s write our own shit.”

From then on, the ball kept moving, and we were all about [hip-hop] all day, every day. If we weren’t recording, we were going to see some of our favorite guys perform. If we weren’t doing that, we were out in front of my mom’s house trying to put together our own little show. [Hip-hop] was something that consumed us. We just did whatever we had to do to be in the scene.

Was there an initial experience or win that gave you the confidence that hip-hop could actually be a career?

We had gone to this rap battle, which we had done repeatedly in the past, and every time we showed up, some other guys produced by Dr. Dre or someone like that ended up winning—even though I thought we were the best. But we perform at this battle; Muggs goes up there, plugs in his SP-12 and plays the beat. When my verse came up, I thought it would be cool to perform my entire rap by jumping on the judges’ table. When I went to come down, the table cracked, and all of the judges’ drinks spilled on them. Whoever was there just loved that shit. We didn’t end up winning, but I left that gig thinking something [important] had happened. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was at the time, but I knew we had done something good that people liked.

Many years later, I figured out that what we had touched on that night was the element of surprise, the whole “not knowing what’s going to happen next.” We’d unintentionally learned that if we hit people when they’re not expecting it, it’s going to kill every time.

On the way home from that gig, my mother had paged me to ask how the gig went. I told her, “You know, I don’t know. I did some funky shit, but everybody loved it.” That was the moment where I felt like whenever the time comes, and we’re put up on that stage, we’re going to be ready. We’re going to be over-the-top ready. The danger element of Cypress Hill had manifested itself naturally, and it was one of those things that got people to lay onto us. 

If you came to see Cypress Hill, you might just catch me or B-Real landing on your ass in the middle of a song. People were like, “Whoa. We’ve never seen this in hip-hop.” The slight danger element we untapped that day, we just happened to keep with us for the rest of time.

Was the danger element influenced by cannabis, and did cannabis influence you creatively?

When I first started getting stoned, it was just that: Getting stoned and feeling trippy. Then, I got into Cheech and Chong movies—and their band—and subliminally was taken away by how creative those guys were. People always said, if you become a pothead, you’ll become a couch potato, but I saw Cheech and Chong, and they were over-the-top creative. So I was like, [this whole “couch potato” thing] has got to be bullshit.

When I first started rapping, I wasn’t stoned or anything, but eventually, weed became an everyday practice in my hangout and my creative process. It took on more of an importance than just, “Let’s blaze a doob and act goofy.” Smoking weed became—I wouldn’t say a source of creativity—but an enhancer of creativity. When we’re in the studio, and we’re blazing up, we’re on the scene, man. We’re Cypress Hill. Cannabis has always been an important part of us, to the point where one day Muggs told me he wanted me and B-Real to be the Cheech and Chong of hip-hop.

At the time, we didn’t have any gimmick. Run DMC was black-on-black with the hats—they had their own look; Public Enemy was like the Black Panthers; Beastie Boys were these wild dudes, and LL was the baddest—“I’m bad!” We were just good rappers; we didn’t have any gimmick or anything. So when Muggs told me that, it took me a little while to get used to the idea, but the more we went along with it, I was like, “I think Muggs is right; let’s run with it.” For that purpose, Cypress Hill will always be cannabis activists. We were those guys before we even knew we were those guys. That’s how important cannabis is to Cypress Hill history.

You could say figuring out your “gimmick” was really figuring out your brand.

In those days, if you didn’t have a gimmick, you weren’t going to hit that strongly. Those were the days when hip-hop was starting to blow wide open, and you had to have something for people to identify you by. We were the stoners.

With the 30th anniversary of your debut album approaching, how does it feel to still be the stoners 30 years later?

I can only say when I think about it all in hindsight, it’s been an incredible run, and we could never have done it without the support of our fans and dedicated followers. We always have to give them props, and I just feel incredibly blessed. I can’t even express that in words. I’ve been blessed to provide for my family through hip-hop. 

We know we’re fortunate, and with the support of people getting behind us, here we are 30 years later, and it’s been an incredible ride. I can only hope that all the musicians who read this interview or who hear about Cypress Hill get to go on that same trip that we went on and get to experience all the highs and the lows and everything else that came along with it.

To get to where we’re at now, we’re like the elder statesmen in hip-hop. People call us shit like “Triple OG.” But, if I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. You never know what’s going to happen until you stay the course.

Follow @sendog and @cypresshill and check out cypresshill.com for tickets and tour dates

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Joints and Jay D – Three Legendary Tracks From J. Dilla

Few producers have been as influential and well-loved as J Dilla. Here are three of his tracks that pair perfectly with a good joint. The Pharcyde – “Runnin” by J Dilla The immediately recognizable guitar riff in this song is taken from the Spanish jazz artists Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfá’s “Saudade Vem Correndo,” with […]

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Neo-soul jazz for a Sunday morning session

Neo-soul music was the thing back in the late 90s and early 2000s. We had artists like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo—and songs, samples, and artists showing up within the worlds of Hip-Hop, movies, and TV. But despite its lack of limelight as of late, neo-soul is far from dead. In celebration, here are three neo-soul […]

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New Music Friday: Jason Derulo, Kota the Friend, Wale, and chillpill

With the 3rd week of 2021 under our belt, things are starting to look up. And making it to the end of the week means new music to start your weekend. This week we feature music from Jason Derulo, Kota the Friend, Wale and, chillpill. Lifestyle (feat. Adam Levine) – Jason Derulo, Maroon 5 Jason […]

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New Music Friday: Juice Wrld, Emotional Oranges, Dababy, Flo Milli

Welcome back to another edition of New Music Friday! This week we feature music from Juice Wrld, Emotional Oranges, Dababy, and Flo Milli. Bad Boy (ft. Young Thug) – Juice Wrld Juice Wrld raps on this upbeat melodic trap banger with Young Thug. Produced by Pierre Bourne, this track has all the ingredients for a […]

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