Time To Chill Out and Listen to B. Cool-Aid

A debate about which album aged better: The Game’s Documentary or 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. One party suggests 50 Cent’s seminal ‘03 debut due to its cultural relevancy and influence on the commercialization of Gangsta rap. Another party presents The Game’s solo debut simply because of “Hate it or Love it.” On the television is a pre-fame 50 Cent on a rooftop, offering advice on absorbing knowledge, self-manifestation, and the parallel between the hood and corporate America—Pink Siifu and Ahwlee, or B. Cool-Aid, sit inches apart: Siifu on the low-rising couch and Ahwlee on a chair close to the table. Siifu changes the television, putting on a video of D’Angelo Voodoo session outtakes. The air is relaxed and sweetened with the aroma of marijuana. Ashes pile in the wooden basket on the table. Siifu, with a slab of Rastafarian decorated marble, fronto leaf, and his sealed flower of choice, while I roll a joint of my own on my lap. 

Jazz-soul fusion duo B. Cool-Aid is preparing to release their first album in four years, Leather Blvd, due March 31st. “Something flashy. We wanted to be running sexy with it,” Siifu says about the album title. Both Siifu and Ahwlee resonate serenity in the room, a still calmness that’s also in their music. During their four-year absence, Siifu and Ahwlee became successful artists in the underground rap scene. When asked why a B. Cool-Aid record now, they reply, “life” and that it’s the right time. Siifu, an enigmatic artist from Alabama, has released works with Flyanakin, Yungmorpheus, and AKAI Solo, along with two studio albums—one of them being a punk-thrash project titled Negro—and a collaborative tape with producer Real Bad Man released last year. Bay-area producer Ahwlee released two instrumental albums, VII in 2020–an EP with Chill Children the same year—and Ftrs last year. B. Cool Aid takes the relaxation of Ahwlee’s lo-fi compositions and Siifu’s ear for live instruments to conjure music that taps into vintage soul, funk, and jazz.  

B. Cool-Aid first met at a Boiler Room set in Los Angeles, where both Siifu and Ahwlee shared the same bill. Ahwlee knew he wanted to work with Siifu following his performance: “It’s that kind of Lil Wayne willingness to go there. Just step into his own and do what other people aren’t doing. I knew he had the courage and the skill to step into a place where niggas weren’t at and that he could keep doing that.” The name “B. Cool-Aid” materialized in 2016, working on their debut Brwn a year before the duo established themselves. Compared to Siifu’s past work, B. Cool-Aid allows him to explore the neo-soul side of his artistry. “I feel like back talking FlySiifu’s is different, even though it’s still rap, and it’s still Southern based…it’s still different.“

We are in the home of streetwear brand Trash Co. and DC-based rapper Obiisay, a mainstay haven for neighboring underground rap acts. The walls often rumble from the trains clattering on the tracks near the building. Artwork hangs on the walls, colorful and reimagining various cartoon characters. It’s a fortress for creatives to stay creative. With joints burning and mimosas on the table, B. Cool-Aid talks to High Times about their early beginnings as a group and their upcoming album Leather Blvd

I feel like the soul in hip-hop and in general, music right now has diminished. How important is it to keep that meaning and purpose intact in your music? 

Ahwlee: You can’t translate that. You can’t prefabricate it, and sort of manufacture shit. Niggas are all some row of assembly line type shit, as far as music goes, in my opinion. Living the music you make is a lost science.

Siifu: I mean, that’s the thing too, bro. Everything that we kind of said on this record is like everyday shit. Niggas don’t. And it’s cool to fabricate tough shit. And to be a fictional “wrestling” type of rapper.

At that point, you’re an entertainer 

Siifu: It’s like you’re a fucking entertainer, yeah. And we’re not real gangsters, we’re not real artists and shit. Somebody could say, if you’re doing this, you’re not a gangsta all the time. You’re making money. With me and Ahwlee, with this soul shit, what he came up on, it’s all just real shit. I’m not going to say all the Neo-Soul, the soul is out, because I do fuck with niggas like Smino, Mike, Booker, and Ari Lennox. I guess, a few niggas like going crazy, like they’re making me feel something.

Photo by Tony Lyas

It’s been four years since the last LP. What made now the right time to bring back B. Cool-Aid for another tape?

Pink Siifu: It’s right on time. We feel like it’s done. Shout out to Butcher Brown again. They helped us really, because we’ve been recording.

Ahwlee: We ain’t even stopped making music the whole time.

Pink Siifu: Yeah, yeah. We’ve been making shit, you feel me? But I love sequels. I really like them. If I made a movie and I had a sequel, I would take my time. So I feel like this is our sequel because SYRUP was the EP for us first. We feel like it’s bigger than us. Like fuck it, make it like the world.

I like first the single, “Cnt Go Back,” because when I hear it, it takes me back to the early days. Do you ever look back at SYRUP?

Pink Siifu: Yeah, I don’t remember what I was doing around SYRUP. I feel like I was kind of living good. I did start fucking with my baby momma, my baby.

Ahwlee: Because she was at the SyrupHands video. I still trip on that.

Pink Siifu: Right. She’s on the cover of SYRUP. That’s her and another home girl eating breakfast, of pancakes and syrup. Yeah, it was a good time. It was right before ensley too.

Ahwlee: Yeah, he was getting his ensley bag.

Pink Siifu: I was starting to produce and loop shit. I remember we were playing as B. Cool-Aid at Lodge Room, after SYRUP, and I dropped ensley that night. I dropped ensley in the Green Room at that show.

In the second part of that song, there’s reassurance for listeners that things are going to get better someday, and things will turn around and pray through. Why is that?

Pink Siifu: That’s Jon Bap. That nigga, he came and he got in and just laced that shit, bro. He flipped the beat. That’s him flipping “Cnt Go Back,” but he just flipped it. Then, I asked that nigga to sing on the original, and he just gave me that, with a verse, and that nigga doesn’t really even rap. That nigga’s a singer and a producer.

It sticks with you.

Pink Siifu: Yeah, and then he inspired my version. 

Ahwlee: Yeah, that song just got longer and longer, and it went on a whole different tangent.

Pink Siifu: We’re working with musicians. Ahwlee is already one of my favorite producers. So one of my favorite producers linked up with a band. They gave us everything we needed. A pack that we could sample. I loop shit from that. So that’s like the intro and two interludes I looped. That’s my first time even touching production on B. Cool-Aid. But that’s off of ensley, and that’s off of me fucking with shit now. So that’s that whole four years. Ahwlee fucking playing keys like a motherfucker right now, getting hella musical.

Your craft has evolved obviously, so with that craft though, your life has also advanced. I’ve noticed the lyrics have themes of fatherhood and maturity

Siifu: Have we?

To me, I think…

Siifu: No, I feel that. No, you weren’t there while we were making it, so I want to know what the fuck you’re talking about? I feel that. You feel like it’s got the father. I feel that.

How does it affect you as an artist coming into this album I feel like some circumstances were different, probably maybe a year or two ago.

Ahwlee: Yeah. For sure. I mean, before the pandemic, in the zone where he is or is working on this, a lot of shit changed for both of us. We moved around and then we left that kind of golden zone that we just got through talking about.

Siifu: Yeah, we would just link up all the time, and make shit.

Ahwlee: Yeah. Just finding shit and going out and having fun. It got hella serious with everybody. So the music kind of reflects that change that we all had to make as people.

Photo by Tony Lyas

Siifu: It’s cool, this is fun, we love this shit but now we’ve got to take care of shit in a whole new way.

There are possibilities now.

Siifu: Exactly. I mean, that’s all good though. It’s all good. I’m definitely changing. You’re definitely going to hear more and more of that in my music. 

You hear the maturity growth from record to record. This record specifically has vast differences.

Siifu: That’s the thing though, with GUMBO’! and just my solo work in general, I’m just cultivating and I’m sequencing everything. I’m doing everything, and in these collaboration projects, it’s easier, but I give the same focus and attention to what we’re building. Tight shit. But with the solo shit, GUMBO’!, it’s going to be so different than this, but also I’m growing, so my next shit is going to be different from GUMBO’! For sure. But because I’m a dad, a full dad now. We’re getting older, the music’s getting crazier.

Were any of these songs created, during the GUMBO’! sessions, and creatively, are there differences from working on an album like GUMBO’! versus something like Leather Blvd.?

Siifu: Yeah, I booked some studio sessions and I had one room where we were doing B. Cool-Aid, and one room I was mixing and adding shit to GUMBO’!

Ahwlee: A few cuts you might hear at a later date.

Siifu: Like the track, the interlude track on GUMBO’!, with Ahwlee, that Ahwlee beat, I forgot, it’s like I think, right before “BACK’!” But like I made that off of making some B. Cool-Aid shit. I was like, “I need some Ahwlee shit on this shit.” We’d been working on B. Cool-Aid for a minute and GUMBO’! was a surprise. I wasn’t even going to make GUMBO’! it wasn’t in the cards.

But Butcher made so much sense with this B. Cool-Aid shit. Working with him, I was like, “Oh, wow,” because Ahwlee is already a fan of Butcher and DJ, so it was just like, we made sense. At the tail end of GUMBO’!, finishing with GUMBO’! a bunch of Brown tracks came in, in the middle, because GUMBO’! was originally all tracked.

Where’s Big Rube come in?

Siifu: Big Rube came in GUMBO’! I got to call him too because I want to get him on my next shit too. I had to tell him. I was like, “Bro,” because I started doing poetry. I wanted to source the rap. I started rapping. I did rap verses here and there, but I wasn’t really rapping until college, till out of high school type shit. Our school was doing poetry.

I was doing poetry, open mics, doing that shit. My nigga Peso, who was on GUMBO’!, Peso Gordon, he was working on the album with this nigga and they let me do poetry on that shit. That was my first ever real feature, for real. But my first idea was to do a poetry album. It was like not even a rap album, like some poetry album.

Is that still on the horizon?

Siifu: No but I would love to curate some shit like that. Like, bring back that Def Jam poetry-type energy. I’d love to do some shit like that.

Photo by Tony Lyas

Leather Blvd. creates a world where Black excellence is untouched by racism, criticism, and economic hardship. It’s about the power of Black culture. To strengthen the community. What inspires y’all to make this album such a safe place?

Siifu: Shit, because it’s unsafe out here, bro. Niggas who are trying to make it unsafe for niggas.

Ahwlee: Leather Blvd. ain’t safe. It’s actually Black shit. You’ve got to deal with the growth and the obstacles. It’s like confidence-type shit.

Siifu: I felt like Leather Blvd. was really a place for conflict and discussion.

Ahwlee: It’s like the whole block. That’s the barbershop. You’re not going to get through life, being in a safe space. You’re not going to get through life without being in conflict. But it is a way to navigate that. This shit is shining a light upon that. It is a way to navigate that. It is a way that the culture has survived to this point, and it ain’t by it all being good. It’s by survival and perseverance. That’s what is happening on Leather Blvd.

How important is it to have that established?

Ahlwee: It’s not important, bro. It’s not important because the times are telling us to forget and to throw that shit away, and that’s all the negative aspects. They’re not necessarily, everything is pointing towards the good in everything, which is positive, and which is a good thing. But on the same token, those two sides aren’t a token, and they’re not the same. And it’s stuff to learn, on either side. This is bringing both sides in, in a way that you can accept and grow from it, or something better and stronger. It’s not anything to be down about. It’s important because it’s going to help you grow.

Is that what you’re trying to broadcast as the album as a whole?

Siifu: You walk down the block. Just like any shit, you bring it to the block. But also, just like on some real shit, diamonds are stress. You get your stress diamonds. In some tracks, you feel yourself flirtatious. That’s just nostalgia, just for having fun. Like you’re feeling things, but it’s a lot of different shit where it’s like stressful relationship shit. Like fucking around with the wrong folks. Not in the right, wasting time type shit. I feel like we got all that shit in. Everything that, what niggas been through in the past, for years, that is their life I feel like. It’s in that shit. Especially as Black people. It feels like a movie, so I wanted to treat it like that. Like some shit, you could really sit down with.

Ahwlee: It’s like, when it comes, welcome to Leather Blvd., enjoy the experience.

What would you say is B. Cool-Aid’s purpose?

Awhlee: To end the beef between the Jewish community and Kanye West. 

Siifu: To calm niggas the fuck down.

The post Time To Chill Out and Listen to B. Cool-Aid appeared first on High Times.

From the Archives: Norman Mailer on Pot (2004)

By Richard Stratton

Thirty years ago, when High Times was in its infancy, I did a long interview with Norman Mailer that was published in two parts in Rolling Stone magazine. Mailer and I first met in Provincetown, MA, in the winter of 1970 and have been close friends ever since. At one time we owned property together in Maine, which was put up as collateral for bail when I got busted for smuggling marijuana in the early ’80s. The Feds were all over the connection between Mailer and me; he testified for the defense at the trial of my partner in Toronto, Rosie Rowbotham, who ended up doing over 20 years for importing hashish. Mailer later testified at my trials in Maine and New York. The government became convinced that he was some sort of hippie godfather to the sprawling marijuana trafficking organization Rowbotham and I ran, along the lines of Timothy Leary’s figurehead status with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love conspiracy out of Laguna Beach, CA.

But Mailer was more a friend of the cause than a co-conspirator. He certainly had what to an assistant United States attorney might qualify as “guilty knowledge.” He knew what I was up to. I remember standing with him on the balcony of his Brooklyn Heights apartment one night, looking out at the glittering behemoths of the Lower Manhattan financial district, then down at the containers stacked on the Brooklyn docks below like mini-skyscrapers and telling him, “Right down there, Norman, in those containers, there’s seven million dollars’ worth of Lebanese hash. All I have to do is get it out of there without getting busted.” The novelist in him was intrigued, but the criminal in him would always remain subservient to the artist. The government put tremendous pressure on me to give them Mailer, as though he were some trophy I could trade for my own culpability. They were star-fucking: John DeLorean had been busted in a set-up coke case; Mailer’s head would have looked good mounted on some government prosecutor’s wall.

When I went to prison in 1982, Mailer became—after my mother—my most loyal visitor and correspondent. And when I was released in 1990, I stayed in his Brooklyn Heights apartment while the Mailer family summered in Provincetown. I’ve known Mailer’s youngest son, John Buffalo, since he was born and turned to him when I needed someone to act in my stead here at the magazine while I finished work on the TV show I produced for Showtime.

But, as with my criminal enterprise, Mailer has no financial stake in the outcome of the High Times mini-media-conglomerate conspiracy. He’s an interested observer and adviser.

All this by way of saying there’s real history here, so much so that there was never any pretense at making this a typical interview; it’s more like a master speaking to an apprentice about what he has learned. I’d read Mailer extensively before I met him. His writing, in essays such as “The White Negro” and “General Marijuana,” his nonfiction The Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song, and the novels The Naked and the Dead, An American Dream, Why Are We in Vietnam? and Ancient Evenings, to mention just a few Mailer works, have reshaped post-World War II American literature. Mailer’s whole notion of the existential hipster living in the crucible of his orgasm probably contributed as much to my fascination with the outlaw life as the cannabis plant itself.

I’ve smoked pot with Mailer on a number of occasions and have always been impressed with where it took him: to the outermost reaches of the universe and back to the murky depths of the human psyche. But I had never really sat with him and got his thoughts on pot until we met, almost 30 years to the day of that first interview, and I asked him to expound on his views of the plant that became the inspiration for this magazine.

Norman Mailer: Looking back on pot—is it 30 years since I smoked?—by the ’70s I began to feel it was costing me too much. We’ll get to what I got out of it and what I didn’t get out of it—but by the ’80s, I just smoked occasionally. And I don’t think I’ve had a toke—and this is neither to brag nor apologize—in 10 years. But I look back on it as one of the profoundest parts of my life. It did me a lot of good and a lot of harm.

What I’d like to do today is talk about these dimensions of pot. People who smoke marijuana all the time are, as far as I’m concerned, fundamentalists. Their one belief is that pot is good, pot takes care of everything—it’s their gospel. I think they’re about as limited—if you want to get brutal about it—as fundamentalists. Fundamentalists can’t think; they can only refer to the Gospels. Pot people can’t recognize that something as good as that might have something very bad connected to it—which is not to do with the law, but what it does to you. That’s what I’d like to talk about. The plus and minus.

The other thing I’d like to talk about is the cultural phenomenon of pot. That is rarely gone into. Instead, people are always taking sides—pot’s good, pot’s bad; pot should be outlawed, pot should be decriminalized—there’s always this legalistic approach. But I think marijuana had a profound cultural effect upon America, and I wouldn’t mind seeing this magazine exploring all that pot did to the American mentality—good and bad.

Richard Stratton: Marijuana is already a huge cultural phenomenon. In the 30 years High Times has been around, pot has gone from a marginal anomaly in our society to something that’s almost mainstream.

Mailer: Yeah, only not mainstream yet. Too many attitudes have settled in on pot, and there’s too much dead-ass in the thinking of pot smokers now. Some 30 years ago when it was all new, we really felt we were adventurers—let’s say 40 years ago—we really felt we were on the edge of startling and incredible revelations. You’d have perceptions that I still use to this day—that’s part of the good. When I first began smoking, I was a typical liberal, a radical rationalist. I never believed in a Higher Power. I still dislike those two words—Higher Power. I didn’t believe that God was there. I couldn’t explain anything, because when you’re an atheist, you’re living without a boat on an island in the Pacific that’s surrounded by water: There’s nowhere to go.

It’s hard enough to believe in God, but to assume there is no God, no prime force—how can you begin to explain anything that way?

I was a socialist, more radical than most liberals, but I was altogether a rationalist. I was also at the point of getting into one or another kind of terminal disease, because my life was wrong. My liver was lousy and I wasn’t even drinking a lot. My personal life was not happy and I was congested, constricted. I couldn’t have been tighter. Then pot hit.

In the beginning, I remember that pot used to irritate the hell out of me, because nothing would happen when I smoked.

I’ve noticed that intellectuals with highly developed minds usually have trouble turning on. The mental structure is so developed, so ratiocinative. So many minefields have been built up to protect the intellect from pot, which is seen as the disrupter, the enemy. The first few times I smoked, I just got tired, dull and irritated. I was angry that nothing had happened. It went on like that for perhaps a year. Three, four, five times I smoked, and each occasion was a blank.

Then one night in Mexico I got into a crazy sexual scene with two women. We were smoking an awful lot of pot. Then one of the women went home and the other went to sleep and I felt ill and got up and vomited. I’d never vomited like that in my life. It was exactly as if I was having an orgasm of convulsive vomiting. Spasmodically, I was throwing off a ton of anxiety. I’ve never had anything like that since and I wouldn’t want to. Not again. Pretty powerful convulsive experience.

Afterward, I rinsed my mouth out, went downstairs to where my then wife was sleeping on one couch, and I lay down on the other and stayed there. Then it hit—how that pot hit! I don’t know if it ever hit any harder. It was incredible: I was able to change the face of my wife into anyone I wanted. It went on before my eyes. I could play all sorts of games in my mind. Whole scenarios. It went on for hours. When it was over, I knew that I was going to try this again.

A couple of days later, I was out in the car listening to the radio. Some jazz came on. I’d been listening to jazz for years, but it had never meant all that much to me. Now, with the powers pot offered, simple things became complex; complex things clarified themselves. These musicians were offering the inner content of their experience to me. Later, when I wrote about it, I would say that jazz is the music of orgasm. Because that was what it seemed to me. These very talented, charged-up players full of their joys and twists and kinks—God, they had as many as I did—were looking for the musical equivalent of an orgasm. They would take a song, play the melody, then go into variations on it, until they got themselves into a tighter and tighter situation with the take-off on the melody.

I can’t speak musically, but I can tell what was going on in that odyssey. They were saying: This is very, very hard to get out, it’s full of knots—but I’m going to do it. And they’d climb a tower of music looking to reach the gates at the top and break through. It wasn’t automatic; very often they failed. They’d go on and on, try more variations, then more. But often they couldn’t solve the problem they’d set themselves musically, whatever that problem was. And sometimes, occasionally, they would break through. Then it was incredible, for they would emerge with you into a happy land just listening to music. Other times they’d stop with a little flair, a sign-off, as if to say: That’s it, I give up. All that was what I heard while high, and I loved it. I became a jazz buff.

Over the next couple of years, I went often to the Five Spot, the Village Vanguard, the Jazz Gallery. I’d hear the greats: Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Miles Davis. Those were incredibly heady years, listening to those guys for hours on pot, or without it, because once pot had broken into my metallic mental structure, it had cracked the vise, you might say, that closed me off from music. I had become such a lover of pot that I broke up with a few friends who wouldn’t smoke it. At the end of a long road—10 years down that road—I committed a felony while on pot.

That didn’t stop me, but I did smoke a little less as the years went on.

I’m a writer: The most important single element in my life, other than my family, has been my writing. So as a writer, I always had to ask: Is this good for my writing? And I began to look at pot through that lens. It wasn’t all bad for editing—it was crazy. I’d have three or four bad ideas and one good one, but at the same time I was learning a lot about the sounds of language. Before, I’d been someone who wrote for the sense of what I was saying, and now I began to write for the sound of what I was writing.

Stratton: Like a jazz musician.

Mailer: Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but to a degree, yes. I’d look for the rhythm of the long sentence rather than the intellectual impact, which often proved to be more powerful when it came out of the rhythm. So occasionally the editing was excellent. But it was impossible to write new stuff on pot.

The experience was too intense. On pot, I would have the illusion that you need say no more than “I love you” and all of love would be there. Obviously, that was not enough.

Stratton: Let’s talk about the detrimental aspects of pot, how you feel it worked against you.

Mailer: Well, the main thing was that I was mortgaging time, mortgaging my future. Because I’d have brilliant insights while on pot but could hardly remember any of them later. My handwriting would even break down. Then three-quarters of the insights were lost to scribbles. Whenever I had a tremendous take on pot, I was good for very little over the next 48 hours.

But if you’re a novelist, you have to work every day. There are no easy stretches. You do the work. Marijuana was terrible for that. So I had longer and longer periods where I wouldn’t go near pot—it would get me too far off my novelistic tracks. When it hit, three or four chapters of my next book would come into my head at once. That would often be a disaster. The happiest moment you can have when writing is when a sense of the truth comes in at the point of your pen. It just feels true. As you are writing! Such a moment is most certainly one of the reasons you write. But if I received similar truths via pot, I was no longer stretching my mind by my work as a novelist.

In fact, with the noticeable exception of Hunter Thompson, who has broken—bless him—has broken every fucking rule there is for ingesting alien substances…indeed, there’s nobody remotely equal to Hunter—I don’t know how he does it. I have great admiration for his constitution and the fact that he can be such a good writer with all the crap he takes into himself. Unbelievable, unbelievable—but no other writer I know can do it.

Stratton: So you believe that, if you were to smoke some good pot right now, you’d let your mind go—and you might see the rest of the book in your head, but you might not have the impetus to sit down and write it?

Mailer: That’s right. One mustn’t talk about one’s book. For instance, I’m doing one now where I haven’t even told my wife what it’s about. She’s guessed—she’s a very smart lady, so she’s guessed—but the thing is, I know that to talk about this book would be so much more stimulating and easy and agreeable than to write it that I’d end up talking to people about what a marvelous book I could have done. I believe pot does that in a far grander way—it’s the difference between watching a movie on a dinky little TV set and going to a state-of-the-art cinema.

Stratton: Most of the writing I’m doing these days is screenwriting. And because of the nature of the material I’m working on, I usually have a detailed outline. I know where I’m going, I’ve already seen the movie in my head. So when I write, after having smoked some pot, I find that what it does for me is I can just sit back and watch the scene play out in my mind. And I don’t have to worry about getting lost, because I’ve got the structure of the screenplay holding me in check.

Mailer: I can see that would work for screenplays, but in a novel you’ve got to do it all.

Stratton: What about sex on pot?

Mailer: Sex on pot was fabulous. That was the big element. I realized I hadn’t known anything about sex until I was able to enjoy it on pot. Then again, after a few years, I began to see some of the negative aspects. Once, speaking at Rice High School—I had a friend, a priest named Pete Jacobs, who’d invited me to speak there; it’s a Catholic high school run by the Christian Brothers in Manhattan, and it’s a school well respected by a lot of Irish working class all around New York, Staten Island, Queens, because they give you a very good, tough education there. The Christian Brothers are tough. But Pete told me, “Say what you want to say. These kids will be right on top of it.” They were. They weren’t passive students at all. One of them asked me, “How do you feel about marijuana and sex?” And I gave him this answer: You can be out with a girl, have sex with her for the first time on pot and it might be fabulous—you and the girl go very far out. Then two days later you hear that the girl was killed in an automobile accident and you say, “Too bad. Such a sweet little chick.” You hardly feel more than that. The action had exhausted your emotions. On pot, you can have a romance that normally would take three to six months to develop being telescoped into one big fuck. But over one night, there’s no loyalty or allegiance to it because you haven’t paid the price. About that time, I realized that fucking on pot was crazy because you’d feel things you never felt before, but on the other hand, you really didn’t attach that much loyalty to the woman. Your feelings of love were not for the woman, but for the idea of love. It was insufficiently connected to the real woman.

It bounced off her reality rather than drawing you toward it. Other times, you could indeed get into the reality of the woman and even see something hard and cold and cruel in her depths, or something so beautiful you didn’t want to go too near it because you knew you were a lousy son of a bitch and you’d ruin it.

One way or another, I found that pot intensified my attitudes toward love, but it also left me detached. It was a peculiar business. So there came a point where I began to think: Who gave us pot? Was it God or the devil? Because by now, I was my own species of a religious man. I believed in an existential God who was doing the best that He or She could do.

God was out there as the Creator, but God was not all powerful or all wise. God was an artistic general, if you will—a very creative and wonderful general—better than any general who ever lived. By far. But even so, generals finally can’t take care of all their troops. And the notion of people praying all the time—begging for God to watch over them, take care of them—so conflicted with what I felt. I felt that God cannot be all good and all powerful. Not both. Because if He’s all good, He is certainly not all powerful. There’s no way to explain the horrors of history, including the mid-century horrors of the last century, if He is all good. Whereas if God is a great creator—not necessarily the lord of all the universe, but let’s say the lord of our part of the universe, our Creator—then God, on a grander scale, bears the same relationship to us that a parent does to a child. No parent is all wise, all powerful and all good. The parent is doing the best that he or she can do. And very often it doesn’t turn out well. That made sense to me. I could see our relation to God: God needs us as much as we need God. And to me, that was exciting, because now it wasn’t a slavish relationship anymore. It made sense.

Stratton: You feel marijuana helped you discover this existential God?

Mailer: No question. That was part of the great trip. But I began to brood on a line that I’d written long before I’d smoked marijuana, a line from The Deer Park. The director who was my main character was having all sorts of insights and revelations while dead drunk, but then said to himself, “Why is my mind so alive when I’m too drunk to do anything about it?” That came back to haunt me. Because I thought: Pot is giving me so much, but I’m not doing my work. I don’t get near enough to the visions and insights I’m having on pot. So is it a gift of God—pot? Or does it come from the devil? Is this the nearest the devil comes to being godlike? It seemed there were three possibilities there: One could well be that marijuana was a gift of God and, if so, must not be abused. Or was it an instrument of the devil? Or were God and the devil both present when we smoked? Maybe God needed us to become more illumined? After all, one of my favorite notions is that organized religion could well be one of the great creations of the devil. How better to drive people away from God than to give them a notion of the Almighty that doesn’t fit the facts? So, I do come back to this notion that maybe God and the devil are obliged willynilly to collaborate here. Each thinks that they can benefit from pot: God can give you the insights and the devil will reap the exhaustions and the debilities. Because I think pot debilitates people. I’ve noticed over and over that people who smoke pot all the time generally do very little with their lives. I’ve always liked booze because I felt: It’s a vice, but I know exactly what I’m paying for. You hurt your head in the beginning and your knees in the end, when you get arthritis. But at least you know how you’re paying for the fun. Pot’s spookier. Pot gives so much more than booze on the one hand—but on the other, never quite presents the bill.

Stratton: I’m not sure that’s true of everyone who smokes pot.

Mailer: I’m sure it’s not.

Stratton: A lot of people are motivated by pot. I am, for one.

Mailer: What do you mean, “motivated”?

Stratton: I mean that it doesn’t debilitate me. I don’t want to sit around and do nothing when I’m high. I get inspired, energized.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of the antimotivational syndrome. If anything, when I’m straight, I’m often too hyper and too left-brain-oriented. I go off on tangents and I don’t stop to look around and try to find a deeper meaning in what I’m doing. Marijuana will slow me down and allow me to connect with the mood of what’s going on around me. And that, in turn, inspires me to go further into what I’m trying to do.

Mailer: I ended a few romances over the years because when I got on pot I couldn’t stop talking. And finally I remember one girl who said, “Did you come to fuck or to knit?”


Stratton: That’s one of the interesting things about marijuana—how it affects everyone differently. It seems to enhance and intensify whatever’s going on in the person at any given moment. Let’s say that we were going to do some stretching right now and we did it straight. We’d be like, “Oh, man, this hurts. This is an ordeal.”

Now if we smoke a little pot and then stretch, it would feel good and put us more in touch with our bodies and the deeper sensations of the activity.

Mailer: I learned more about my body and reflex and grace, even, such as I have—whatever limited physical grace I have, I got it through pot showing me where my body, or how my body, was feeling at any given moment. Here, I can agree with you. Dancing—I could always dance on pot. Not much of a dancer otherwise, but on pot, I could dance. There’s no question it liberated me. All of these good things were there. All the same, when it comes to the legalization of pot, I get dubious. Pot would be taken over by media culture. It would be classified and categorized. It would lose that wonderful little funky edge that once it had—that sensation of being on the edge of the criminal. All the same, the corporate bastards who run most of America will not legalize it in a hurry. Pot is still a great danger to them. Because what they fear is that too many people would no longer give a damn about the corporation—they’d have their minds on other things than working for the Big Empty. To the suits, that makes pot a deadly drug. The corporation has a bad enough conscience buried deep inside to fear, despite their strength, every type of psychic alteration that they haven’t developed themselves.

High Times Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2004

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: Norman Mailer on Pot (2004) appeared first on High Times.

Five Vintage Weed Jams

“Reefer Man” – Cab Calloway

Originally titled “Have You Ever Met That Funny Reefer Man,” this song was written in 1932 by J. Russel Robinson, with lyrics by Andy Razaf, and recorded by Cab Calloway. As the song was written five years before the Marihuana Tax Act—reefer was still legal in almost all of America at the time. It was first recorded by Calloway, with several popular covers, including one by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Calloway lived a long life—long enough to appear in the 1980 Saturday Night Live-inspired film The Blues Brothers.

“You’se A Viper” – Stuff Smith

In Harlem, New York, people started calling reefer smokers “vipers” in the 1920s and 1930s. “Viper culture” was centered on good jazz music and reefer. This classic B-side was first recorded by Stuff Smith and the Onyx Club Boys in 1936. It was released as the B-side to the song “After You’ve Gone.” The song was retitled again and again to correct the broken, casual English. Fats Waller’s 1943 cover version mentions “Mighty Mezz”—referring to Milton Mezzrow, a Jewish saxophone and clarinet player who also is synonymous with viper culture as a famed marijuana supplier.

“When I Get Low I Get High” – Ella Fitzgerald

This song was recorded in April 1936 by Chick Webb and his orchestra, with stunning vocals on the chorus performed by none other than Ella Fitzgerald. For the most part, Fitzgerald tried to cultivate a wholesome image, but she also was very street savvy in regards to the underground jazz community. In the 1930s, Fitzgerald sang about both reefer and cocaine, such as in Wacky Dust, also recorded with Webb. Fitzgerald went on to scoop up 13 Grammy Awards and an additional 20 nominations.

“Jack, I’m Mellow” – Trixie Smith

This song was used relatively recently as the series theme song for Disjointed starring Kathy Bates. Originally recorded in November 1938, the song was included on Reefer Blues: Volume One, a compilation album of vintage blues songs, featuring some of the other tunes on this list. Louis Armstrong played the cornet on some of Smith’s best known songs, and she was active during the vaudeville era. Smith’s birthdate is completely unknown, but she was born sometime between 1885 and 1895.

“That Cat is High” – The Ink Spots

That’s one high cat… Here’s one that will take you back in time. The Ink Spots originally released “That Cat is High” written by J. Mayo Williams and The Ink Spots, and released it on the single “Oh! Red” in 1938. The Ink Spots were an American vocal jazz group that gained international stardom in the 1930s and 1940s. Their accessible vocal style is thought to have helped lead to doo-wop and modern R&B. The Ink Spots were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

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

The post Five Vintage Weed Jams appeared first on High Times.

3 cruisy jazz tracks for an Indica-dominant evening

Despite the fact that jazz is now generally associated with an older way of thinking, in its heyday, it was the start of a revolutionary new way of thinking—the same one that led to the weed culture of the 70s. So it makes sense that weed and jazz are the perfect pairing. But if you’re […]

The post 3 cruisy jazz tracks for an Indica-dominant evening appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.

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 […]

The post Neo-soul jazz for a Sunday morning session appeared first on Latest Cannabis News Today – Headlines, Videos & Stocks.

Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool Is The Definitive Documentary of A Jazz Great

Jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis has been dead since 1991, but his music continues to inspire artists and audiences across the globe. Given the horn player’s legendary status in the world of jazz and beyond, it’s a little odd that it’s taken this long for a high-caliber documentary to profile the man behind the signature sound, but in many ways, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool was worth the wait.

From his childhood in Illinois and his stint at Juilliard to his search for Charlie Parker in New York City’s jazz clubs, Davis was set on an early course to greatness. While racism and his own demons presented major roadblocks, they didn’t stop Davis from fulfilling his destiny as the embodiment of cool. But that destiny didn’t come without paying a price. Borrowing from the title of Davis’ 1957 compilation album, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool is a study in Davis’ myriad complicated relationships—with music, with women, and with himself.

“The story of Miles Davis—who he was as a man and artist—has often been told as the tale of a drug-addled genius,” said the director Stanley Nelson in the film’s production notes. “You rarely see a portrait of a man that worked hard at honing his craft, a man who deeply studied all forms of music, from Baroque to classical Indian. An elegant man who could render ballads with such tenderness yet hold rage in his heart from the racism he faced throughout his life….”

Miles Davis at home, June, 1969/ Don Hunstein/Sony Music Archives. Courtesy of Abramorama/ Eagle Rock. An Abramorama North American Theatrical Release.

Not only is the film a survey of the eponymous artist’s life and career, it is a testament to Davis’ endurance, perseverance, and relentless adaptability within the highly fickle and temporal music milieu. As the public’s tastes in music changed over time, Davis always kept up with a fresh, new approach. Thanks to the filmmakers’ full access to Miles Davis’ estate, the artist’s evolution as a performer is expertly illustrated through rare footage, archive photos, never-before-seen outtakes, and interviews with the likes of Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, and many others, including a range of Davis’ former friends, lovers, and colleagues.

Abramorama is the indie distribution company that’s behind the theatrical release of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. In the words of the firm’s CEO Richard Abramowitz and Head of West Coast Acquisitions and Business Development, Evan Saxon: “Miles Davis is in the pantheon along with the Beatles, Dylan, Coltrane and a very few others who’ve changed the sound of contemporary music and culture.”

And that’s why the film deserves to be seen.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and just kicked off its theatrical run on Friday. It comes to the Landmark in Los Angeles on Friday, August 30 and to additional markets in September.

The post Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool Is The Definitive Documentary of A Jazz Great appeared first on High Times.