Buddy is one of L.A.’s finest up-and-coming musicians—a rapper-singer hybrid with a knack for creating hooks that immediately sound timeless. He’s not new to the game, though: At age 15, he got signed to Pharrell’s Star Trak label, collaborated with Kaytranada on an EP in 2017, and put out his first full-length on RCA Records (Harlan & Alondra) shortly after that. Definitely check out his viral NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2019 as an intro to his special blend of sonic sweetness.
Buddy is 28 now, and he recently dropped his second LP titled Superghetto, featuring appearances from Tinashe, T-Pain, and Blxst. He even performed the single “Wait Too Long” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, in which he coolly lounges in an armchair and pretends to chat on a landline before diving into a sexy-ass serenade.
Buddy was born and raised in Compton, and the artist is no stranger to fine West Coast weed. In fact, he says he’s been loyal to the strain Luigi OG, which is only grown by one L.A. farmer, for the last 10 years. “It’s the gas-iest of the gas. It’s that 91 Premium Deluxe,” he told Cash Only during a breezy phone call.
Buddy was generous enough to make some time to talk about his weed preferences, including cutting down on tobacco in his spliffs, his appreciation for Jay-Z’s marijuana brand Monogram, and the benefits of combining weed and yoga. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite weed strain and how do you like to consume it?
Buddy: I’ve had the same favorite weed strain for the last 10 years, Luigi OG. I’m friends with the weed man who runs the company; he has one grower who I’ve never met, but he’s been the same grower for the last 30 years or so. It’s the best weed in L.A. — pure OG Kush. It’s my favorite. I been getting high off that for a decade, maybe even over a decade.
It’s that endo—indoor grown. It’s the way it smells when you break the seal of the packaging. It’s the way it feels as I’m breaking it down with my fingers. It’s the way it smokes after I light it up and take that first hit. It’s how it makes me feel—it gets me so relaxed. I smoke a whole blunt and go to sleep! Wake up and it’ll be the next day. That knockout weed. It’s an indica—all indica. No hybrid or dominant stuff; it’s just indica.
It’s the gas-iest of the gas. It’s that 91 Premium Deluxe. It’s so green, it’s just green. Only green. It’s super fluffy and condensed. I don’t know how it can be so fluffy and condensed at the same time. It’s got the buoyancy, like you know when you pinch a nug and it’s got a little bounce on it? Then you start breaking it down and it just takes forever. You peel it little by little and you can get a big old pile of weed from one condensed nug, and then you can roll it up.
I like using Grabba Leaf, like the fronto leaves, all the way. But lately, I’ve been rolling spliffs. I take some of the Grabba, mix it with the weed, and roll it in some papers because I’ve been trying to wean myself away from tobacco so I can just be high on the weed. I’m on that tobacco-free journey, one day at a time, one spliff at a time.
Do you have a current favorite weed product?
I just got put on to the Jay-Z weed, the Monogram stuff. That weed is cool. I like how they package those pre-rolled joints. There are little magnets on the black box and it comes with four pre-rolled joints in little tubes. It looks so chic. I’m really impressed by the packaging. It’s elegant—like a higher hierarchy of marijuana, a “higher-archy.” The actual weed isn’t my favorite, but that packaging…
What activity do you like to do after you’ve smoked?
I picked up yoga recently and I be getting super high and then super zen. That combo gets me super chill. A little meditation, some time alone. It’s good for me. All vibes over here.
Can you recommend something to watch while stoned?
I been watching Snowfall lately. It’s on FX but they got it on Hulu. It’s about dealing drugs and cocaine in L.A. They drop episodes every Thursday. The homie Damson [Idris] is the main character Franklin on the show. He’s the kingpin in the hood for real, getting dope from the government, selling it in the hood. There’s a bunch of government conspiracy stuff going on behind the scenes, and then the street shit with the Crips and the Bloods, and the n*gg*s from Compton and Inglewood fighting over the money and drugs. It’s awesome. I be getting high and watching that shit. It was John Singleton’s last project before he passed. It’s my show right now. It be going up.
In the last episode, Franklin’s auntie and uncle got married, and somebody put LSD in the chocolate fountain. So everybody was eating chocolate-covered strawberries and then tripping out! It was a crazy episode and I’m waiting for the next one to see what happened because Franklin’s auntie just called a hit out on somebody they made a truce with. Oh, it’s finna get crazy! I’m trying to get married and have an LSD wedding now. Fuck it, let’s take it there.
Can you recommend something to listen to while smoking?
I’m big on Outkast—ATLiens, Aquemini, Speakerboxxx / The Love Below. I’ll go into an Outkast friends and family wormhole. Aquemini is probably my favorite, but it’s hard to decide.
Can you recommend something to read after getting baked?
I’ve been trying to get through this nifty booklet. It’s hard, though. I’ve been circling back on The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. It’s a spiritual guide to mastering the challenges of women, work, and sexual desire. It’s a handy guide, a self-help book, for situations that I be in with women and work and sexual desires. It’s helped in my personal life. It’s good to read; it assures thoughts I’ve already had. It confirms thoughts I already be thinking. It’s like wow, I’m not crazy and I’m not wrong.
Who’s in your dream blunt rotation?
Beyonce, no doubt. Me and the Queen B. Jay-Z can come if he wants. We’ll probably be smoking some Monogram out of respect, but I’ll probably mix it with that Luigi OG just so I can get some fire in there and we can spliff it up. We’ll probably just be hanging out, internet shopping, listening to music and stuff. I wanna shop online with Beyonce’s card and smoke weed and watch movies and stuff. It would be a good time.
Oje Ken Ollivierre—the Jamaican artist known professionally as Protoje—is a thoughtful, contemplative individual—a thinker, if you will, who is consciously aware of his role as a creator and his responsibility as a creator to share what’s most authentic to him with the rest of the world.
Born into a family of music-minded parents, music started as a hobby for Protoje and eventually took form as a career once he made the conscious decision to go all-in and dedicate himself to his craft. His latest album Third Time’s A Charm acts as a culminating expression of his life experiences and feelings that have brought him through to the present moment.
When we connect over Zoom, Protoje is in a happy, expressive mood—having just taken a quick puff—and from a free and open mindset begins to share his journey through music, his relationship with cannabis, how he channels a higher power for his music’s creation, and how that higher power gives life to further music creation, performance, and sustenance.
High Times: Growing up in a musical family with both parents being musicians, was music always the path for you growing up in that environment?
Protoje: I really wanted to be an athlete first. I wanted to be a long distance runner and was obsessed with basketball in my teens. I always loved music and was involved in it, but it was like a hobby to me.
A little bit before I left high school I started to realize that the idea of getting a job or working somewhere was not sitting well. Not realizing the work it would take to be an artist, I thought maybe I could become one. Everyone was telling me how good I was and I could see how they were reacting [to my music]. So I declared that I was going to be an artist and that was what I was going to do [for “work”].
What was it about the artistic lifestyle that you realized was different from running, different from having a nine-to-five—what was it that really captivated your spirit?
To be honest, it was people’s reactions to hearing me DJ or doing other stuff. I just thought it would be a good way for me to express myself. I think where I felt most natural and felt most happy and content was writing music and singing it to my friends. I would get very excited and it’s what brought me joy.
So there’s a fulfillment element then that being on stage and expressing yourself provides, perhaps in a way that other occupations may not.
I think so. As simple as it is, I just didn’t want to have to report to anyone. I grew up with parents who always helped me feel very free. They had such busy schedules that they just kind of let me set my schedule, so it was very hard for me to adjust to operating on someone else’s clock. Doing so takes away my joy, so I knew that while I wanted to pursue music, I’d also have to do it under my own label. I just really didn’t want to have to report to someone, so I built my entire creative process around that.
When expressing yourself through music, is there a mission that you’re trying to fulfill or is it just an expression of yourself and music happens to be the tool to do that through?
I’ve found that the most honest way to approach music is to speak about experiences and the meaning that I derive from the way that I see things. That to me is me being my most honest self, and doing that is the most important thing for me musically.
So I may feel some way about something and I think the feeling is valid. After sitting with that feeling, I express it. A year later, I may be going through something else, but once it is valid and honest in me, I express it.
The overarching theme is to appreciate—to live in the moment of gratitude—to make use of the time that you have as best as you can. That’s really what I try to do as an individual. Because of that, that’s what my music tends to focus on.
When I listen to my music—look, I have to sing these songs everyday. I’m the only person who has to sing these songs one thousand times. I’m hearing myself sing this stuff all the time. So [the songs] need to be something that resonates with me and that I one hundred percent believe in. That they’re authentic from me. Otherwise, I’m going to hear it and I’m going to cringe.
The other day I had a show that was really hard to get up for energy-wise. I was tired, everyone was tired. I started the show singing “Deliverance” and said “Choosing how I spend my time is completely by design / They don’t even see the trying / All they see is dollar sign / All I make is sacrifice.” I was listening to those lyrics and I got an energy [that woke me up]. And this is why I [create] this way because it helps power the whole thing. Lyrics help power the whole thing of me being an artist.
So it’s almost like a really cool feedback loop. You’re channeling from a higher power, that channeling then leads to the creation of the music, and then the music gives you the energy you need to perform the music.
It’s like if you plant some lettuce yourself and you grow it and it comes up. You take it, and you wash it off, then you cook it, and you bring it out to the table for dinner. You break off a leaf of it and you taste the lettuce. You’re reminded of when you planted it and you get to experience it one more time and it’s a loop. It’s just like that, that’s [how making music] feels to me.
Was there a moment after deciding to focus on music where you realized the path could be both the vehicle to express yourself and provide you with sustenance?
I committed to music very early but it was very hard to get traction. I think when my first single “Arguments” came out and it came out and did well, I was like, “Wow, I’m an artist.” People were starting to recognize that I made music. I knew I had the skills and I knew I had the talent but my main problem was that I thought it was owed to me because I was so talented. I was like, “I’m talented, so why isn’t this person recording me? Why am I not getting the respect?”
Once I realized that nobody owed me anything and that talent alone had nothing to do with it—sure, I’m talented, but many people are talented—I began to realize I needed determination and discipline, and after that, everything started to happen fast.
Once you realized you weren’t owed anything, what was the shift in your actions that led to success?
The shift was immediate. I was at a friend’s playing video games and I went outside and started to smoke. Anxiety came over me like I’d never felt before. I didn’t understand. I knew I wanted to be an artist, I had a song that I was recording, but I was hanging out playing video games with friends during the day. I could tell you how many points Kobe had in the game the night before. But what was I doing every single day [to achieve my goals] apart from writing some songs at night? What else am I doing?
So I stopped everything that day. I got rid of my PlayStation, I stopped watching TV, I stopped everything else I was doing and I just started doing music all of the time. I started to bring my song to every radio station and go to every live event that they had where it was possible for me to get in front of people. Every day, everything I started doing was centered around “how is this helping me get closer to my goals?” I did that for a little and then everything started to happen when I stopped doing everything else. It was wild.
You went all-in and took the action of consistently showing up for yourself. And it sounds like, from that place, good things happened.
G, I’m telling you. In life, I’ve never seen it not work to really just narrow in on exactly what you’re trying to do and work towards it every day. I don’t see how that’s possible to not get closer to your goal if you work towards it every day. Once I realized that, everything changed.
That’s why I tell artists that I work with, “You want this and you want that, but have you done today to get there?”
From that day [of my realization] to now, no matter what it is that I’m doing, every day I do something that is helping me get towards where I am trying to go.
And you’ve had the positive feedback from the universe to validate that way of living.
I know that if I stay up another hour and send out another hundred emails today instead of tomorrow, I’m twenty-four hours closer to getting where I’m trying to go. That’s how I operate.
How do you protect your energy from getting burnt out?
The people around me will joke that I have an obsession or that I need to get hobbies, but I think it’s a balance. I have my family and my daughter, who give me a lot of relief. My family knows that I work really hard because I’m trying to do as much as I can do in as short a time as I can because I don’t want to be out here doing this forever.
I can spend five hours working feverishly on my craft today and then I have ten hours extra that I can use to go to the beach, I can hangout with my daughter, the whole family can chill and watch a movie or whatever—but the thing is, when I’m doing these things, the way my mind works is that these are all life experiences that are going into the process of me thinking. In turn, this leads to my music. You understand? It’s not focusing on being in the studio all of the time or recording all of the time, because that will burn you out. It’s living, experiencing, feeling.
Movies are a big thing for me and my writing because movies really make me feel. To someone else, watching a movie is time off—which it is for me, too—but at the same time, my mind is working and I’m getting ideas. So I’ve found a way to use it all as creativity.
In terms of creativity, what’s the inspiration behind your new album Third Time’s The Charm and what do you hope people take from it?
The album is an extension from [the album] In Search of Lost Time. It picks up right where it left off. Everything was coming from things that I was going through and experiencing. As I said, I communicate best with the world by talking about the things I’m going through and people can relate to it in some way and get something from it for their lives, as opposed to being preachy. That’s something I’m not interested in—being preachy and telling people what’s right, how you should live your life. I’m about sharing my experiences as you would when you meet someone and you’re talking to them.
Think about it: If you meet someone and you’re speaking to them and they say, “Hey look, you should live like this, this is wrong, this is the way,” or whatever, you’re not going to be receptive to the ideas and concepts I’m coming with, right? It’s the same thing musically. I’m just making music and communicating and sharing my thoughts and ideas. Maybe you connect with it, maybe it makes you come up with your own great idea.
I love this album, I really connect with it on a personal level. I love the words that are being said, I love the sounds that are playing behind the words. I love the way the album is mixed, I love the art. The visuals are possibly my most favorite that I’ve ever done. Everything is precisely how I want it to be and that’s what matters to me the most, knowing I’ve done exactly what I’ve wanted to do. However that’s perceived is up to people, and whatever that is, I’ll definitely be able to accept it.
It sounds like you’re consciously making art for yourself which enriches your life, and there’s an awareness of the power it has to also potentially enrich the lives of many others.
I like to think about van Gogh back in the day with an open canvas and him listening to his mind saying “Make this stroke with the brush here, use this color there.” I’d like to think he wasn’t there thinking “I wonder if someone is going to like this color here,” or “I wonder if people are going to like the way I do the grass here.” I don’t think that’s what people are doing when they’re making art. You have a picture in your head and you’re trying to put it as good as you can on the canvas. I feel like I’m hearing the songs in my head and all I’m trying to do is get it as close to how it sounds and looks in my head. When I really break it down to that, it takes away all of the pressure from making art. It helps you as an artist to not be anxious and feel like a hostage.
How does cannabis help you with this kind of creative process?
I have a very interesting relationship with marijuana. Sometimes, it gives me feelings that I’m not too comfortable with. Sometimes it makes me very anxious. Sometimes it makes me doubt myself. Sometimes it makes me question a lot of things. There’s lots of different reactions that I get from it depending on what I’m going through and how I’m feeling within myself.
When I smoke it causes me to overthink a lot and overanalyze. When I’m going through it, I feel anxious, but when I come out of it, I usually find something positive from the experience that I was having. So I’ve even learned to even accept the anxiety at times when it comes.
When I’m creating music—especially when I’m producing or recording another artist—and I’m smoking, it makes me able to spend as much time as needed without losing my focus. When I’m writing, marijuana will help me to be locked in and not be as easily distracted with outside elements. So creatively, I do think it helps me a lot, but I try to make sure that I’m not high all the time either because my conscious brain without being on marijuana is also such an effective thing and it brings its own qualities. It’s about finding the balance as with everything.
Follow @protoje and check out http://www.protoje.com for tickets, tour dates, and his latest album Third Time’s The Charm.
Over the past decade and change, Damian Abraham, lead singer of Canadian band Fucked Up, has become a public conduit for punk music, pro wrestling, and pot. With scores of reports covering cannabis, wrestling, and society-at-large, it’s difficult not to acknowledge his contributions over the years. At the same time, awards like the 2009 Polaris Music Prize and various MTV set-destroyingperformances have helped cement Fucked Up as an act loved by fans and respected by music peers.
Subcultures including but not limited to punk, cannabis, and pro wrestling are a particular interest of Abraham’s. He calls the groups “communities that exist without the conventional societal push for them to exist.”
Abraham spoke to High Times soon after Fucked Up wrapped its most recent U.S. tour—touching on topics including plant education, cannabis culture, and the overlap between the subcultures he holds dear.
From Straight Edge to Cannabis Enthusiast
Before punk and the plant came into Abraham’s life, there was pro wrestling. As a kid, he recalls being the only one captivated by Wrestlemania 2 while at a friend’s birthday party. The isolated fandom would continue for years.
“It felt like something I did on my own,” he recalled. That wasn’t the case with pot and music.
By 14, he and a group of friends were smoking a bit of weed while being self-described “shit disturbers” in the Toronto area. A minor run-in with the cops forced Abraham to step away from his friends at his family’s insistence. Despite being terrible at sports, he was sent to a sports camp to become a counselor. While there, he met a similarly minded counselor-in-training.
The eventual friend hit all the marks for Abraham: He was into Sonic Youth, graffiti, and also smoked weed. Pot took a backseat to the other two interests for several years. At 16, he accepted the straight edge punk lifestyle, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, including weed. The practice would continue for years, with Abraham still abstaining from drinking.
Years later, he’d “break edge” during a tour, smoking pot. He said he noticed an immediate beneficial result.
“It just immediately connected everything,” Abraham said.
That immediate connection led him on a years-long journey, learning about the plant and its impact on the body.
“I certainly have other things in my medicine cabinet, but cannabis is my go-to medicine,” said Abraham. Now in his early 40s, Abraham continues his plant education, hoping to get into growing and genetics more in the near future.
An Enthusiast Turned Journalist
Evangelical-level passions have led Abraham on several fulfilling career journeys so far in his life.
Beginning in the middle of the last decade, written and video journalism pieces from Abraham started to highlight the emerging world of cannabis. Abraham’s work also includes wrestling-centric pieces. In 2018, he and Vice Canada produced The Wrestlers, a 10-part series examining global wrestling communities. Cannabis did not play a part in the series. Instead, episodes included in-depth looks at different wrestling worlds, including the revolutionary Fighting Cholitas of Bolivia, the voodoo-wrestling crossover in the Congo, and performing on Canada’s First Nations reserves.
He hoped to make the show for existing fans while highlighting the various entryways a person can become a wrestling fan. “There’s ways to appreciate it as a physical ballet; there’s ways to appreciate it as a human stunt show; there’s ways to appreciate it as high art,” Abraham said.
But most of all, he wanted to use the show to highlight “the ultimate art” wrestlers create, sacrificing their bodies every night in the ring. Wrestling fans have asked for a second season, but Abraham isn’t sure where to turn with Vice Canada shuttering during the first season’s production process.
“I don’t even know who to talk to now, but I’m trying to do more of it,” he said, noting that pro wrestling has tons more stories to tell.
The Importance of Proper Pot Education
While each subculture is a passion and holds a spot in his heart, Abraham is quick to point out that cannabis’ journey to becoming a subculture and eventually reaching the mainstream has been more complicated than the others.
“I think cannabis had a harder path to exist and to thrive as a community at different times and at different places,” he said, acknowledging the ills of the drug war and its ongoing global adverse effects, often on marginalized communities.
Later in our conversation, Abraham called Harry Anslinger, often regarded as the architect of the drug war, “One of the great war criminals of the cannabis war.”
Erasing the stigma around cannabis use continues. As does creating a mainstream public awareness of the plant and its science. A particular sticking point for Abraham is how “We built this industry on indica and sativa,” citing the oft-held notion that indica produces sedative effects and sativa creates uplifting effects. While true in some cases, indica and sativa are meant to describe a cultivar’s shape and plant structure, not results.
“I’ve seen people dab Congolese Haze, which is apparently a pure sativa, and I’ve seen people pass out,” he said. On the other hand, he reports smoking indicas in the morning and having an effect similar to caffeine, especially when his now-teenage son was a newborn.
During the same period, Abraham realized how edibles helped him sleep during that time. But he doesn’t partake in Canada’s legal edibles market, claiming that he’s priced out due to dosage issues. A high-dose consumer, Abraham reports needing products with over 1000mg of THC potency to feel any effect. With Canada capping THC at 10mg per package, he’d have to buy and consume such large quantities that the cost or experience wouldn’t justify the effects.
“There’s people that I talk to that find an unbelievable effect with a 10 milligram gummy and…my dose is around a thousand milligrams,” he said.
Abraham claimed that his most productive night of work came when consuming roughly 5000mg.
“I did two articles for Vice, interviewed a guy, and saw Madball in concert,” he recalled.
Can Canada Reclaim Its Cannabis Culture?
Looking at the U.S., Abraham would like Canada to adopt specific state-level policies, notably consumption lounges. He likes the business model but, more so, finds value in its potential community building. He said that lounges and meetups were where he met growers and other informed pot enthusiasts, providing him with critical cannabis information.
Since legalization, he feels Canada has “put a lot of water on the fire” of the cannabis community, with the pandemic further clamping down on social gatherings, networking and information sharing. While he feels the market will improve as the public becomes more aware of the plant and its rules, he wonders if the optimism and energy can fully return.
To see the fire burn bright again, Abraham hopes to see varied settings for Canadian cannabis consumers.
“There should be a place where you can go, and it can be like a pharmacy,” Abraham said. He continued, “But there’s gotta be places like where I was in Colorado last week where they pulled out the jar and I could smell it.”
Some would argue that it is counterintuitive, frivolous, and perhaps even a little cattywampus for the editor of the leading cannabis magazine in the world to send a tattooed, bald writer to a music festival in Louisville, Kentucky called Bourbon & Beyond to assess the pulse of the cannabis culture in that neck of the woods. They might even throw stones at such a bold assignment that, in their minds, only serves to glorify the alcohol industry while their precious plant, as illegal as all get out in the Bluegrass State, gets the dishonor of being the red-headed, bastard stepchild that nobody wants to play with. At least not while their real friends are around.
There may even be those cannabis conservatives who’ll argue that mingling with any extension of the subjugated south, a place seemingly chock full of flag-praising good ole boys with red, white, and blue constitutions, pounding down brown liquor in pursuit of the maniacal mindset that’s been, on occasion, known to produce wife-beaters and social louses shouldn’t be given the time of day. But they’d be dead wrong. Dead wrong. If anything, Kentucky, an area of cockeyed politics, where the absurdity that dropped out of Nixon’s Republican asshole nearly five decades ago is being perpetuated by the ire of slack-jawed McConnellism, is precisely the place to be.
My mission, if I, of course, chose to accept it (and I did without thinking twice), was to roam this transient Valhalla of bourbon distilleries and music in search for some of that Kentucky Bluegrass. You know, marijuana, weed, smoke, pot. Much to my surprise, however, upon arriving on Thursday evening, I didn’t have to go looking very far. Amidst the mélange of odors, including pizza, BBQ, noodles, and cheap cologne, pot smoke was also prevalent throughout the festival. This was interesting seeing as organizers maintained strict bans against this sort of thing. Any illegal drug use was strictly prohibited. They went as far as to explicitly point out in their entry policies that even cannabis and cannabis products were a big, bad no-no. There was a high security and police presence posted at every gate to enforce this measure, too. Bags were being searched, metal detectors were activated, K9 units could be seen sniffing around. No sir, the supposed riffraff with the reefer wasn’t getting beyond the gates with any of that green stuff, no matter what. If they tried, they’d have Louisville’s finest to contend with. Yet, from where I was standing, just minutes before Alanis Morrisette took the stage, their anti-stoner procedures had failed, and failed miserably.
As the sun slumped into the horizon, plumes of pot smoke wafted across the Highland Festival Grounds like a bomb went off. “Someone’s smoking marijuana,” one man shouted in the distance.
Indeed, they were.
Now, I wasn’t surprised about the festivalgoers’ inability to behave like good boys and girls. You just can’t go dropping over a hundred thousand people into a field under the heat of a Kentucky sky for four days straight, feeding them an unlimited supply of hard liquor and expect civil society to parade around and smile pretty. Louisville is, after all, Bourbon City. If this event was to shake out to be anything similar to what I’ve witnessed at the Kentucky Derby in previous years, the festival was destined to become a menagerie of foul beasts, all with a propensity for violence once the lines to the Porta-Potties got too long. If the inability to take a whizz once nature called didn’t get them riled up enough to unleash their savage wrath, they would surely rise up with wild-eyed ferocity once they checked their bank accounts and saw that those $18 beers were going to have them homeless by the end of the month. I, for one, was ready for anything. But did anyone else know what they were getting themselves into? Doubtfully. By Saturday, at least in my mind, attendees would not only need to come fully prepared to endure desert-like conditions but also cloaked in plastic or maybe even battle armor to protect them from the whiskey-drenched carnage that would surely loom once the darkness set in and those bourbon bellies erupted.
Pearl Jam was set to headline Saturday’s festivities. The band, whose hits include “Jeremy,” and “Daughter,” hadn’t played anywhere in the Midwest in roughly ten years, and maybe for good reason. Their rare presence meant that every class of character from soccer moms to Yoo-hoo girls to a variety of man-fans of varying levels of testosterone would be there too, all summoning their inner, flannel-sporting youth, fully prepared for a time quake of nostalgia. The celebration would be one where twinges of teenage rebellion, memories of first love, and perhaps even simpler times could possibly invoke a slew of deep-seated emotions and set even the most stable fan who’s had one too many shots on course for a nasty reaction. Weirdos, oddities, upstanding citizens, and other random creatures of the night had come to rage, and maybe even cry.
In this possible scenario, there’s only one thing to do: Protect yourself at all times. Although there was undoubtedly a heavy stoner presence throughout the festival, they were still seemingly outnumbered by the whiskey bent and hellbound pushing the experience to the point of toilet-hugging regret. A man named Jarred, who said he came for the bands, not the bourbon, told me that he felt like any fallout would be “cool” if the event would just let people toke up.
“A lot of these people were too scared to try bringing it in,” he said about the ticketholders’ response to festival policy against pot consumption. “I knew they wouldn’t be looking that close. They never do.”
Concerts and weed have always gone hand in hand. Long before cannabis was ever a consideration in terms of legal commerce anywhere in the United States, marijuana aficionados, hippies, metal heads, and perhaps even a Peter, Paul & Mary fan or two loaded up in hatchbacks, VWs, and jacked up Monte Carlos with racing stripes and mag wheels in a quest to see a performance from their favorite bands.
The first time I smelled marijuana, in fact, was in a 1970s model Chevy van with a gray, howling wolf airbrushed on the side. It was 1987 and I was en route to see Mötley Crüe with a buddy, his mom, and one of her friends. Not only did his mom offer me a hit in the parking lot, but so did five other, fully grown men during the show. No, I didn’t accept. I was only twelve and had fully bought into the Just Say No propaganda they’d been feeding us at school. I was scared to death that weed would either kill me or turn me into some deformed monstrosity that resembled Jason Voorhees. I would soon learn, however, that if you went to a rock show, you’d better be prepared to catch a whiff of weed. You might even get the opportunity to smoke some. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t yet grown hair on your balls. For my generation, pot often came before puberty.
It was seemingly easier to smuggle weed into a venue back in the day. All a clever stoner had to do was put a few joints in his shoe and it would go unnoticed. The one security guard trying to get thousands of rabid fans through the turnstile at $5.50 an hour didn’t care enough to enforce drug policy. As long as someone wasn’t carrying a shank, firearm, or nunchucks (hey, I knew a guy who tried that), they didn’t give a damn.
However, Kentucky is a strange place politically, even in 2022. There have been many attempts over the years to reform the drug laws across the state, especially those geared toward legalizing marijuana. But lawmakers have continued to shut down the concept of a taxed and regulated market. They won’t even budge in terms of allowing it to be used for therapeutic purposes. State law calls for petty pot offenders to be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable with as many as 45 days in jail and a $250 fine. But the judicial system is seemingly tired of messing with low level offenses. There’s not a lot of judges these days adhering to the state’s antiquated statute on pot possession, according to a festivalgoer I spoke with named Jesse. “I got popped for around an ounce a few counties over years ago and they just gave me a $50 fine.”
Some Kentucky municipalities have eliminated criminal penalties for pot possession in recent years. Louisville, home of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, is one of them. The Metro Council decriminalized minor pot possession in 2019, making the “investigation, citations, and arrests” pertaining to adult possession of a “small amount of marijuana” the lowest law enforcement priority. It’s not a highly publicized ordinance, so tourists are often in the dark. But not the locals.
“Nobody really worries about weed around here anymore,” a young Greta Van Fleet fan named Brad told me. “That’s why I don’t understand why the festival cares if we bring it or not.”
The thing is, they probably don’t. However, as long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, allowing a Schedule I controlled substance—the same classification as meth and heroin—onto the fairgrounds would certainly cripple the organizer’s ability to secure general liability insurance. And man, considering the amount of bourbon that was being served in that place, they need all they can fucking get! It’s not like the festival was allowing people to bring in alcoholic beverages either. Nope, they were unwittingly forcing patrons to sell off their first born and/or take on a second mortgage to afford the ridiculously priced beer, cocktails, and yes, every brand of bourbon imaginable being sold wherever people weren’t pissing it out. Had cannabis achieved legal status like alcohol, ganja would have presumably received the same capitalistic courtesy. They would have also gouged the shit out of it.
“If it were legal, we couldn’t afford to get high here,” Ashton from Lexington, Kentucky told me. “I’ll always bring my own.”
By the time Pearl Jam went on Saturday night, I knew, and without question, that the gatekeepers of the Bourbon & Beyond festival indeed didn’t give a shit. Not about weed, they didn’t. The smoke wafting across the fairgrounds during Thursday’s lineup, as Alanis Morrisette and Jack White closed the evening with killer sets, was no match for the odoriferous pungency assaulting my olfactory senses once Eddie Vedder and crew plugged in. Sure, the bourbon continued to flow like a busted sewer line throughout their two-hour set. That was evident. Women were storming off left and right as their beer-bellied significant others chased them down in protest of some perceived bad behavior. Arms were grabbed and hearts were presumably broken.
One man that passed me was so ripped out of his gourd that he folded backward as though he had just popped out of the Circus Circus, elevator scene from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Hunter’s attorney, Dr. Gonzo, searches his coat for a lighter, jabbering about how he thinks “there’s something wrong with me.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Man, that dude is going to be a prime candidate for a brain transplant by morning,” I thought to myself. There was something definitely wrong with him. Many others stumbled through the grass like bourbon-dazed zombies, conceivably unsure of their whereabouts, searching for answers that I was sure they would never find. From the stage, even Vedder could tell that the crowd was south of crocked, specifically calling out a man in the middle of the herd that he referred to as “Frank” for disconnecting from reality. “I’m not sure if it’s from the bourbon or the beyond,” Vedder said.
Don’t get me wrong. Although I did, in fact, fear that jungle law would inevitably take over if the barrels didn’t run dry (or if they did), and we’d all have to resort to some rather ruthless tactics to make it out alive, the air of the event remained reasonably peaceful. I never once saw anyone get their ass kicked or dragged out by police kicking and screaming. Hey man, that’s rather impressive, considering that Saturday night’s attendance consisted of a record-breaking 110,000 bourbon drinkers and hellraisers. Many neighborhood bars can’t even keep their patrons from throwing fists once more than fifty people start drinking together, but somehow festivalgoers reached a truce. Sure, Bourbon & Beyond was a sardine can under Kentucky’s slice of the universe, but an asylum it was not, even with the right kind of people. Unless you count the nuts, who dropped a month’s salary on overpriced booze for four days of fun, then I suppose we were all certifiable. Oh well, all in the spirit of good times. Send in the Ibuprofen.
The soundtrack to this lunacy, however, was one that I won’t soon forget. Thank you for that, Kentucky. For all those couples discussing divorce in the weeks to come, I wish you the best of luck. Contention, hurt feelings, and everything that manifests from the rumble is, unfortunately, often par for the carousal. Perhaps in the years to come, the state’s legislative forces will get serious about legalizing the leaf and give their otherwise law-abiding citizens more options than Jim and Jack. Not everyone can hold their liquor. And not everyone can get stoned under the current laws.
Surprisingly, most of the bands scheduled to perform didn’t use their platform to stand up for marijuana legalization. Not even Alanis Morrisette, who admitted to High Times back in 2010 that she was an avid pot fan. But that didn’t matter. She was still one of the most ass-kicking highlights of the entire weekend, and she did play “Mary Jane.” However, Pearl Jam, arguably the biggest act to grace the stage, spoke out a little on the issue. It happened after Eddie Vedder spotted a young, 10-year-old fan in the front row jamming out to the concert with his family. Parents take note: That is how you raise well-rounded children. After a little banter about the youth keeping rock n’ roll alive, Eddie reached out to the young man with a lighthearted warning.
“I was going to lecture you over the dangers of pot smoking, but it’s not even legal in Kentucky,” he declared. “But perhaps by the time you get old enough to do that, it will be, and you’ll be able to make the decision for yourself. You’re obviously a smart kid with great taste in music. He’ll be fine,” the singer concluded.
Who knows, maybe we all would. Sure, there will be some folks who fuck it all up, while others will learn to manage, survive, and even prosper in the wake of whatever freedoms the controls of our respective states decide we are deserved. That has been the case since the inception of this thing called America. But even the responsible slip and fall. That’s no excuse to continue punishing the population under the illusion that Uncle Sam cares about our safety and well-being. We don’t need that. Never did. We’re grown-ups and, as Eddie Vedder so eloquently put it, capable of making our own choices. Many will learn from their mistakes. Others won’t. They’ll keep on trying and never achieve any balance in life, blaming everyone else for their problems. But not all of us are the same. It’s important to understand that the societal downtrodden can’t always be expected to do the right thing, and they can’t always be saved from themselves. Offering some semblance of protection and hope for their futures with foolish laws won’t solve the problem. It’s certainly no benefit to the rest of us. Dumb shit will always see that people go to jail, and dumb people will always end up there. It doesn’t really matter who is held accountable. The politicians and citizens are equally to blame for holding up and, in some cases, reversing progress. However, this is the wrong path. We, every single one of us, should embrace common sense and always try to move forward, even if we don’t always agree. Thanks again, Kentucky. We’ll see you in two-to-three years for Bourbon, Bud & Beyond.
Vancouver-based LBC Studios, developer of one of the leading mobile cannabis games “Hempire” and “Tasty Buds,” announced on Sept. 14 that it’s working on a new mobile rhythm game called “Bob Marley World Tour” which is currently slated to release in November 2022. Unlike its other games, Bob Marley World Tour is a rhythm game and won’t feature any cannabis themes.
“We know fans of Bob Marley and our family will be [as] excited about ‘Bob Marley World Tour’ as we are. It has been joyful to work with LBC on a game that helps bring this music to the world through such an interactive experience,” Ziggy Marley said in a press release. “It has always been our goal to provide fans with unique opportunities to enjoy the family’s music, and we are glad that this upcoming title will further that mission through an entirely new platform.”
LBC Studios was founded in 2017 by Solon Bucholtz and Dennis Molloy. In 2017, “Hempire” released as a game that spoke to the cannabis community. “We looked at the game space and realized that no one had really appealed to that culture and group of people in a meaningful and authentic way,” Bucholtz told GamesIndustry.bizin an interview.
“Bob Marley World Tour” will feature original songs and remixes of Marley’s most famous tunes. Eventually, the studio plans to expand these offerings to include other musicians whose work was inspired by Marley’s career. “For us it was a natural fit,” said Bucholtz. “Music fits well with our audience, Bob Marley is a natural fit, and our team was just genuinely excited to be the stewards of such a popular and well-respected brand and bringing that to the mobile game space.”
The decision to make a game based on Bob Marley served to be the perfect intersection between iconic Marley music and a game everyone can play. “When we decided to develop the Marley game, we wanted to make sure we were building a game not just for Marley fans and music fans, but really gamers alike,” Bucholtz added. “And we wanted to make sure it was accessible to as many as possible. One of the challenges we faced with ‘Hempire’ is there are countries where we aren’t able to distribute that game, strictly based on the content.”
When developing “Hempire,” Bucholtz and the team encountered many unique challenges to create a cannabis game that didn’t violate platform requirements and policies. “Early on, we really wanted to make sure that how we present cannabis isn’t about selling cannabis. It isn’t about distribution or criminality. Instead it’s about the positive aspects of cannabis, how it supports communities,” Bucholtz said. “If you look at ‘Hempire,’ it’s really a story-driven joint that focuses on a town that’s down on its economic luck, uses legal cannabis to build up the town, build relationships with people who are dealing with PTSD, and really just an underlying positive message driven by the community.”
The result of being careful and conscious, Bucholtz said Hempire was the first cannabis-themed game to be accepted by Google AdWords.
With “Bob Marley World Tour,” Bucholtz and his team wanted to target a wider audience. “Marley is a global brand and it’s had a global impact around the world. When we started thinking about the design of the game, we wanted it to be rated for a younger audience,” Bucholtz explained. “We wanted it to be accessible globally. And we wanted it to be a product the platforms could get behind. Whether you’re a kid who’s new to Marley’s music or an adult who’s grown up with Bob’s music and his philanthropy and beliefs, you could share that experience together. So the Marley game itself has no cannabis in it.”
Although the community has long supported Marley as a cannabis icon, Bucholtz explained the reasoning behind choosing to make the game without any cannabis references. “It’s a question we’ve discussed with the family and internally as well,” Bucholtz said. “Although there are some aspects of cannabis that obviously were very important to Bob and his beliefs, I don’t think that’s the driving force. And we put enough emphasis on many of the other areas Bob is remembered for today and has a meaningful impact on today in the game that that omission isn’t a negative result in the overall experience or the authenticity we’re delivering.”
Bucholtz added that Marley’s strong beliefs of philanthropy and unity are also a big part of the legacy he’s left behind, and that’s the game’s focus.
Bucholtz ended the GamesIndustry.biz interview by sharing that although his grandfather and father were involved in real estate, he decided to try his hand at game development by founding LBC Studios with limited experience. “We don’t have a very long time on this earth to make a meaningful impact and I wanted to get involved in something where I could touch a lot more lives, something where I could show up every day and be passionate about it,” Bucholtz concluded. “I wanted to make a meaningful impact on generations of people.”
LBC Studios will be working with the Marley family’s partnered charity, One Tree Planted, which aims to plant trees across the world. According to the House of Marley website, it has helped plant 340,400 trees with the organization since 2017. An exact release date for “Bob Marley World Tour” has not yet been announced, but you can keep an eye on LBC Studios’ page here for future updates.
Afroman recently shared that his home in Ohio was raided on Aug. 21 by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. Although he was in Chicago at the time of the raid, his neighbors told him about what was going on.
He also shared multiple security footage videos on Instagram showing law enforcement searching various areas of the house. “This is supposed to be a drug and narcotic warrant I had to pay technical people top dollar to install my camera system there’s no drugs or guns in my computer screen. These are burglars hoodlums breaking into the houses of law-abiding taxpaying citizens destroying property,” he wrote on Aug. 29. “I had to pay the camera people thousands of dollars to install my camera system I don’t need them kicc-ing down my door spreading monkeypox in my clothes and ripping up my camera systems so nobody will see these thieves disguised as law-enforcement officers stealing my money Just like the cops in Saint Charles Missouri.”
Afroman’s social media posts took off in popularity. As of Aug. 30, Afroman said he thanked “Police Officer Poundcake” for helping him gain 13,000 followers on TikTok. As of Sept. 2, the TikTok post has 4.7 million views.
According to a TMZ Live interview with Afroman, law enforcement didn’t find what they were looking for. “They took, like, some roaches, and a vape pen, and a jar of CBD. I think they thought I had like hundreds and thousands of pounds or something like that,” he said. “They didn’t have to run up my driveway with AR-15s and all kind of assault weapons. I would have gladly just given that to them.” Afroman also mentioned he has footage of cops pulling cash out of the pocket of his clothing.
“They said they want me to come down and make a statement. I need a lawyer, I don’t know why they came here like this,” he said.
TMZ also asked Afroman about a previous burglary that had occurred in the past as well. He said it took three days for police to visit his home and write a report on the incident. He continued to follow up with the local police station about the report. “I was following up with the progress of the case, and I guess the consistency of my calls was irritating them. They told me ‘If you keep calling up it will get addressed.’ I got a funny vibe, so I fell back, you know.”
Interviewers asked him to elaborate on the “funny vibe,” and inquired if that statement felt like a threat. “You know, a cop speaks politically correct…” Afroman started, but said that he felt like the police station told him to stop calling.
On Sept. 1, a local news channel covering the incident claimed that the search warrant listed “possession of drugs, drug trafficking, and kidnapping.” “No kidnapping victims, no pounds of marijuana (especially in my suit pocc-ets) or narcotics. No charges. No warrant for my arrest,” Afroman wrote. Just A few roaches in my ash tray them on camera destroying my property, stealing my money like the cops in Saint Charles Missouri, and disconnecting my cameras so no one sees them stealing my money.”
Adelanto Stadium in Southern California was completely hotboxed on August 26 and 27 for the inaugural Burning Treez festival, presented by Cannexs. It was a celebration of hip-hop, sports, and most of all—the leafy green herb.
The event headliners were Ludacris, Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Xzibit, Too $hort, Kurupt, as well as many other artists including Spliff Star, Loomi$, Ras Kass, Naté the Soulsanger, and many more. Adelanto Mayor Gabriel Reyes was also in attendance, supporting cannabis and sporting brands.
The World Series of Cannabis took place on August 26, and cultivators and brands from around California competed for over 30 titles.
In the parking lot, the Raider Nation held their annual kick-off event at a tailgate party hosted by Game Day, UFC veteran Elias Theodorou, and the top-ranked reigning U.S. Slap Fight Champion, Da Crazy Hawaiian, hosted a slap-fighting Chin Check Slap Down that saw the biggest fighters delivering the biggest slaps.
Koa Viernes, aka Da Crazy Hawaiian, competed at events such as one particular fight that lasted 20 rounds with Hillbilly Hippie, and the world’s first Pay-Per-View slap fight, hosted in Atlanta, Georgia. Da Crazy Hawaiian recently was signed to cannabis brand Game Day, makers of products like Diamonds or Raider Nation Pre-Game Pre-rolls.
“You either got it for the game or you don’t,” Da Crazy Hawaiian told High Times, referring to the mental state that slap fighters must get into. “Once you get slapped for the first time—you’ll figure out if you want to be in it or not. It’s all in the mind. I just turn into Da Crazy Hawaiian. As soon as I get there, I’m going to take somebody’s head off. It’s Game Day.
“We got Pre-Game Pre-Rolls from Game Day,” Da Crazy Hawaiian said as he pulled out another pre-roll. “They are rolled in kief. Gotta have that concentrate, baby.”
Entertainers also joined in to share what they are smoking on and the general vibe in Adelanto.
“Right now this is some Wedding Cake,” Spliff Star told High Times, blowing out smoke as he was perched in front of his tour bus after he performed. “I brought this with me from New York.
“The vibe is beautiful man, you know I’m saying, is really I’ve always been a fan of Too $hort, Xzibit.
“I’m a fan of High Times magazine as well,” he said. “My name is Spliff Star, you know what I’m sayin’, and I love it all. I’m into the cannabis culture. We came and performed High Times Cannabis Cup [SoCal in 2019] “Yeah, we had fun. We killed that shit. Yeah, I can’t wait to come back again. Especially myself. I love it. I love the culture. And it’s not just about smoking; it is the vibe and meeting new people, with an open mind and a free spirit. You know what I mean? And a spliff, man. That’s why I chose that name Spliff because a spliff makes friends. And it’s worldwide and it’s about sharing this by sharing the love.”
Old school and new school hip-hop artists were both part of the mix.
“Good weed should make you motivated,” rap veteran Ras Kass said. “It should make you want to go to sleep. It should make you motivated. This shit is ecstatic. It’s motivation, the energy is incredible and there are so many different brands and so many different people selling all kinds of incredible things and that’s what this culture is about.”
Cannabis and hip-hop have been intertwined “from day one,” Ras Kass says. “I was born and raised in L.A. So the stereotype was to go to the studio, smoke a blunt, and then you write your record. Yeah, that’s it. The stereotype. You gotta smoke. Salute to Adelanto, Salute to California where we are some of the coolest people and cities like Adelanto are pushing the culture and for progressive reform.”
The list included rappers as well as soul singers.
“I’ve smoked multiple strains today,” Loomi$ told High Times. You know, basically everything anybody gave me, but I usually just smoke indicas and OGs.” I’m from L.A., period, because listen, I’m here smoking it up like a motherfucker like I should because it should be legal. You can smoke a cigarette every week, so why not cannabis? We have an album coming out. It’s me, Timbaland, Bobby Ross Avila, […] we got Battlecat on there.”
“I’ve had a lot of Heavenly Sweet, Naté the Soulsanger told High Times. “And everything else they handed me to be honest. And because I feel so good, I don’t remember all the names. I think CAM Cannabis was one that I remember. But everything’s been fire from the performance for the week. Everything is higher.”
Producers working behind the scenes also chimed in. “I’ve never been out here before,” producer Rick Rock told High Times. “It’s always an experience driving here. And the people are cool and really nice, laid back. I produce for Xzibit, at least three of his songs and Busta Rhymes, maybe two or three songs and Mariah Carey.”
Follow Cannexs to learn about future cannabis-related events.
You might be cool, but you’ve never been “released an album with weed leaves pressed into it” cool. A new edition of Sleep’s third album Dopesmoker will do just that, featuring fan leaves pressed into the vinyl, and metalheads everywhere are rejoicing.
New Musical Express magazine reports that with the help of Jack White’s Third Man Records, Sleep re-released a new mix of the classic album with a deluxe vinyl pressing that has actual cannabis fan leaves pressed into the vinyl.
The pressing was manufactured in partnership with Doghouse Farms, producer of award-winning cannabis. (On a side note, Doghouse’s founder and Director of Cultivation, Jon Hudnall, is an advocate for living soil and good genetics.)
The new vinyl edition of Dopesmoker will be issued in two pressings: a standard black vinyl version will be available in-store and online, available for pre-order here. But if you want the deluxe limited edition version with weed leaves, called the “Weedian High-Fi” edition, it will only be available to order from Third Man Records’ brick-and-mortar store in Cass Corridor, Detroit.
“When we first got a tour at Third Man, I saw they’d released a limited Jack White 45 that had liquid in the vinyl,” Sleep lead singer and bassist Al Cisneros tells High Times. “From there, it was a goal to make a ‘high’ fi version of one of our releases. Thanks to the team at Third Man Pressing in Detroit for making this happen.”
A new version of the album will be released digitally August 26, the first time it’s been available on any streaming platform. The vinyl release is yet to be dated, however pre-orders will launch on the same day.
“Announcing Sleep’s landmark album Dopesmoker will be available remastered from original tapes on streaming services this Friday, August 26,” Third Man Records wrote on an Instagram post. “There will be two new vinyl variants of the album. Alongside a black vinyl LP, which will be available for pre-order on Friday, pure, unadulterated, authentic cannabis leaves are encapsulated in PVC for the first time ever to create a deluxe ‘Weedian High-Fi’ pressing of the album, exclusively available at Third Man Records in Cass Corridor.” The post received nearly 250 comments so far.
Third Man Records continued, “Also included for the first time digitally is the deep cut ‘Hot Lava Man,’ which will also be available on these vinyl pressings.” During the announcement, Third Man Records also released “Hot Lava Man” on SoundCloud.
According to NME, the idea was ultimately inspired by the mosquito encapsulated in amber from Jurassic Park. Sleep’s release has fan leaves embedded in green wax, with streaks of gold and other shades of green marbled together to give the effect of the trichomes and calyxes on a bud.
Dopesmoker was originally recorded for London Records in 1996, but sat on a shelf until a version was released by The Music Cartel, retitled Jerusalem. (Back then, it may have been harder to release an album into the mainstream with weed references in the title.) Subsequent versions were released in 2003 and 2012.
Third Man Records released a remastered version of the album last April.
San Jose-based Sleep formed in 1990 and are considered by some critics to be the “ultimate stoner rock band.” When Sleep released Dopesmoker in earlier releases, it was hailed by critics, such as one from Spin calling the album “brilliant.” A hiatus at the end of the 1990s ended when the band reformed in 2009.
The cannabis fan leaf pressing of Dopesmoker, however, is one of the band’s boldest moves to date. If you’re lucky enough to score a copy, it should definitely serve as a collector’s item.
For over three decades, legendary hip-hop group Cypress Hill (B-Real, Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, Eric “Bobo” Correa) has been churning out hits for the charts, but on their own terms and in their own way. And it’s worked.
When connecting with High Times via phone, the group shares background information on their new Showtime documentary, Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain, their latest studio album, Back in Black, and an overview of their esteemed career that has them thoroughly cemented as hip-hop’s unofficial cannabis ambassadors.
High Times Magazine: How did Cypress Hill come together, and what was the inspiration behind everybody joining the group?
B-Real: We knew each other as teens and were all enthusiastic about hip-hop. We all had the same love and passion for it.
I met Sen Dog through his brother Mellow Man who I knew through the hip-hop circles in South Gate. We met DJ Muggs through our childhood friend Julio G, who was also a DJ, and we met Bobo a little bit later when we were touring with Beastie Boys. But Sen, Muggs, and myself have known each other since our teens, and we wanted to emulate the hip-hop groups that we looked up to. We made our best efforts to—as a hobby—get into the culture and all of that stuff.
Eventually, we started taking it more seriously. [Hip-hop] became something that we knew that we could do and would do, so we ventured out into the world to try and make a name for ourselves.
Eric “Bobo” Correa: When I met the guys—B-Real, Sen, and Muggs—I was a fan. I had never heard a group that was outright talking about smoking weed. They were talking about what they normally do. I don’t think they sought to be the spokesperson for cannabis or anything, especially at the time when it was much more taboo than it is now.
I remember the first time I heard them. I was in college going to pick up some weed from the weed guy, and he was playing Cypress: “Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk,” “The Phuncky Feel One,” “Light Another.” I was really tripping out because, again, no one in hip-hop at that point was really outwardly rapping about weed. If it was mentioned, it was mentioned, but when you say “stoned is the way of the walk” or “light another,” you’re outright putting it down.
By the time Black Sunday came around, I’d started touring with [Cypress Hill], and that album had gotten enough exposure within the cannabis community where it was like, “Okay, here are some facts. This is part of the fight.” They started linking up with Jack Herer, NORML, and things like that and were able to learn some of the other things about cannabis so they could rap intelligently about it versus, “I’m just smoking to get stoned with my homies.” They took a more intelligent approach.
Was there a specific catalyst to you guys taking things more seriously?
B-Real: We didn’t know what we had in terms of the possibilities that were out there for us, but we believed in ourselves, and we believed we could do something. What it was and how it would impact us, we didn’t know, but I think we knew we had something in the second phase of our demos.
We’d made a group of demos that were good, but they weren’t really there yet. We hadn’t hit our stride, and this was before I shifted my voice over to the high-pitched vocal that people have come to know me for. We didn’t sound anything like we ended up sounding for the second phase, where we were being a little more experimental.
After a couple of years of doing our first demos, we had a better idea of how it was supposed to go, and we just leaned on the work. We just kept working on ourselves, working on the craft, working on songs, and trying to come up with something that no one had out there yet.
It was that second phase of demos when we put down Real Estate, and I shifted my voice. After that, we hit a stride, and it all started clicking. Real Estate was our first real demo where we were like, “Oh wait. This sounds like something.”
You went with what you felt was organic, and from that, everything started to fall into place.
B-Real: Pretty much. We were believing in what we were doing at that point. We had our own sound that we were riding on, and nothing else really mattered. Fortunately, it cut through, but we had spent a lot of time developing that sound.
How much of the group’s “cutting through” was also related to cannabis?
B-Real: When we were talking about cannabis on the songs, it wasn’t a preconceived thing. Muggs gave me the music, and the songs spoke to me a certain way. What came out was totally organic; it was never like, “Oh, we need a song about weed.” Realistically, us trying to plan that out… I don’t think it would have cut through the same way, especially because, at the time, anyone who was doing this knew that hip-hop was looked at as a step-child music genre, and talking about cannabis was taboo. So we had two things rolling against us at that point. We just did it and said, “If you like it, great. If you don’t like it, fuck off.” That was the mentality, and fortunately, it connected.
For any artist, any album, or any song, any creative output is a gamble. You don’t know if it will connect. You have faith in yourself and your abilities, but it’s hard to gauge if what you put out is going to catch. Fortunately, our first outing caught.
It sounds like you were doing it in an authentic way. Regardless of subject or genre, people can feel if it’s real.
B-Real: That’s always the downfall of most artists when they get success with a song. The record company wants another single, and they want you to emulate the song [that was successful] or do something just as poppin’. That’s when the pressure starts. It’s like, “Fuck, I gotta do something that’s big if not better than that.” You’re not just making music at that point; you’re chasing this previous success you had, and your creativity starts to dip because you’re not really having the freedom to be the artist you have the potential to be.
I’ll give all credit to Muggs because as much as they wanted us to chase singles like “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” “Insane in the Brain,” and “(Rock) Superstar,” and all that shit, he kept on trying to do something different. Like yo, “We’re not going to recreate [those songs]; those are what they are. We’re going to keep pushing forward and do something different.” And sometimes we won; sometimes we did okay; sometimes we didn’t win. That’s the life of an artist, the gamble of putting your art out and seeing what hits.
How were you able to focus on staying true to yourselves?
B-Real: A lot of times, we’d have a “no label people” policy in the studio. No managers at the studio. Because in the early days, we’d have some of the Sony people come in, and they’d be trying to give us suggestions, and Muggs would be like, “That would be great for your album. Excuse me. We gotta have a meeting right now.” And there was a hands-off [policy].
To Sony and Ruffhouse Records’ credit, they let us be us. They let us take our chances; they let us gamble on ourselves, and they rode with us on that. There were only certain times where they made strong suggestions like, “Hey, we need this from you. We don’t ask much from you; we let you do you, but right here, we need this.” And we obliged because they let us develop as opposed to try and control or develop us in the way they wanted us to be. That was everything, and that’s why we’re still here—because they allowed that—as opposed to trying to create the path for us or make us be something that we weren’t.
We were fortunate to have the label believe in what the fuck we were doing and in our ability to develop ourselves, and then just put all of the support behind it. Sony and Ruffhouse were definitely advocates for us at that time. Even when they thought we were wrong in the way that we were moving musically or visually or this or that, they still rode with us. It was a unique situation we had there. Sony’s belief in us even after Ruffhouse was gone… that meant everything to us.
Like with fans, it’s probably easier for the execs to get behind the music if it resonates with them, too.
B-Real: I think it makes their job easier. A lot of artists don’t really have a handle on their music. The path that they want to carve out—they usually learn it as they’re going along. You have labels that try to carve the path for you and make you the artist they think you need to be and whatnot, and that’s tough when you play that game. Because when [the label] makes a mistake, or they miss, they can just carry on with another artist, but you might be done at that point. It’s a lot of trust you have to have.
These creations of albums, they’re like your kids. You want them to be in the best hands possible. And we were fortunate. Any other label we were signed on, we probably don’t have this run. I always recognize that and try to give Ruffhouse and Sony the flowers from us that I feel like they deserve.
Eric “Bobo” Correa: The fans have always been a big part of what we are about. We’ve always been at one with the fans. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We’ve gotten a big collection of fans all over the world who really support our cause in a positive way. We’ve never put smoking, growing, or consuming in a negative light, which is important to show because there’s still a lot of work to do.
We can now celebrate advances on how far we’ve come with many states [legalized] for medicinal or recreational use. Just to see that in this lifetime is incredible, and we get a lot of people who thank us for continuing the fight and continuing to bring people together in this way. I think that’s a big plus for me. We’re all in this together. We come together through music and through an enjoyment of cannabis to make things cooler, have a much cooler vibe, and share that with fans. That’s always been a great benefit to being a part of Cypress Hill, and it’s something that I hope we continue to do.
What type of weed would you say embodies Cypress Hill?
B-Real: It’s a trip that it all started with us being smokers and being stoners and advocates, to leaking into the music, and then it sort of leaking out into the industry. It’s from one phase to another. We’re stoners, and now we’re musicians, and now we’re talking about being stoners in our music.
When we got recognized for that by High Times, NORML, Cannabis Action Network, and all of the advocacy groups, they started holding us up as the spokesman for it. So doing that sort of advocacy and activism for so long, when now it becomes not just cannabis culture but cannabis industry, it sort of gave me a head start to coming into that world and creating Dr. Greenthumb, opening retail stores, and creating strains called “The Insane” brand, which are all tributes to Cypress Hill and whatnot.
Sen Dog: I stay kind of “Kushed” out. That’s my strain. When I go somewhere, I always try to look for Kush. It’s the heaviest. When you come from what we came from—and now you can afford the best—why wouldn’t you just get the best all the time?
Eric “Bobo” Correa: [Cypress Hill is] strictly flower, though I really enjoy concentrates. I probably do more concentrates than the other guys. Jungle Boys and Cali Blaise.
Sen Dog: Not me, man. I keep to true blue marijuana joints for the most part. I stick to the fucking joints and keep on smoking.
What is it specifically about joints that do it for you?
Sen Dog: I’m sure it has something to do with the better weed that we have nowadays, but joints were how I was first introduced to marijuana—sneaking off and smoking little pinners here and there. And that’s how I’ve always kept it. Just put a paper around that thing, light it up and smoke it. It’s the easiest way.
We’re better rollers now. Back in those days, joints were skinny at the bottom, fat at the top, or vice versa. We didn’t really know how to roll then, but now we’re master roll men.
Master roll men with the option of pre-rolls.
Sen Dog: Exactly. You don’t have to go in there and buy bud. You can just buy it rolled up already and put it in your bag and go.
I kind of like where things are going for the cannabis industry and what they have to offer. There’s something there for everybody; you just need to figure out what it is and what makes you, you.
Is there a brand or strain you always have on hand in the studio or with you on the road?
Sen Dog: Dr. Greenthumb supplies everything on the road, so there’s always a good amount of weed and pre-rolls on the bus, you know, ‘cause of our good friend [laughs]. The guy Berner from the company Cookies—he takes [weed] down for the tour and whatnot, so between [Berner and B-Real] and our brother Kenji, there’s always been good smoking, especially now. The weed on the bus is extremely fire.
I heard you guys also dabble with weed-infused meats. Is that on the road too, or just here in Los Angeles?
Sen Dog: We have partners around the country who take care of us on that level. I’m always surprised by what people cook down to take on the road or even hang out with, but in Los Angeles, Bartz Barbecue is pretty fire shit.
You guys have a new album out—Back in Black. What was the inspiration behind it, and how do you hope it resonates with fans?
Sen Dog: Back in Black is Cypress Hill returning to our roots. It’s a true hip-hop album. I know people are used to us mashing things up with other stuff, but not this time. We wanted to put together a traditional hip-hop album and prove to a lot of people that we still have the ability to do that kind of thing.
We worked on the album with producer Black Milk out of Detroit, which was the first time I’d worked with him. His vibe was so pure and confident. Not in a conceited way or anything, more when a guy knows he’s good at something, he knows he’s good at something. The way he presented himself and the way he talked to us was the way that I feel artists of our tenure should be spoken to. He made it really easy for us to do what we do.
We would knock down the songs and then send them to [Milk]. By the next time we’d heard them, he had changed the whole musical bed around. So it wasn’t the same song, but it was better than the song we’d done originally. He did that throughout the entire album, so by song six or seven, we were like, “I can’t wait to hear this shit when he sends it back,” because we knew it was going to be special.
To work with a super positive-minded person who’s hard to frazzle or get pissed off or anything like that, I felt like we were in the right situation at the right time. We don’t want to work with anybody who’s not a fan of ours to begin with. We want somebody who’s like, “Oh, I get to work with Sen and B? Yeah!” And that was [Milk’s] attitude. Black Milk has this ability to make anybody he works with sound badass, even better than their prior history. I don’t know if that quality is taught or learned or if you’re born with it, but he has it, and it’s just cool as fuck.
Do you think it’s a combination of him knowing he’s good at something, having that positive energy, and then being able to infuse that into the music?
Sen Dog: I do think it’s partly that for sure. You can’t be the best if your attitude sucks. When you have good vibes about you, I think that spreads around to whoever else is around you.
If that’s the environment that’s being cultivated between you guys as you’re creating the music, then inherently, the musical output is probably better.
Sen Dog: Yeah, if that wasn’t happening, the music wouldn’t sound spiritually correct.
There’s something about music—when it sounds spiritually correct—that makes it resonate with people on a deeper level.
Sen Dog: My favorite kind of person I like to meet when I’m meeting fans and whatnot is the person who comes up to me and says, “Hey, man. I don’t smoke any marijuana, but I love Cypress Hill.” When you make records from your soul, you touch other people, even if they’re not on the same walk of life that you’re on. You touch them enough where you’re like, “Hey, I want to listen to this. It’s got nothing to do with my life, but I want to listen to it.” Somehow, people live vicariously through your songs into a scene they have nothing to do with. That honesty has to come out of you first in order to get that reaction from other people.
You also have a new documentary, Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain. When you look back, what are some of the defining moments from the group’s history that embody what it means to be Cypress Hill?
B-Real: Celebrating 30 years last year and 31 this year is surreal. We appreciate it most definitely. We’ve been able to stick around when most thought we weren’t going to be around for only one or two years. Every album they were calling us “done” because they couldn’t believe we had gotten on in the first place with what we were talking about. They thought we were lucky with the first album, and then the second album comes out and busts them in the face.
People kept counting us out, so to be here 30 years later with a documentary about the 30-something years of Cypress Hill and telling our story… some of the stories that took us through the time of us coming up to where we are now. And then also, this year releasing a new album… you don’t expect that as a young artist. You’re sort of just doing you right there in that moment. You’re not thinking about 10, 20 years down the line. Unless you were groomed to do this shit and someone said you gotta think five, 10 years down the line, sort of carving it out in your head first. Unless you have someone who is educating you on how you look at this, you’re sort of just going on in those moments, living it. You’re not thinking about how long you’re going to be around. You’re fighting to stick around every fucking day of your career. Then 30 years go by and you’re like, “Oh shit. We’re still here.”
It’s fucking awesome, man, to be here 30 years later and still be doing sold-out shows and functioning at the highest levels—no pun intended. When we do these shows and really still bring it and are relevant in that arena. So it feels great to be celebrating 31 years of Cypress Hill and we’re excited about the doc.
Eric “Bobo” Correa: Seeing the evolution [of Cypress Hill] in the doc kind of put things in perspective for me because we were just living in the moment. We weren’t thinking of what was to come. We could say one day we hoped weed would be decriminalized, but we weren’t thinking we’d be in this reality now still doing it.
When we did shows like Saturday Night Live, we never intended to disrupt anything, but we also wanted to show who we were and what we were about. I think people expect to see that—even now at our shows—a coming together of people.
So in a way, the undercurrent of the group is unity.
Eric “Bobo” Correa: In a way, yes. We consider ourselves brothers, a brotherhood. And smoking is about unity, smoking the peace pipe, coming together, and everything will be peaceful. It’s always been about that, and in a way, it is unifying.
Alicia Keys tells the crowd more than once that tonight is a night to let go. All eyes and ears lazer focus on Keys and her band, delivering euphoria for the soul.
Ever since her remarkable debut, Songs in a Minor, Keys been nothing if not consistent. She’s produced plenty of hits full of emotions and stories, not only hooks and catchiness, but it’s her albumsthat keep us coming back. In the last two years, she’s released three, Alicia, Keys, and Keys II, all damn fine additions to her body-of-work. On her World Tour, she continues her 20-year hot streak of mellowing us all out.
That’s what Alicia Keys means to me. She produces music that’s almost like a shoulder to rest your head on, relax, and as Keys says, “Let go.” Many a nights I’ve popped a gummy or delighted in a joint, only to unwind to her debut album or The Diary of Alicia Keys, The Element of Freedom, or most recently, Alicia. These albums flow with a dreaminess and realism that gels well with bud and helps you let go.
High or not, they’re just inspiring works of art from an artiste who can compose, produce, write, and sing the hell and heaven out of these tunes. Keys has always been an artist and a star. During her long-awaited World Tour, she shows her artistry and star power with grand intimacy. When Keys takes the stage, she reminds the audience it’s just us and her band tonight. It’s a few thousand people, give or take, but she makes everyone believe it and feel it.
To start the performance, the screen on stage parts. There’s a silhouette. Keys strikes a pose that gently screams, get ready, and she begins singing “Nat King Cole.” Without any backup vocals, Keys’ voice fills the arena with tranquility. The superstar silhouette pose Keys begins and ends the show encapsulates the World Tour. A more than fitting opening and finale.
There’s a fine, sometimes hard-to-read line between calculated and prepared. We’ve all seen concerts go through the motions, hit the marks, and deliver the expected, often at high quality levels, too. With Keys, everything about her performance is prepared, but also, authentic and natural. There is both wonderful staging and spontaneity.
Even with her young but already classic songs, there’s no hint of, Yes, I’ve sung this a thousand times already. It’s happening right there and now. She knows these songs inside and out, of course, but she makes them sound as fresh and new, as if the crowd is hearing them in a whole new light.
She’s not deviating from her recordings, although there’s one unique bit of experimentation with a few recent tracks, but she’s enlivening them. Yes, that’s the point of live music, but that’s not what we always hear and see in-person, is it? Keys not only plays her songs live; she celebrates them, loves them, and shares them with a crowd as passionate as her performance.
Never before have I seen such a gleeful performance, either. Even when songs confront despair or melancholy, Keys adds an intense joy to them. She beams with authentic positivity. When she sings “Everything’s gonna be alright” from “No One,” you believe her. Why? Partly because positivity isn’t a brand for Keys; it’s a truth.
Is it blaringly obvious yet I just love Alicia Keys’ work? I was primed and ready to vibe with her show, especially after waiting many years to see it, but everything about her work that’s admirable and feel-good turns up to an 11 when sunglive. For me, her music is the soundtrack of good high times and much-needed escapes during rocky times, but to see her gift that solace to fans in-person, it’s… beautiful. Truly awesome, soul-warming beauty.
Being in an arena full of strangers, all knowing she’s there for them, that she’s as inspired by the crowd as they are by her, it’s a treasure I won’t forget. It may sound a little syrupy and post-concert hyperbole, but Alicia Keys music is about vulnerability, and unsurprisingly, so are her concerts. They’re full of love, and I’m happy to say it, everyone there experiences it with her.
The craft is every bit as impressive as the undeniable warmth of it all. At one point, Keys offers the crowd a choice. She plays snippets of two different versions of recent songs. One version is more spare, the other more for a party. Often, the crowd calls for the party, and what a party they get. Whether Keys stands and plays softly behind a piano or pumps up the volume behind something of a DJ set, she gets the crowd moving. Keys knows how to time her songs, when to make the audience reflect or rise to dance. Just like her albums, the show flows.
Pink Sweat$ strikes a similar tone and flow as the opening act. It’s just him and a guitarist, which is appropriate for Alicia Keys’ World Tour. It’s not bells and whistles, just art and love. We could all use some more of that in our lives, right? Keys, who’s very in tune with her audience and band, is aware of that much-needed desire.