Ted Smith on Cannabis in Canada

Last week, CLN chatted with long-time cannabis activist and Cannabis Digest contributor Ted Smith on the state of cannabis in Canada. Ted is the founder and owner of the Victoria Cannabis Buyer’s Club (VCBC), Canada’s longest-running (and last remaining) compassionate club. Despite helping thousands of patients, the Canadian and B.C. governments consider Ted a criminal. “It’s frustrating,” says Ted by phone. Especially since other jurisdictions – like legal U.S. states – are legalizing consumption spaces. In Canada, cannabis civil disobedience has always […]

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Mick Jenkins Is Finally Doing Whatever He Wants

For the better part of the last decade, Chicago-bred rapper Mick Jenkins has proved himself to be one of the best pure lyricists in the game. With a vicious pen that’s truly mightier than any sword, a dedicated cult-like following that spans across the globe, respect from his peers on both sides of the mainstream and underground market, he’s had a longer and more sustainable career than most rappers do.

Despite all of this, like similar independent artists before him, Mick’s brand of smooth laid-back raps over jazzy instrumentals has been largely underappreciated by major music media outlets and mainstream hip-hop fans alike, and his patience with all of that quite frankly has worn thin. The Patience is less an album about the virtues of patience as it is Mick expressing the frustration of he’s experienced from a myriad of topics, from his constrictive label situation at Cinematic Records to rappers who are seemingly unable to rap about anything other than shallow materialism. This frustration spills over the most in standout tracks like “Pasta” and “Guapanese” with him literally shouting his bars. The end result has ultimately produced what could potentially be the best music of Mick’s already impressive catalog.

One of the core elements of his music lies in his open love for cannabis. The JID-assisted “Smoke Break-Dance” was the first single released for The Patience, providing mellow stoner vibes that’s more aligned with the sound of previous projects. When it comes to the list of all-time great weed rappers—or artists who just rap about cannabis more frequently/better than the average MC—Mick definitely belongs in the conversation. He has taken this appreciation for the plant even a step further beyond music, starting his own legal weed brand back in 2020 with The Healing Component (named after one of his albums) in collaboration with Trap House Connection in Washington state.

I had the chance to chop it up with Mick via zoom. I puffed on a hand-made donut hole with Honey Banana flower and Jenny Kush live rosin while he casually smokes on a joint of Mountain Sage by Cannabiotix as he shares the inside scoop of his new album, and his budding weed enterprise.

Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel to finally be free from your previous label and make the project you wanted without constraints?

Thank you. I’m just trying to do my own artistry and be independent in the business, and now that I have that experience, it feels good to put my first ideas and iterations in action. From the music to the videos to the rollout to all the extra content that we have to surround and build out this world. It’s all a product of me and my manager’s thoughts, with help from RBC [Records] and BMG that I’m signed to now. And so what people are seeing is a direct reflection of that. I couldn’t really ask for more in my situation with fairness, unless niggas just wanna give me a million dollars for no reason (laughs).  

So, in that regard, I’m happy. Life is lifeing. That happens to everybody, but I’m pretty happy even with my connection to this music. I do feel like this is the first time where I’ve done everything I wanted to do.

You’ve got some notable features on this project. You’ve mentioned in interviews how you formed an organic relationship with each guest, but I’m curious on how you even chose to have those artists on The Patience?

I don’t, bro. It’s who’s available. And whose time is free when your time is free. I think people misunderstand that a lot. You don’t just get to choose who you want. Like you choose what you want and then see if it’s possible. And a lot of times it’s not possible so you got to pivot to other people. A lot of the time like, if I had who I wanted on here, I don’t know if any of these niggas [would] be on here. But it’s because like I can’t get Andre 3000 bro, like I don’t know Kendrick, Earl hasn’t hit me back in like a year, you feel me? (laughs).

But, I know JID. We send music back and forth. We push each other’s pens back and forth. We send each other unreleased shit. I’ve been a fan of Vic for a long time, you know what I’m saying. He’s gone through a huge change in his life and we started talking on just real organic shit in that way. Freddie finally hit me back after I had been messaging him in the middle of night at like 2:30 in the morning, like ‘Yo, I’m about to do this record.’ I’m like, “Oh, shit that’s crazy!’ You know what I’m saying, just like, shit like that. Whereas a lot of times in my past, I found myself campaigning for shit that didn’t even happen, ya’ feel me? This time, all I did was kind of like, let people know what I had going on. And they was just like, ‘Oh yeah, I gotcha.’ So it’s refreshing because well, I’m sure you already know as a journalist trying to chase rappers for interviews is crazy. Tryna chase niggas down for 16 bars is even crazier, I promise you.

Switching gears to weed, you have a line from The Water[s] where you say “Told myself I’d never be a smoker/Fail, watch me inhale” and it always makes me laugh because I also used to be a straight edge kid in high school. So I’m just curious as to what your first time smoking was like and what are your go-to strains today?

I’m a sativa guy, first and foremost. I love indica too, but I just can’t smoke it all day. Tangie is my favorite, and there’s a lot of derivatives. I just had some really good Haze from Verde Natural. They sent it to me, and usually when people send me weed, I don’t ever say anything about it, but I haven’t had any Haze that looked, smelled, tasted this good, and gave me that even-keel high like a Haze does like that in a while. I had to hit them up like ‘Yo, this is amazing,’ so shout out Verde Natural. But yeah, [Tangie and Haze] are the two go-to strains, and then some indica for the night.

My first time smoking I was 17 at the time. I was by myself, I didn’t know how to roll, so I stuffed a Black & Mild. It was pretty fluffy weed so it was easy to break down, whereas if it was that dense ass weed I would have been lost as to what to do because I didn’t know anything about a grinder. But it was pretty fluffy so I was able to break it down and toss it in there. I hit it twice and it was just so nasty out of that fucking Black & Mild that I didn’t hit it again, and I wouldn’t smoke again until my freshman year of college. And that time I got high as fuck with some homies. There was like a dip-off off campus and we just kind of sat there in silence while listening to music. But that first time is fucking hilarious. My big cousin Jordan used to smoke and I used to look at him like ‘Eww, I can’t believe you smoke weed.’ (laughs)

I know you also have your own brand in the industry. Truth be told, you were one of the first Chicago rappers to ever have your own legal cannabis brands even before Vic Mensa started 93 Boyz. How did you venture into that business?

Yeah, so it’s The Healing Component and Trees & Truth. We’re operating out of Washington—Seattle, specifically—but we’re all over the state. Right now we’re trying to get connected with some growers so that we can get into the markets in L.A. and Illinois, specifically. You know that’s a process in and of itself. But I worked on it with my mans Blake. He approached me while I was on tour with Davido in Seattle and he dropped off some gas. He was like ‘Yo, I’m not giving you weed because I want you to smoke it, I want to work with you.’ He was saying how he thought The Healing Component was a good play on THC and that it could make a good brand, and that he ran Trap House Connections and worked with nine other brands. I was like aight, smoked that shit and it was gas (laughs)… 

And now it’s doing pretty well! We’ve been working together for like four or five years. I came back recently to our farm in Yakima, Washington. I went on a dispensary tour and met all the people selling our product, so it was just interesting to see everything from top to bottom. It started with me just doing marketing, because obviously like I said he was running a few different brands already. So it’s nothing for him to just essentially like choose some flower and slap my name on it, essentially. But now we’ve got like our own strains that we’ve been cultivating. And that’s been the most difficult thing, like trying to get somebody that can grow the same way as we grow in different states. For Illinois, when it comes to the weed in dispensaries, you completely recognize the difference in quality and that just has to do with what’s available and a lot of other variables. So, we’re still growing. We want it to be a partnership. I told him I was like not super concerned about taking profits in the beginning. Because I wanted to actually be in this world and I knew I had a lot to learn. I knew that I didn’t know.

Cannabis has always been a big part of your music. From your first project being Trees & Truth with “tree” being a weed reference, The Healing Component is abbreviated THC, even the first single from the new project is “Smoke Break-Dance.” I feel like you’re one of the best when it comes to quote-unquote “stoner rappers” with the likes of Curren$y, Wiz, Cypress Hill and Snoop. But the way in which you rap about weed a lot of times is so clever and subtle, I feel like it goes over people’s heads so they may not immediately think of your name in that category. Is that intentional?

I try to do that. Even with “Smoke Break,” I feel like a lot of times I make songs like this, it’s like okay, you’re making another smoking song. How are you gonna make this different? I think though, that question kind of leads me to talking about [weed] in the unconventional ways that I do. Just because if I don’t do that, then it’s going to be a lot of the same. And that’s not a knock to anybody. That’s just me trying to push my own creativity. I’m definitely a stoner, so it’s definitely gonna come out of my raps. I just tried to make sure there’s variance, so I’m not saying the same thing over and over because you know, it’s just smoking. It’s not like there’s that much to it.

Yeah, my favorite smoking song from you is “Percy” and it’s a shame it’s not on streaming (currently only available on YouTube). That’s one of my favorite songs ever, period. I know you also directed the video for that, so what was that whole experience like?

That’s my favorite song too. Me and Qari just made that song on the fly, and I think everything else about it was on the fly. It wasn’t anything too crazy, obviously. But that was my first time [directing a music video] so I didn’t give myself too much pressure. I just wanted to do something like all the way through. And that’s why it was released as a single. We didn’t worry about clearing the sample or anything, which is why we don’t have it on streaming. It was just something I wanted to do for myself. Me and Qari both snapped on the verses, and I do think it’s a shame. There’s a few songs that I have that I’m like, ‘Damn, I should have treated that right.’ Should have gave that one a proper release, you know, but yeah, that’s definitely one of my favorites.

What is the influence of cannabis in your life outside of music? I personally feel like it has some spiritual and healing properties.

I mean to me, it’s just something I like to do. There’s some escapism. It has some relieving properties for sure. Like it’s a relief for me at times. But, I mean, I’ve had to reduce how much I’m smoking because I recognized that I was smoking too much. At one point I was smoking an ounce a week for real. I know people who smoke more than that, but it’s just like that’s too much. That was too much for me. Especially because I’m married, you know what I’m saying? I have a crib I gotta pay for, it was too much so, I’ve had to reduce how much I smoke at different periods in my life. It’s just some habitual shit though. I don’t know that the amount of healing that I get from it outweighs the reality that I just like to get high (laughs).

At least you’re honest, man. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. In keeping with the theme of the album, do you feel like weed makes you more patient? What do you do to take care of yourself?

No, no, it’s just something to do while I wait. It can definitely calm me down while I’m trying to be patient. But I think patience is more than how you feel. I think it is an action. I think it is a doing of a thing. So I don’t think it really makes me more patient.

I hoop a lot, but recently I fucked around and tore my LCL. But yeah, I hoop, I hike, sometimes I skate, I go to the beach a lot. I live in L.A. now so it’s just there’s a lot to do outside so I be outside. I’m definitely a nature dude, I go on picnics a lot with my wife. We walk a lot. We take walks around at the park like around the track and shit. So I do a lot of different physical shit, just tryna stay healthy.

Let’s talk about hip-hop. I was listening to your Fader interview, and you spoke on the frustration about the lack of love that the underground has been getting from all these so-called celebrations of hip-hop at mainstream shows. So I just wanted to ask you, who are just some underground names you want to give love to, whether they’re current or old school?

Hi-Tek, a producer from Cincinnati, fucking amazing. Little Brother, Phonte never get the flowers he deserves even though a lot of niggas inspired by Phonte. My nigga Rhymefest from Chicago. Definitely, The Cool Kids don’t get the credit they deserve and they really fucked the culture up. I don’t know why my R&B nigga BJ The Chicago Kid don’t get no love, but now this is turning into a Chicago list. 

I fuck with Mach-Hommy heavy on some rap shit. He’s one of the newest rappers in the last five years where I’m like this is crazy. I don’t know if these guys are underrated because I just started listening to them, but Coast Contra—they’re crazy—it’s like five of them in there. A lot of the old heads I listen to are lit, so they’re not underrated. They for sure don’t get the love they deserve, but they’re legends now so it don’t even matter. Oh, and my dawg SLLIME, Sllime Ghoulie, Sllime64 (Chicago-based producer/rapper and Mick’s long-time tour DJ).

When are we getting the greenSLLIME and Mick collab project?

Oh, that’s next! Facts.

Word?! Other than that, what else is next for you? Any final words you want to share?

Music, music, a lot of music. A lot of content surrounding music. I’m dropping music, period. 

Thank you for having me. I am trying to go to the High Times Cannabis Cup. I need to be a panelist or judge or something so maybe you can plug me (laughs).

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A Conversation With Comedian, Deadhead Phil Hanley About The Final Dead & Company Shows

Waves. Everywhere you looked, there were waves of people – 40,000 bodies moving, swaying, and flailing in the cool San Francisco breeze. This was the final Dead & Company show, an event brimming with tears of joy, gloriously goofy dancing, and, of course, epic jamming. Grateful Dead co-founder, Bob Weir, returned home for a trio of concerts at Oracle Park, marking the grand finale.

Outside the stadium, the atmosphere exuded glee without a hint of bittersweetness. At a Dead & Company show, there was nothing to feel down about, even if it was purported to be the last gig. The crowd was ecstatic, often drunk and high, all ready to witness the band doing what they do best – just like they had over the years.

For nearly five hours, the band – Bob Weir (rhythm guitar and vocals), Mickey Hart (drums and percussion), Jeff Chimenti (keyboards and vocals), John Mayer (lead guitar and vocals), and Oteil Burbridge (bass and vocals) – played like both masters and curious students intertwined. Even when they played the Dead’s hit songs, the band delivered the unexpected, leaving you hanging on to every note and lyric. It wasn’t just because it was the final show. Plus, for a band like the Dead, and a night like the final show, that music never stops. 

There’s something about their music that dances with the soul. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words exactly, especially since the soul isn’t always the most eloquent talker and all. Comedian Phil Hanley, however, knows exactly how the Dead’s music makes him feel. Hanley has been deeply influenced by the band, especially Bob Weir, whom he idolizes. “Anything Bob Weir does, I’ll support,” he once told High Times. “My favorite dyslexic, Bob Weir.” 

Rather than writing further about the gloriousness of the final show, the smell of cannabis in the air, or the band’s inspiring balance of patience and momentum, I thought it best to let High Times readers hear from an expert. Consider Phil Hanley a doctor and a professor in all things Dead-related.

Having attended the final three Dead & Company shows, Hanley – who you can always catch at The Comedy Cellar in NYC or on tour this fall – shared his experiences in a call a few days after the last show, both of us buzzing as we reminisced about witnessing Dead & Company at both the peak and the end of their touring career.

How were your experiences at the final three shows? How did they compare?

Well, the whole time it’s in your head that these were the last shows. It was being billed as that, but I’ve been going to see Dead & Co shows since 2015 when they started in the fall. The craziest thing in your head is thinking, “These are the last shows,” but then you’re also thinking, “This is them at their absolute peak.” And not just like, “Oh, these are great shows,” but it was like a next-level situation that, as a fan of the band and someone that had seen them many, many times, I didn’t necessarily predict that they would be able to get to the place that they were at this past weekend.

And again, I was a fan. I’ve seen Dead & Co a bunch of times, and I’d never pass on a show, but it was next level and treading on totally new grounds. On Friday night, there was a jam in “Scarlet Begonias” where I was like, “This pathway in the forest has never been locked down before. Like, they were unbelievable.”

I saw it Sunday night, and I agree, it’s the best I’ve seen them. Everything felt spontaneous yet so on point. 

It’s like that line in “Terrapin Station” where they’re like, “Is this the end or the beginning?” That’s how I felt. Anyone who’s reading High Times, I highly recommend you listen to “Scarlet” or “Cumberland Blues,” ‘cause it was so on the edge of chaos, it reminded me in a completely different way. That’s the incredible thing. It wasn’t like, “Let’s go up and emulate a great Cumberland from when Jerry was still with us.”

I’ve been a Bob Weir fan since I was a kid. He’s just such a huge source of inspiration, but to see him in the pocket and just, it is the last song and he’s like, “Let’s do it. Let’s do something new.” It was phenomenal on Friday night when they did “The Big River” and “Dark Star” mashup.

Do you really think it’s the end for Dead & Company?

It is not the way people behave [on stage] when they’re like, “This is the last kick in the can,” you know? I think we’re on the brink of a new beginning. I think that Bob was kind of conducting the band for a lot of the previous years, but this time, everyone was just on their own and just completely let loose. I was blown away by all three nights.

How else do you think they evolved over the years as a group?

They started good and got better and better and better. There were ups and downs along the way, but good God, not only did it feel like a peak, but it felt just like a whole new thing. I can’t believe as musicians, they would be like, “Yeah, let’s never do that again.” They played 10 hours of music over three days. They did three encores. They did “Truckin’,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Not Fade Away.” No one left. 

Comedian Phil Hanley

On Sunday night, I think they went 40 minutes past their scheduled end time. I thought they were going to finish with “Not Fade Away,” which would’ve been a lovely final song, but then Bob had this look on stage, like, “Let’s keep going.”

Yeah, dude. I was standing with a group of friends and we wanted more. It was like denial. It was like refusing to see a lover’s flaws or something like that. When a roadie was removing a mic, people just could not accept that it was over and not over as the band, but just over as the night. It was very reflective of what people wanted.

If this is the end, there was something kind of beautiful about Bob Weir finishing these shows back home, near where the band started. Did you see any significance in him playing San Francisco in the final Dead & Company shows?

I’ll try to be concise with you because I’ve brought this up to like probably 10 Deadheads, and it didn’t even register in their eyes. But to me, there was a huge moment on Friday where Bob Weir goes, “The bus came round and I got on, and that’s when it all began.” I’m getting chills. My hair is standing up on my arm right now because it’s so wild that that is true.

In 1965, he heard Jerry practicing guitar in a music store and went in and met Jerry, and like, all that’s happened… To me, I read that moment as, that’s all that’s happened. There’s so much more that will happen, you know? It was just such a wild, wild moment because so much has gone down. In true Bob Weir fashion, the next day on Monday, he announced a Wolf Brothers tour.

Did he?

Wolf Brothers on the road in the fall. When people say, “Bob is this age,” that means nothing. He arguably sounds as good or better than ever. I mean, he always sounds amazing, but he sounds like no other singer I’ve ever seen. Besides Jerry, he’s the character in those songs, and you feel it, and it just goes directly to your heart. You know, when he was singing and he’s telling these stories, oh my God.

I think his voice has such gravitas and history to it now that, you’re right, it’s evolved – not improved – into this beautiful new place.

Oh, yeah. Also, everyone was playing insanely, but Bobby is right there, and he was so in the zone. He’s so in the song, he’s not even really tapping his foot. He’s just in it, you know? Everyone else is like dancing and gyrating, and Weir is just channeled. He’s playing at such a high level and makes it look so easy and so natural. 

Last time we spoke, you talked about Bob Weir being a hero of yours, partly because, as he’s said, he’s “super dyslexic.” When you watch him play live, do you still focus on how it influences his playing?

When I found out that Bob Weir was dyslexic, I was like, “Oh, he’s one of us.” The community has Bob Weir. You know, over the last 40 years, if he messes up a lyric, it’s celebrated and a reminder that it’s a live experience. It’s not like, “Oh, Bobby messed up the lyrics to ‘West L.A. Fadeaway.’” It’s celebrated.

We approach things differently, and it’s a strength. When Jerry passed, you’re like, “How is anyone ever gonna replace Jerry Garcia, one of the greatest, if not the greatest American musician to ever live?” Just an incredible, incredible musician and disciplined and creative and all these things, obviously. That’s really hard to replace, but what I think will be impossible to replace would be if anything ever happened to Bob Weir because his style of playing is so unique.

I’ve brought guitar players to see Dead shows before, and they’re just like, “What is he doing?” Because he’s playing like an E up here and an E there, and an E there, and an E there. The way he approaches music and the guitar, there’s no rhythm guitar player that’s even similar. He’s such his own entity.

If he was able to read music too, he might have been more traditional and wouldn’t have gone down the path he did. You know, Jerry always said he followed Bob’s lead, letting his rhythm guitar lead the way. How’d you see the band play off Bob this last weekend? 

Jeff Chimenti has such a beautiful musical relationship with the band, and they play so well off each other. When you see them live, you can really hear how they play in harmony. They all kind of took turns and fell in line. Because they’re doing new stuff, I mean, how many “Scarlet Begonias” have I listened to in my life? Maybe all of them, but to hear them go in a new direction like there was a jam in the middle of “Scarlet Begonias” where I’m like, “Oh, this is crazy. I’ve never heard anything like that. The song was there.”

I was talking to a musician last night who had played with Bobby, and he said that in the past, when they played together and someone made a mistake or a bold choice, that’s when you really got Bobby’s attention. That’s me quoting, but I think that’s where they find things interesting. I also heard a Mayer interview this year where they were talking about a song going in a new direction or kind of off the rails, and that was when Weir was really like, “No, stay here. This is new.” It’s the beauty of the Dead.


I actually took a John Mayer fan to the show, and they left a fan of the Dead. How do you think he gelled with the music over the years?

It’s so inspiring. I was blown away that he knew all those songs for the first tour, and I thought he was great. The first tour I was content with, like, “This is The Dead.” He continued to evolve, and it was his guitar playing that, I think, helped make “Cumberland Blues” so special and something that people will celebrate. There’s no way people won’t listen to that Sunday night show. 

Man, when they briefly went into “Hey Jude” and Mayer did this guitar solo, I was like, holy shit.

Dude, yes. It was cool because you could see Bobby was kind of conducting things before, and now everyone’s just left to do their own thing. Again, it’s so weird ’cause it’s under the guise of this being their last tour. A few times in my head, I was like, “This is the future of the Dead.” It made me feel that they have a bright future and, you know, with Mayer playing, this is another eight years. I was like, “God, I can’t wait to hear them 16 or 20 years from now.”

I hope that’s the case. I’ve felt a bit down since that final show because I’ll miss these shows and something beautiful about going to them – the lack of insecurity you feel. It’s such a happy place to be, and you can dance like an idiot, and no one will laugh at you. After your decades of watching the Dead live and having that experience, has it helped make you more comfy in your skin?

100%. I always tell people, the Dead is my lifeblood. I’m from a town in Canada, and people talk about gatekeeping and all that stuff. You pick a hockey team when you’re three, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter what happens. You pick who you are, and that’s that. So growing up, you couldn’t wear a certain band shirt unless you’d seen them live. Even with Dead stuff, I never wore any Dead paraphernalia until I saw them live.

It’s wild that there’s a full-on 2023 resurgence of the Grateful Dead. I welcome it. I love it. I just think it’s such a positive thing for everyone. Like you were saying, you can’t look goofy, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about not caring about fitting in. Normally, you fit in with people by taking into consideration what they think or how they feel or whatever. With the Dead, you fit in by not caring about those things. It’s completely letting loose. It’s phenomenal.

You meet so many cool and friendly people at these shows, too. Any favorite memories of fellow fans at Dead shows?

Every show. I remember a show at MSG, Dead & Co. I was with my girlfriend at the time, but it was a bit of a turbulent situation. She left the show. I had a split second of like, ah, what a bad buzz. And then out of nowhere, this dude just gave me this huge hug and was like, “I could see you needed that.” He didn’t see my girlfriend storm away or anything like that. He just read my face when he was dancing by and gave me a hug, and then danced away.

I remember back in the day when Jerry was alive, and we were at Soldier Field. I had lied to my parents about where I was going, and we snuck out and drove to Chicago from Ontario, which is quite a trek. I remember the show ended, and this guy was wearing a full tie-dyed, like, clown outfit. He was standing and screaming as loud as he could, “RAH!” And then the crowd would cheer, and then he’d do it again. Only louder this time, “RAH!” And the crowd would cheer. He yelled a third time, he threw himself back and just landed on the ground, flat on his back. It went from funny to dramatic. And then he stood up and went, “See you guys tomorrow night!” And everyone applauded.

There’s such genuine joy at a dead show. Other of the things that dawned on me, I always thought, like when I was a kid, it felt like the Dead, even though they’re so popular that I always kind of had sympathy for people who weren’t aware of them and were depriving themselves of that experience. It was just a subconscious thing where I was so grateful to be part of it and so grateful that I had that thing in my life – my love for the Dead.

I hadn’t thought that for years, and the [final] weekend, that thought popped back into my head. Again, this is really where it’s at. It’s almost like, if people don’t understand the band, you don’t like the human spirit. It’s a celebration of the human spirit. And it’s just encompassing so much music, you know? There are parts of it that are so heavy, but you just get so much out of it. It’s just such a wild ride and such a complete experience.

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Kool & the Gang Is A Generational Groove

George Brown is grateful for the love.

As the esteemed drummer and percussionist for the Grammy Award winning band Kool & the Gang reflects on his career in music, he really wants to thank the fans who have supported the music group across the globe all of these years. “It’s become generational,” Brown said during our phone interview. “Love and blessings to you all.”

Over the course of our conversation, Brown shares the creative inspirations behind his upcoming book Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me, Kool’s upcoming new album People Just Wanna Have Fun, and how weed inspired the group to push the boundaries of what’s possible and expand creatively into uncharted territory.

High Times: Growing up in Jersey City, what was your first introduction to music?

George Brown: Gloria Lynne, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, Count Basie—there were so many that were my introduction to music, and of course, the pop music of that day.

High Times: Was there a distinct moment where you realized music was something you wanted to pursue?

George Brown: There was no distinct moment, it was…the moment, I just knew it. As a child, I just knew it. I felt it, I heard it, and it was there.

I don’t think there’s any difference from the millions of musicians who have come before or those who you now feel it when you hear it.

Most musicians hear music in their heads. As a child, you probably hear the music, and at a certain point, you can experiment with it, even though you’re not playing an instrument. You can mentally manipulate it because it’s in your head. You can speed it up, slow it down, change the key, create different pitch patterns, make the strings do vibrato—you can make it all happen because it’s in your head.

If you’re writing it, you’re hearing it. Take any of the great songwriters—John Coltrane, Quincy Jones, Mozart—they’re hearing the music in their heads.

High Times: You hear it first, experience it internally, and then push it outward.

George Brown: Absolutely, and it can go the other way, too. You could be messing around on the keyboard, guitar, or horns—and then bingo. You got something that just came right out.

High Times: What gave you and your bandmates the confidence to follow the music in your heads and to choose that path?

George Brown: What else would you do if it’s in your head? It’s giving you patterns, melodic structure, and harmony. Where else would you go? Would you try to clear that out of your head and go someplace else? I don’t think that would work. It’s actually directing you, “Hey, do this.”

High Times: But you still had a choice. You could have chosen not to answer the call.

George Brown: When it’s in your head like that, it’s not much of a choice. It’s telling you, “This is it.” It’s like the bandit with the gun, “Give me your money.”

High Times: So in many ways the music was leading you.

George Brown: Absolutely.

High Times: Did you ever experience a moment validating that the decision to listen to the music in your head was the right choice?

George Brown: When you get a gold record or people are giving you great acclaim, you know the music in your head was giving you the right direction. You can’t deny that.

High Times: You have a new book coming out and Kool & the Gang has a new album coming out. What were the creative inspirations for both?

George Brown: For the book—Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me—it was the journey [laughs]. 

You grow up in the ghetto, you do the things to move forward and help develop yourself as a musician or basketball player or academic—whatever it is to embellish oneself. You work hard, and then the journey of life that we go through—the ups, downs, ins and outs, marriages, non-marriages, pains and things, slings and arrows, outrageous fortune—all of that is in the book. Cautionary tales about “If you keep doing x, this will probably happen. If you do this, that will probably happen.”

When you’re putting your energy, your mind, and every piece of inspiration into an area of your life, eventually, it’s going to come to fruition because you put so much time and energy into it. It will happen.

It will start small and become larger and larger—but it will happen—and the book is about that. It’s also about all of the sufferings we go through, all of the happiness that we go through, and all of the relationships we get involved in—business wise, romantic wise.

Everybody goes out and thinks “she’s the one” or “he’s the one,” and it doesn’t turn out that way. Everybody receives a heartbreak. There are so many avenues of life that this industry—which is the heartbreak industry—teaches you a lesson in. When things don’t go quite right, you learn a lesson. You learn a spiritual, physical, and financial lesson—and all of that is in the book.

High Times: Do you view relationships—business, romantic, or otherwise—as tools for growth?

George Brown: Relationships are tools for growth. That’s why the creator puts them in peoples’ lives. We find each other through a bunch of cogs. If you join this organization, you become one of the cogs. That cog moves you through to another cog—you see what I’m saying, right? It’s like a clock. Then you run into another person or another cog—and it works for a while. Maybe one of their hinges breaks, or one of yours falls down and it just won’t move and you have to find a way to move on…when here comes another cog that actually moves you. It’s all for your personal, spiritual, physical growth. When you look back on it all, you go, “Man, I’ve grown from that.”

Life is a school of pain and sorrow, and we learn love and compassion through it. That’s the way you learn love and compassion. If it was just all love, how do you get to learn love? Love and compassion come from pain and suffering.

High Times: Are these learnings and life reflections we’re talking about something you guys have put into the new Kool & the Gang record?

George Brown: Absolutely, and that’s why we call it People Just Wanna Have Fun. When you break it down, people just want to have fun. I don’t mean that as a commercial, people just want to live and be happy.

You see people running away from their countries all over the world for asylum and for a better way. That’s what the album is about: Peace, happiness, humanity, and we infused that into each song.

The single “Let’s Party” is about having a good time. “Heaven’s Gift” is whatever heaven’s gift means to you—whether it’s a newborn child, a wedding, or a healing. We’ve got “99 Miles to JC,” which is our hometown [Jersey City], and it’s us speaking about the love for our hometown on our way back from being on the road. It’s purely instrumental and you get to see the depth of musicianship of Kool & the Gang—the jazz part of Kool & the Gang.

Also on the album, you hear gospel harmonies, which we never really used, and you hear Sha Sha [Jones] singing lead. We never had a female lead singer, so it’s just brand new in so many aspects.

High Times: So those are some of the creative influences on the new album. How has cannabis played a role in your creativity?

George Brown: It’s provided me with the element of growth and has helped me exceed certain boundaries that Kool & the Gang were always held to. We’ve broken those boundaries.

We’ve always been very eclectic, we’ve always taken bits and parts from different styles of music. It was never the same genre, and the audience has always followed through with us.

There are still more boundaries to exceed as well.

High Times: You’re saying the plant has helped you see different possibilities, which then allowed you to exceed what you as a band set out to do.

George Brown: Absolutely.

Follow @koolandthegang, @georgebrown_kg, and check out https://www.koolandthegang.com/ for tickets and tour dates

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Only 24.4% of Cannabis Operators Profitable Due to 280E, Other Challenges

A new report on the U.S. cannabis market is making the rounds, and paints a pretty dire picture of where the industry is today economically, with just 24.4% of survey respondents saying their business is profitable. High Times recently sat down with Beau Whitney, the CEO of Whitney Economics, who headed up the economic analysis of the data their survey found to get a more complete picture. 

No Longer Able to ‘Work from Stoned’ Harms Cannabis Economy

You might remember when the COVID-19 pandemic started in the spring of 2020, many states said cannabis was an essential industry that couldn’t be closed down and cannabis sales were “booming.” Unfortunately, behavioral changes after the pandemic have taken a toll. “People could no longer Work from Stoned,” which Beau said “hurt the industry at a time when they needed more revenue but [received] less.” While Whitney’s data found that just ten out of 36 state markets were not growing, “The growth is coming from states that just launched, and while they are growing, it is a much smaller chunk of the total cannabis market.” The ten states that weren’t growing included large, mature markets like Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington. 

Oregon: Regional Bias or a Harbinger of Things to Come?

The report admits there was a “strong regional bias, as Oregon-based respondents made up nearly 90% of the total.” That means that out of the 224 responses received, just 24 were from operators outside of Oregon. As any longtime observer of cannabis markets will note, Oregon’s cannabis economy has been struggling for over half a decade, to the point where many cannabis cultivators jumped into the hemp market. As Beau lives in Oregon, he is no stranger to the struggles of their local cannabis industry and made many attempts to control for the regional bias in the responses they received by triangulating the data – using more than one data point. 

“I do a lot of expert witness testimony and have been doing individual state-level research,’ said Beau, which is why he knows “Michigan is mirroring Oregon, with too much capacity, too much supply, and a strong illicit market.” Beyond his research, Beau followed up on the survey by “calling business leaders.” All of the data from states less represented in the survey “indicated that Oregon was a harbinger of things to come.”

Plans for Next Year’s Survey

Their first two years, Whitney created an annual report, but they are trying “to go from an annual to a quarterly survey.” As a result, Beau said they “will likely trim down the number of questions.” 

The reason why there was such a strong representation of Oregon-based operators is that Oregon’s cannabis regulators sent the survey out directly to their licensees. Other than Oregon, the only two states where they had such strong regulator participation were Washington and, surprisingly, South Dakota. Next year will be a different story. Beau now has stronger relations with the Michigan regulators, expects more support from Colorado regulators, and has better relationships with business leaders in Florida; all states that were notable omissions in this year’s data. Beau also mentioned that “the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) sees a lot more value in this data and supports me more than they did previously,” and their support could help expand his available pool of data significantly. 

Necessary Reforms to Save the Industry

The key factors limiting growth are IRS tax code 280E, “a lack of access to banking, a limited demand market because supply and demand are all in one state, and the influence of the illicit market.” Whitney’s survey data and Beau’s personal research have revealed some policy reforms that could save the cannabis industry. Beau’s top policy solutions are safe banking, which “lowers the cost of capital,” 280E reform, which would relieve “up to 70% taxes in some cases,” and opening up interstate commerce to deal with imbalances of supply and demand. Beau did an analysis of 280E taxes earlier this year and found that “the cannabis industry paid $1.8 billion more in taxes than if they had been treated like any other business.” 

Beau put in practical terms, “There is a threshold for economic viability that must be met to account for product acquisition, labor, and federal taxes.” He pegged that threshold at around $2.5 million a year currently, but with 280E reform that threshold goes down to $1.5 million, which greatly raises the chance for success. “280E is doing exactly what it was supposed to do when it was designed 40 years ago,” said Beau, which is to make it impossible to run a business profiting from the sale of federally illegal drugs. Beau cautions that “while it sounds doom and gloom,” and he doesn’t anticipate growth until the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates, the businesses that survive “will thrive in 2025 when growth takes off again.”

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Painting in Tongues

Go back far enough and you’ll hit the future. It’s that exact moment of impact DEFER captures. Simultaneously Paleolithic and extraterrestrial, his “spiritual language” lifts the sleep mask of reality and welcomes one into the land of the sacred and eternal. 

There’s a timelessness to it, like Rothko, mixed with a little William Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow”). But, of course, he can describe it better than I can:

The thing is,” DEFER said, “some of it has text in it, like typography. But then again, as a kid I did graffiti. So, from that, you get ‘wildstyle,’ where you distort the letters but they still retain the form. You contort the letters, you bend ‘em, you swerve ‘em, you loop ‘em, you add arrows, crowns, you break ‘em up. But one thing I did was, um, I basically wanted to take it beyond that, which is obliterating the letter form, and I call it ‘spiritual language.’ Which is akin to, like, I guess, babble, like speaking in tongues. … So it looks like gestural abstract.”

Adversity Breeds Strength

He continued, “I try to reach a flow-state, a natural flow-state. And it’s very, I would say, at times it’s unpredictable. A lot of artists, I noticed, they want to create the same things—or the same distinct style—over and over and over, where it’s, like, advertising mentality. But every piece I do is like my own child, my own offspring, where everything’s different, you know, it has its own fingerprint. … You could see a relationship to a lot of the paintings, but there’s always a variation.”

I asked DEFER about legibility and how important (or unimportant) it is for people to understand what he’s trying to say.

“For me as an artist, I’m really not too concerned about the legibility, because at the end of the day, when I do a piece and say the viewer maybe can’t understand it, they’ll be like, ‘I know there’s lettering in it, but what does it say?’ Or ‘I can’t read it.’ You know, then they’re like, ‘Why don’t you make it more legible?’ If they say something like that, I’ll say, ‘You have legible everywhere. Signs are legible. You want a signmaker, look at a stop sign. You could read that.’ 

Naturally, I asked what some of his paintings said. He told me, too. And I could tell you, but then I’d have to do the whole murder thing, which just seems like an awful lot of work. But! I did ask another question—What differentiates graffiti from the classical idea of painting, and what unifies them?—to which he responded:

“Graffiti was the first form of art. The cave paintings … They etched into the surface of rocks. If you look at all ancient societies, they scratched. So, I think the term ‘graffiti’ is very broad-based. That’s one of the terms where they can use it in a sense of criminality, rebellion, maybe the lowest form of art. But then think about this: they said Basquiat was a graffiti artist, but he has [one of] the highest-selling piece[s] of art. So that’s a direct bridge from the fine art to the street-level art.”

When I was fifteen I got arrested for graffiti. Well, technically, I was fourteen at the time of my arrest; I turned fifteen in the holding cell. Got out to a bunch of happy birthday texts and an extremely disappointed mother; so in closing, I felt the need to ask an oddly specific question that may one day help a past-future me: What sort of advice would you give someone who’s, like, fourteen, tagging a bench, who’d like to do commissioned work and see their art in a gallery one day?

“I can say one thing about art,” DEFER replied. “Everybody’s going to have their own journey. I give lectures at colleges, and I always tell the kids, if you’re going to be an artist, you have to be passionate about it. You have to do it without wanting anything in return. Obviously, you want something in return if you’re going to make it a career. But art’s one of those things where you gotta be able to weather these storms, like have a whole show without selling anything, then get back up and start painting again. It’s like a wheelbarrow; it’s only going to go as far as you push it.”

This story was originally published in the September 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Comedian Nimesh Patel Has a Great Story to Tell

Nimesh Patel doesn’t walk over familiar ground in his latest special. The title alone spells that out loud and clear: Lucky Lefty OR: I Lost My Right Nut And All I Got Was This Stupid Special. The damn good special, which is available to watch on YouTube, is about Patel’s experience being diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer.

Once again, Patel is doing his own thing on stage. 

Lucky Lefty is his second self-produced special following Jokes to Get You Through Quarantine and Thank You China. In 2017, Patel was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live. In addition to SNL, he wrote for Hasan Minhaj’s The White House Correspondents Dinner and the Chris Rock-hosted Academy Awards. 

Patel is on the road at the moment, and at the beginning of September, he’ll kick off his Fast & Loose Tour. If you haven’t seen Patel perform yet, start live or go with his Lucky Lefty special, which is 40-minutes of both comforting and cringe-inducing comedy. 

Recently, Patel talked to us about his latest special, his experiences on the road, and how cannabis helps his writing. 

High Times: When did you know the material was ready for a special?

Nimesh Patel: Well, I feel that way the instant I start to hate it already, so I just want to get it out. But I knew that the material I was working on was gonna be something special, so I decided I would give it about a year as the calendar amount of time I wanted to spend on something. And that’s how I worked on that one. Usually, though, as a comic, it’s like the instant you’ve said something more than once, it’s like, “Alright, I need to retire this immediately.”

Your story, though, it’s not a story you’ve heard in every special. You must have known this could be a comedy gold mine, sadly…

Yes. You know, as it was happening, I was taking notes every day. I recapped every day what was going on. It just so happened that every day of the five days that the whole situation was happening, something stupid happened. I was like, “I can’t wait to hit the stage.” I hit the stage at the Cellar about a week after surgery. Once I hit the stage and I knew I said the things I had experienced and everyone laughed, I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be something.”

Congratulations on being cancer-free, by the way.

[Laughs] Oh, thank you, man.

People are typically very uncomfortable talking about cancer, as you pointed out in the special. When you first performed some of this material, though, did you get the sense that talking about testicular cancer is different for a crowd?

I think when I started, I was a little coy and kind of cognizant of the fact that cancer’s the other C word and people are like, “Oh shit. Is this what it’s gonna be?” People get solemn. But the instant I ripped the bandaid off and made it aware that everyone could laugh at it, then people were like, “Alright, well he’s laughing at himself. We might as well.”

Strangely made me feel better when you’d just casually acknowledge we’re all going to die.

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, sorry for that bleak outlook.

[Laughs] I didn’t think it was that bleak, just honest. It wasn’t like a five-minute monologue about this is meaningless. It was just casually being like, “Hey, just a reminder, we’re all going.” 

Yes, thank you for saying that. You know, it was me, I think when I talk to people who have had actual cancer [Laughs], I think they get a little annoyed that it’s treated so casually. But people who haven’t experienced it are kind of relieved that there’s someone who can talk about it without the “woe is me” attitude. I’m not saying all cancer patients are like that. I think many people have a better version of my attitude. They’re just not comedians.

Was the reaction to the material positive right from the start?

Yeah. I mean, I started by talking about the fact that my balls were shaved while I was awake, and that was the funniest part of the whole thing, outside of the grand irony. Once that unbelievable thing was out and people were laughing at it, it was easy to realize that it was the climax of the set. As long as I happily built towards that, it would be a fun rollercoaster ride for everybody.

Is there also something comforting about controlling the conversation about your experience by being on stage and talking about it?

Yes, I think you nailed it. Now I never have to talk about it outside of the stage. I mentioned at one point in the set the biggest fear that people who survived cancer or went through cancer had is social isolation. It’s one of those studies that I read. People who aren’t comedians don’t have the outlet to go on stage and talk about it as freely as I do. So, they talk about it at places like Chipotle with their friends, and that can be burdensome. Luckily for me, I don’t have to bring it up over guacamole. I can just say it on stage, and when we’re out watching the Knicks, we can talk about how shitty the Knicks are instead of how shitty it is that one of my balls is gone. It kind of leaves things compartmentalized, which is great.

[Laughs] How much material did you find yourself having? Like, was it just a treasure trove of jokes?

Yes, it was. I was incredulous at the amount of ridiculous things that were happening every day. When reality is stranger than fiction, that’s what it felt like. The only thing I had to be cautious of was not overdoing it with the ball puns. They were flowing out easily, and I had to stop myself because I realized it was getting excessive. At one point, I remember being on stage and doing like 20 ball puns in a row just to get it out of my system [Laughs]. Around the fourth one, the crowd was quiet, like, “Alright, man, come on.” But I was like, “Nope, I gotta do all 16 more of these.”

There’s a nice push and pull in the special. You can say an uncomfortable joke, but then a minute later, you’re like, I feel for this guy. 

Thank you. Yeah, that was a challenge. I think a lot of the challenge was not becoming the sympathetic character in the story. In the one I told, it’s easy to be that sympathetic person, like, “Oh man, this guy…” So, how do I make you not like me but still like the joke? That was a deliberate choice. I wanted to veer away from the “woe is me” comedy, where it’s like, “Oh my God, can you believe this shit happened? I felt so bad about this shit happening to me.” I made sure to avoid that. The best way to do that is to have hard jokes that are unexpected. 

I wanted to design the set like that because it’s easy to root for me, and then suddenly you don’t want to root for me because I said this stupid thing, but it’s too funny to not laugh at, you know? 

Like, the women’s rights jokes.

Right. And by the end, when my wife says the ultrasound joke and calls it back when I’m getting my ball shaved, it always gets an applause break. It’s always from the women whose arms were folded up front when I said the women’s rights thing. I can track it. It’s a hundred percent conversion rate [Laughs]. That’s my favorite type of comedy, where you don’t want to like me, but that joke is too good. And now I brought it all back, and you can feel good about how you feel about me being an asshole.

Given the experience you’re talking about, did you also think you’d get more free passes for those jokes?

I’m sure subconsciously that was going on in my head. There were moments throughout the development of the set where if something didn’t work, I would be like, “Guys, remember I had cancer, remember?” [Laughs] But at the same time, I didn’t want to play that card too hard. I didn’t want to be a victim or play victim comedy. This is just something that happened to me, and I didn’t want to use it excessively. I don’t think I did.

Before you even first told your wife’s joke, did you know it’d win back some of the audience?

When I wrote that joke, I knew it would be the save, and once I said it on stage, it became the save. I knew it could clear up the earlier tension and mess that I made with the inappropriate comment directed toward women. Once I discovered it would be the perfect place for the callback, I was like, “Oh, this is perfect. It solves everything for this particular problem set.”

Photo by Preet Mandavia

How have your experiences in writers’ rooms shaped how you structure your act and material?

My first writing job was with the Oscars and Chris Rock. Being in that writers’ room with about 20 people, and I was relatively new in comedy, it was intimidating. But what I learned from that experience was that there was no need to be timid. You’re in the room for a reason, so throw a bunch of stuff out and see what happens. I had a similar approach when I was at SNL

As for how it impacted my writing on stage or for myself, it taught me that it’s a numbers game. Just keep throwing stuff out there, and even if I bombed in front of Chris Rock and other funny people, bombing in front of non-comedians shouldn’t bother me as much. It’s about being comfortable with throwing things out there and experimenting.

Working with Chris Rock, I remember we were working on a joke about acting [being] brave during the Oscars when there were no black nominees. I pitched a joke about acting not being brave and instead said drinking a glass of water in Flint, Michigan is brave, considering their water crisis. Chris tweaked it to say drinking a glass of Kool-Aid in Flint, Michigan, and it hit even harder. He came up to me afterward and emphasized the importance of specificity. That lesson stuck with me, and I try to apply it to my writing whenever possible. The more specific you can be with a reference that people still get, the better it’s going to be.

As you said, don’t be timid, so when did you start feeling comfortable on stage as a comic?

I think almost immediately [Laughs]. I either faked it or never had stage fright. But about two years into comedy, my friend Mike Denny approached Michael Che to start a show called Broken Comedy. We did the show for a total of five to six years. Every Monday night, we would go up on stage and develop as comics. We started with only a few people in a room meant for a hundred, constantly bombing and trying out new material. But we learned to be okay with the silence and the small laughs from three people, and that took years of consistent shows. It helped me become comfortable with any situation.

Doing spots at Stand Up New York and Caroline’s in front of small and sometimes rowdy crowds also contributed to my comfort on stage. Those experiences built up over time and prepared me for any stage perspective. Now, after being on the road for two and a half years, I’ve seen almost everything you can throw at a comic, which further solidifies my comfort on stage.

What’s been thrown at you on stage?

In Phoenix, the fire alarm went off about 10 or 15 minutes into my set. It wasn’t a typical fire alarm; it was the mall’s fire alarm, loud as hell. For about seven minutes, I had to navigate the situation with uncertainty. I didn’t know if it was a real fire, and no one from the club was communicating with me. Eventually, someone said it was a false alarm, but those seven or eight minutes were completely unexpected. I had never experienced anything like that before. I had to hold the audience’s attention and keep them engaged. Fortunately, everyone had a great time, and no one was hurt. It was a unique learning experience.

Bombing nights are often talked about because they teach you a lot, but killing it on stage can be just as informative. When you’re in the zone and everything is clicking, it gives you a surge of confidence. You learn how to capture that momentum and use it to your advantage, like throwing in new tags or tweaking jokes on the spot. It’s about harnessing that energy and being able to replicate it even on nights when you’re not killing. Having the confidence to try new things and explore different angles comes from those successful moments on stage. So, there are valuable lessons to be learned from both bombing and killing.

Does cannabis play a role in your creative process?

It’s something I’ve incorporated a lot, and I’m constantly experimenting with how to utilize it. In the past few years, I’ve honed in on how I use it. Typically, after a set, I’ll go back to my hotel room and either smoke a little or smoke a lot. Then I’ll pace around, think of new material, or revisit the set I just performed. Most of the time, the ideas that come up are garbage, just scattered thoughts. But that one time out of ten, I’ll have an interesting angle I hadn’t considered before or a funnier way to say something. 

Do you usually smoke or enjoy edibles? 

Now, I’m trying to cut back on smoking because I’m 37 and my lungs hurt. So, I’ve been using edibles more. I’m still figuring out the right dosage because I’ve taken 25-milligram edibles and ended up barely being able to talk. But just last night, for example, I took a 12-milligram edible, waited for it to kick in, and then sat at my desk. Suddenly, ideas started flowing, and I could see what was unlocked in my brain as I stared at my outline.

That’s great. 

It’s like a tool that helps me access a different part of my personality and allows me to be more playful and goofy. It’s been a valuable addition to my writing process. It’s all about finding what works for you and experimenting with different techniques. I’m always learning and adapting, and incorporating cannabis into my writing process has been a positive and transformative experience.

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In Conversation with Stevie Williams

When Stevie Williams appeared in Element’s Fine Artists Vol. 1 nearly three decades ago, he made a strong first impression on the skateboarding community. Credited only as “Lil Stevie,” Williams wove intricate lines—skating both regular and switch stance—through Philadelphia’s LOVE Park with abilities well beyond his early teenage years.

From that point on, Williams has become synonymous with the iconic plaza and East Coast skateboarding. Every video part he has released features increasingly technical tricks at home and abroad, all with his relaxed, unique style. As he honed his abilities on the board, Williams has fine-tuned his business acumen as well. Establishing respected brands ranging from hardware to softgoods, he has not only cemented his own credibility but launched the prolific careers of others as well.

Today, Williams is based in Los Angeles, still skating with the same swagger that put him on the map back in 1994. When he’s not piecing together tricks at JKwon, he’s hitting the gym, being a father, and developing his newest endeavor—Lord Williams Farms. High Times caught up with the North Philly legend to talk about his years coming up, the role that cannabis plays in his skateboarding and training regimen, and his plans for the future.

Frontside noseslide / Photo by Liam Annis @liamaphotography

What was the motivation to start taking an active approach to fitness?

It was really just being bored. My kids were going to school in the mornings, and I didn’t have anything to do afterwards. I felt like I was kind of getting out of shape anyway. So I started looking up some workout stuff. My uncle, he’s a huge trainer, so he was always trying to get me in the gym. I felt like it was a good time to try to figure it out. And then I started taking these boot camp classes and I fell in love with it.

You are setting a good example for skaters to take better care of their physical health.

That’s what I realized after getting into it and seeing the benefits of the boot camp. I started actually skating more, and my legs felt better. And then I started trying other things in the gym to strengthen what I was doing, [such as] breath control. And then I started jumping into strength and conditioning, and setting goals. It’s just disciplining yourself. 

There is increasing research about how caffeine can benefit a workout. What are your thoughts about cannabis and exercise?

Yeah. I smoke before the gym, and I smoke after the gym.

How does that affect the experience? Does it help with your focus?

It balances out my pre-workout [laughs]. Right before I leave [for the gym] I’ll have a pre-workout. The pre-workout I take is super strong, so smoking balances it out. When I get to the gym, I still get the kick from the pre-workout caffeine but I also get the mood, mellowness, and concentration from the cannabis.

Photo by Liam Annis @liamaphotography

Growing up in North Philly, do you remember the first time you were exposed to cannabis?

I mean, my parents smoked. I didn’t know what it was when I was growing up. When I found out what cannabis was, and the smell, it brought me back to when I was a kid. I thought, Oh, I remember this from when I was young. When I started skating, I started smoking weed, pretty much.

What was it like to start experimenting with cannabis and learning to skate at the same time? 

One thing about skateboarding is that when you are young, you skate, but you are around older people. So I was 11 and hanging out with 16 or 17 year-olds that were already smoking. I wouldn’t say it was a bad influence, but it was around. So, me being curious, I picked cannabis up at a young age.

How did it influence your process of learning how to skate?

It was crazy because when I started smoking it started helping me out with tricks. Cannabis helps with concentration; if you are productive with cannabis, you can focus in on whatever you are doing. Cannabis and skateboarding go hand-in-hand.

In your experience of being professional for over two decades, have you seen the flipside of that? Getting too into cannabis and not using it for the right reasons, can that be a distraction?

Yeah, it can be a distraction. It can make you super unproductive, and you get to a point of being lazy. You start to doubt yourself. Start hanging with potheads and just not completing the tasks that you need to elevate. Cannabis has its ups and downs, and depending on the type of person and the choices he or she makes, cannabis can either set you up or set you back.

Do you think certain individuals are better at learning that than others?

I have no clue—I don’t want to speak on other people’s behalf. But, just through research and development and what we have seen, cannabis can make you lazy. There is no positive push to cannabis being productive. 

There is no real acceptance of cannabis with athleticism, too. Maybe with working out, skateboarding, or martial arts, but your traditional sports, they don’t even accept cannabis. Maybe because it would take away from your tenacity?

With skating being more artistic and creative mentally, it makes sense. With other traditional sports, it’s very black and white.

I understand, because not everybody participates in cannabis and it could be looked at as an enhancement to your performance. But when it comes to lifestyle sports, it’s kind of used as a tool for concentration and relaxation.

Stevie williams
Switch frontside 5-0 / Photo by Liam Annis @liamaphotography

During the LOVE Park years, how prevalent was cannabis during skate sessions?

The older dudes were always smoking blunts. Being from Philadelphia, Phillies were always available. They were super cheap—like ten cents.

Skating was so illegal at LOVE, did things ever get crazy with smoking cannabis there?

Nah, never. It was a plaza that was filled with homeless people and skaters. Even though they chased us out, we would always come back. The people that didn’t have a skateboard would stay there, and those would be the people that would have weed and shit like that.

It sounds like skating was way more illegal than cannabis.

It’s just about how you would do it. The cops didn’t come in there looking for weed, they were looking for skaters. And if they were looking for weed, they wouldn’t be looking for skaters. It’s weird.

You’ve traveled the world filming for The DC Video, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year. What was it like seeing cannabis culture in different places, such as Europe?

They had better weed and knew how to roll it better. They were just proactive with cannabis. It was more accepted. In America we got these crazy laws and this crazy cesspool of people that we live with. Some people accept it, some people don’t. The culture has grown internationally, and it’s way more accepted now than it was when I was traveling.

In Baker 3 you close out the friends’ section and introduce Dustin Dollin. How did you get into hanging with those guys? Were you stoned when you filmed that clip?

We were in Barcelona, and there were all types of skaters out there. Dustin and I have been cool for a long time. We were probably just smoking and drinking at MACBA, someone pulled out the camera, and I just started talking some shit. But that’s my dude, though. Andrew Reynolds is my homie too, so I support Baker skateboards, for sure.

Stevie williams
Switch heelflip / Photo by Liam Annis @liamaphotography

You are no stranger to launching successful brands, DGK being one of them. Can you expand on what Lord Williams Farms is?

Lord Williams Farms is my underground cannabis brand that I have been pushing quietly. I wanted to get people aware of the name and the direction, but I’m also completing the technology that is going to come with it as well. If you look at my page you will see a lot of augmented reality stuff, some merchandise, and some good trees. It’s more experimental right now, but I’m going to launch it pretty soon.

Do you have details that you can share before the official launch?

More so the technology—it’s a Web3 cannabis brand inspired by skateboarding, technology, and lifestyle. I’ll have the augmented reality to go with the merchandise, accessories, and cannabis bags. I’ll also utilize NFC chip technology attached to the product as well. All of that will be under a Web3 type of system connected to a blockchain for authenticity.

Any other projects going on? Shoutouts?

I’m still skating, staying in shape, working on my brands, and being a dad, a son, and an all-around solid person. Shout out to all the homies at JKwon, DGK, High Times, and all the people learning new things and trying to evolve into the best version of themselves.

The post In Conversation with Stevie Williams appeared first on High Times.

High Rhymes: Shordie Shordie

Baltimore rapper Shordie Shordie is not afraid to be transparent with his emotions. His new album A Life For Two, plays out like a Romeo & Juliet story, songs radiating with heartbreak, relationships, and the things that could be. On the track “Balcony,” Shordie asks his lover about their absence and the lack of care for him—conveniently appearing for lust and intimacy instead. Shordie dabbles in the things we bottle, the things we ruminate when love comes into play. Shordie Shordie speaks with High Times about vulnerability in his music, his new weed strain, and the DMV’s visibility in the mainstream.

High Times: Recreational weed has been legalized in Baltimore. How do you think that will affect your city for better or worse?

Shordie: At this point I don’t really think it’s going to do anything [for the] better because I think people still get pissed at work. And if you get pissed then you pop up dirty. I think you get fired. They got some other laws that they got [to] loosen up around here for the weed too. But I mean, hey, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s too good for us, because shit like that. When you legalize it on that tip, it ain’t too good. You saying everybody outside can smoke but the people that got a everyday job, they can’t smoke. That don’t make sense. Some of them be the main ones that need to smoke. I ain’t going to lie to you because I be getting on people’s nerves on a day to day. Motherfuckers that work in regular places. So I know they be needing to smoke more than me.

You recently just entered the weed industry with your own strain, Captain Hook Rx. Tell me a little bit more about that.

I would say it’s flowery. It ain’t citrusy. Before I even got to a good standpoint, I definitely went through a couple good flowers for real. But that one stood out to me. More buddy, sticky a little bit, give it a little sticky situation to it but it breaks down smooth. Majority of my crowd, I feel like my crowd, they fuck with the weed so I felt like it was a good timing type thing. I ain’t even feel like it was more of an investment or nothing like that at first. I feel like it was a timing thing. It was all a good timing.

Would your smoke own shit?

Hell yeah. I be smoking the shit out of my weed.

I ask this because a lot of people push a product they don’t quite support themselves.

Yeah right, when they don’t smoke they shit. Right. That’s the problem. That’s my point. You feel me? I know for a fact the gas is going to get you there. My strain will for sure get you there. I know for a fact. We don’t have no complaints.

How did the partnership with Green Label Rx come about?

It was more like a friendship already before, we already knew each other in a past friendship or past relationship that we had, with a couple other people that I knew in L.A. And just moving around. I feel like it was another way for me to bubble. A good situation for them and I, for real.

Let’s talk a bit about the new tape. What inspired your new project? And why’d you call it A Life For Two?

I got a lot of people going through a lot of different things and I feel like A Life For Two summed up a lot of shit. I got people locked up. I got females around me that’s pregnant and by themselves. It was just a lot of, a lot of shit. And I feel like A Life For Two is something that summed it up for me, you know what I mean? A situation that’ll never end but it takes two people to fuck around. Yeah, A Life For Two, that shit was hard for me. A different step in life.

How do you tap into a pool of emotions that rappers tend to steer away from? How important is that emotional vulnerability to you and your fans?

I mean to keep it real with you, the most gangster shit is to do the shit that niggas don’t do, if that makes sense. So I’m going to keep it gangster man, I do the shit that niggas don’t do. So it seems normal. It seems regular, but I feel like that ain’t regular … Letting people know how you actually feel … I feel like that’s real.

I feel like emotions are not a regular thing anymore.

Nope. Niggas trying to push that to the side. I feel like internet fucks us up quite a lot a bit too though. By the time you get off your phone, you got seven different emotions if you scroll seven different times. This person got this type of emotion, that person got that type of emotion. You damn near got anxiety when you get off your phone. So I feel like the social media made people unsocial. People not social no more. Social abilities is gone for.

When did you realize you can untangle complex emotions in the booth?

To tell you the truth, I was getting big high man, popping perks. I feel like when perks was pushing me to get to certain levels, you know what I mean? The slower music. I wasn’t even expecting myself to make “Reservation,” shit like that. I done got a couple little songs like that. What it was? More to the story, shit like that, it pushed me to do other little shit. But I’ve been making music though on some exploiting feelings for females and shit. I’ve been doing that shit. Never really been a time where it was a peak or nothing like that. It was just times in my career whereas though I was getting to a certain level. Certain other situations was coming about.

Writing this tape, did you deal with any heartbreak at all? And if either way, how do you cope with heartache in general?

I wouldn’t say now, I was more on exploiting more feelings for other people that was around me. I can’t say I was, but it was more before because some of the songs were done before I could put the tape together. It was more to explain everybody else’s story. As I really went in through and got to really listen to it and process it myself, I thought I was doing something as far as explaining my own story, but how it came out, it was like, “Damn, this shit relatable to so many different people, and different songs, and different situations.” It’s like, “This shit ain’t my story, this people’s story that I’m just writing out to be mine type shit.” I appreciate people for letting me be their speaker.

What do you look for in relationships? 

I would say some calm collective bro. My life be on some jumpy, jump, jump shit all the time. At any point, I can get my manager [to] line up some shit. Like “Hey bro, line up some shit.” And we be on tour or on shows for the rest of the year. So I be needing some cool, calm, collective bro. I be chilling. I don’t really do too much. I like to bowl and some Dave and Busters and shit like that. I like chilling in the house, watching big TV, shit like that. Watching games, [she] got to be into sports. I like regular cool shit bro. I ain’t really into the shit that niggas really into. I go to events, I’m starting that now. My first event was probably Gervonta Davis and Ryan. Yep. First event I’m like, “Shit, I can do this.” Sit in my own little section, sit in my own little way and watch it from a different perspective, because everybody watching it from a TV or something like that. You watching it from a different perspective with your own people and getting a different view, hell yeah man. So I like to fuck with my money and fuck with my time a different way.

Courtesy Shordie Shordie

Throughout your career, you tapped in with West Coast Legends like 03 Greedo, Mozzy, and Drakeo the Ruler.

Rest in peace to my boy.

How has working with them inspired your own music?

I fucked with them to the point where through every person, I feel like I learned something out of them. Even 03, I learned timing. If you that nigga, they won’t allow you to die out if you go anywhere. I learned that because there’s a lot of people that go to jail and ain’t shit when they come home and shit like that. It gets tricky. A lot of this shit gets tricky. Like I said, It’s antagonizing to go certain places and do certain shit with certain people. It just is. And that’s how the majority of us, we lose ourselves to this game. It’s been always dangerous. Niggas act like it just now started getting dangerous. It’s always been dangerous, it’s just the antagonizing has got to an all-time high. You can record yourself at this time, everybody can see it. It’s just like, there’s a difference, you know what I’m saying? So at the end of the day you got to just know what type of area you in and what type of people you working with. I think I figured that shit out.

It’s like almost like you had to be there pretty much. Coming from Baltimore, do you feel like there’s a lack of presence of the DMV in the mainstream—

I feel like the industry’s scared of us man. The industry’s scared of us. They ain’t even know I was like that when I got here. The industry is scared of us, very period point blank. I’m not trying to hear about that the industry don’t know about Baltimore or none of that. “Shordie is from Baltimore.” I pushed Baltimore enough for everybody to know that it’s something like… So when you hear about certain people from Memphis, they look up rappers from Memphis. It goes like that, that’s how research goes. They’re going to look up other rappers. So I can’t say that ain’t nobody getting signed. I seen a couple of people get signed from my city, and all that out of the situation that I’ve run to the city. We have a different type of area for real, and when you come a certain way, I feel like they don’t want us to promote no violence or nothing like that because we’re just a violent area already. So putting money and all that, putting shit behind us to be even more violent. It’s another Chicago in the industry.


Discovering new music can be time-consuming and tedious. Millions of songs are updated daily across an array of platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud—finding the gems is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. High Times has you covered; curating a monthly roundup of the most enjoyable rap albums that stand out from the myriad piles of releases. 

ATL Smook – Still High From Yesterday 

ATL Smook delivers his first offering of 2023 with Still High From Yesterday, a 9-track plugg oasis. Smook coats his syrupy vocals with an autotune thicker than promethazine as he goes through relationships, hangs with his friends and smokes copious amounts of weed. Tracks like “A to Z” and “Batman Coupe” sound triumphant, backed by the sounds of astral synths and skin-shredding rage production.

Destroy Lonely – If Looks Could Kill

Destroy Lonely brings forth the hypothetical question: what if looks could kill? Accompanied with a short horror film depicting Lone as the Look Killa, the L.A.-based artist delves deep into the murky corners of grunge and fangoria. The guitars on If Looks Could Kill sound distorted with drugs and glamour, opting in for a 90s rockstar aesthetic with a spooky edge. The track list is extensive, nearly clocking in an hour and a half worth of music across 26 songs.

billy woods & Kenny SegalMaps 

Teaming up for their first collaborative project since 2019’s Hiding Places, Backwoodz Studioz very own billy woods and L.A.-based producer Kenny Segal release Maps. Maps is a collection of stories and experiences accumulated over the years through music and travels. Features include Premrock and Curly Castro, ELUCID, Aesop Rock, Danny Brown, and more. Maps is perhaps woods’s most accessible work yet.

Duwap KaineDuwap So Based

Duwap Kaine is one of the most melodic rappers around, with a knack for finding a flow on any beat. His new album Duwap So Based is inspired by underground rapper Xaviersobased, whose production is known to sound like two songs playing simultaneously, with the clashing sounds providing some sort of rhythm. There’s DJ scratches, serene bells, synths, snares, and more in a single track—it’s safe to say there’s a lot going on.


Trap beats started to die off last year, and be replaced by Whole Lotta Red-esque rage production which has already become oversaturated in 2023. Cochise provides the next step in both sounds, a mix of trap and rage beats with industrial synths blaring. The Florida-based rapper’s voice often stretches like Saran Wrap, with tiny rips forming as the pitch increases. Then there’s a moment like “YAKUZA TIES” where the song turns into a punk rock onslaught, with Cochise snarling and ripping his vocals to shreds.

The post High Rhymes: Shordie Shordie appeared first on High Times.

OhGeesy Lets His Work Ethic Speak For Itself

The sun keeps shining on Alejandro Carranza’s world and he intends to keep it that way. Carranza—known professionally as the rapper OhGeesy—is a founding member of the Los Angeles hip-hop group Shoreline Mafia and has since gone on to have a quite formidable career as a solo artist.

He attributes his success to his work ethic, one he feels is simple input/output: Work hard, see results—keep working hard, exceed those results. In many ways, it’s the same philosophy in any business—when things are hitting, lean in, and that’s exactly what OhGeesy plans to do. “Becoming a father made me want to double down and really focus and concentrate [on growing my career] now more than ever,” said OhGeesy in a phone interview with High Times. “I want to set an example, show my son I work hard and show him there’s a way to do whatever you want in life.”

For his latest record, GEEZYWORLD 2, OhGeesy wants fans and audiences to appreciate his growth, not only as an artist, but as an individual. Fatherhood has changed his mindset from his earlier days, and he hopes his maturation is something fans acknowledge and applaud when it comes to his current output from the studio and the stage.

Over the course of our conversation, OhGeesy touches on how he cultivates self-confidence, his creative process, and how his relationship with weed started with him selling it.

High Times: What was your first introduction to music growing up in Los Angeles?

OhGeesy: My first introduction was probably all the old West Coast stuff like NWA. My uncle used to have all of the CDs and he put me on them and really started showing me music from all over the world.

High Times: From there, was there an experience that led you to pursue music as more than just a hobby or interest?

OhGeesy: When I was a kid, I never thought I’d pursue music. I started doing music at like 19, and before then, I never thought a career in music was possible. Once I started doing it, I just kept putting my all into it and put all of my effort into it.

High Times: So it was something you started to do more for yourself, and then—over time—it became your career.

OhGeesy: Exactly.

High Times: The more you kept at it, was there a validating “first win” or experience that came after you embarked on the journey of pursuing music for yourself?

OhGeesy: After getting a few hundred-thousand plays on SoundCloud from a few different tracks, I thought, “Okay, this is what I was meant to do.”

High Times: Creatively, what inspires you and what do you draw from when creating a track?

OhGeesy: Just life experiences. Going out and living life. I live a hectic life, so I just talk about everything I’m doing, like the lavish lifestyle.

High Times: In terms of that lifestyle, how does your cross-cultural background from your Mexican and American roots play a role in what you create?

OhGeesy: I live a vigorous life because of my work ethic. I work hard. Mexicans have some of the best work ethic ever. Working hard to get what I want keeps making me want to work harder and get everything.

High Times: For your new album GEEZYWORLD 2, what went into the album and what do you hope audiences and fans take from it?

OhGeesy: I just want them to see how I’ve grown as an artist and how my sound has evolved and changed. I want them to be proud because they’ve watched me grow from who I used to be and how I used to sound, to how I sound now.

High Times: Did cannabis play a role in the album’s creation? What role does it play in your life in general?

OhGeesy: Cannabis has always been around in my life. I grew up selling weed and all types of stuff. So the biggest role it ever played for me was making me money [laughs].

Also, when I made the song “Musty,” which got me to where I am today, I was talking about weed.

Courtesy OhGeesy

High Times: Literally the economics of weed have been impactful.

OhGeesy: Super impactful [laughs].

High Times: For your own consumption, do you prefer Sativa or Indica?

OhGeesy: When I smoke, I prefer Hybrids.

High Times: Does smoking aid with music creation?

OhGeesy: That’s a separate process. When I create music, I have to be one-hundred percent sober. Whenever I smoke, it’s just for recreation and for me to relax and have a good time. With my work, it’s work.

High Times: Do you ever go back though and listen to a beat or a track while stoned for a different perspective?

OhGeesy: For sure, especially when we’re finished with a project and listening to it. We’ll have a drink and we’ll smoke something.

High Times: Beyond the new record, what else do you have coming up that you’re excited about?

OhGeesy: Just my tour. I’ve got my tour coming up right now for GEEZYWORLD 2, so I’ll be able to get out there and see the fans’ real life reactions to the album, which I’m super excited about.

High Times: What’s the experience like from recording in a studio and then performing live and receiving that initial fan feedback?

OhGeesy: That’s the best part, that’s what I do it for. Just to see that energy and the reactions from the crowd and seeing them sing every word, word-for-word.

High Times: That’s a pretty awesome feat. Are there any specific habits, strategies, or keys to your success?

OhGeesy: I think becoming a father made me want to double down and really focus and concentrate [on growing my career] now more than ever.

High Times: To both provide and set an example?

OhGeesy: To provide and set an example. I want to show my son I work hard and show him there’s a way to do whatever you want in life.

Follow @ohgeesy and check out https://www.geezyworld.com/ for tickets and tour dates

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