Since the emergence of ‘Gangsta Rap’ in the late 80s, the public perception of cannabis has altered drastically.
Just 20 years after Nixon’s infamous ‘war on drugs’ declaration, people were no longer scared about expressing their use of weed, especially those in the Hip Hop music genre
California-natives Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg were a major part of the movement with lyrics such as “rolling down the street smoking indo” and the best-selling album “The Chronic”.
But it wasn’t until a few years later when the likes of Ice Cube, Xzibit and even Eminem all endorsed the use of cannabis alongside their busy musical careers.
Snoop Dogg continued to keep the flame alight throughout his career, even enjoying a brief stint as a Rastafarian alter-ego named Snoop Lion. The 47-year-old’s passion for the herb didn’t stop there, he did the intelligent thing by launching his own cannabis brand ‘Leafs by Snoop’.
New York hip hop duo Gang Starr have often featured lyrics in their meaningful melodies where they promote cannabis as an alternative to violence, with Playtawin hosting lyrics such as ‘and I ain’t the one to be, startin’ the violence, I’m just the one to be, sparkin in silence’ – an unreleased track with its motto of ‘smoke dope, not homeboys’.
Hip Hop is a culture and an art movement that emerged from the Bronx, New York in the mid-1970s and, alongside this, cannabis advocates were still striving to debunk all the anti-cannabis propaganda that resided from Harry Anslinger’s ‘call to arms’ against cannabis in the 1930s.
As a result of the political environment and plenty of other reasons, cannabis has been ingrained in hip-hop culture since its inception, with a multitude of artists from the beginning up until today having heavy influence on the normalisation of cannabis culture in America.
Emerging in the late 80s and appearing on the front cover of High Times magazine in 1992, the band Cypress Hill have always been advocates for medical and recreational use of cannabis.
After announcing his partnership with cannabis and CBD company Bhang, the lead rapper for Cypress Hill B-Real said: “It feels amazing that 25 years after we put our first album out, where we openly talked about legalising marijuana, taboo at the time, that we finally as a people are living in time of legalisation and now have opportunities to be a part of the blossoming industry.”
Rappers turned cannabis entrepreneurs
Snoop Dogg isn’t the only rapper who transformed his love for weed into a money-making enterprise. A multitude of rappers have swapped the microphone for a blunt, with the likes of Jay Z, Wiz Khalifa and The Game all creating their own pot-related businesses.
Billionaire rapper Jay-Z announced earlier this year he was partnering with California-based cannabis company Caliva to serve as their new chief brand strategist. “Anything I do, I want to do correctly and at the highest level,” he said in a statement when the partnership was first announced.
‘In this position, Mr. Carter will focus on and work to increase the economic participation of citizens returning from incarceration – many of who are not seeing the monetary benefits of legalisation – through advocacy, job training, and overall employee and workforce development’ Caliva’s website states.
Wiz Khalifa, who is well known for his ties to cannabis created his own strain of the plant, Khalifa Kush which is sold at a number of dispensaries across the US.
It’s a logical and sensible approach from rappers who usually have a shelf-life of between 10 to 15 years. And what better industry to build a business than the booming CBD and cannabis industry, where the CBD market alone boasts an expected annual growth rate of 49% to almost $20 billion in sales by 2024?
CBD is not on the back burner
While weed start-ups led by former rappers are becoming more and more prevalent, CBD businesses have also taken centre stage in the past year with endorsement from Canadian rapper Tee Krispil, and well known Soulja Boy.
Soulja Boy partnered with Bespoke Extracts – a company specialising in hemp-derived CBD products. The CEO of the business revealed future plans to allow the rapper, who is a vocal proponent of CBD, to create a co-branded line of premium CBD products with Soulja Boy adding: “I’m always ahead of the game and believe CBD is the next big thing and the future.”
Tee Krispil opened a herbal CBD tea shop, Fleurs Tea – a seven-woman operating company which she launched in 2017 before performing at 420 festival in Vancouver.
It’s probably a safer approach with minimal risk as CBD is legal across the US while cannabis remains federally illegal in most states. New York rapper Styles P confessed that he “uses CBD every day”, while Ghostface Killah of the legendary Wu Tang Clan recently launched his own CBD oil project aptly named “Wu Goo”.
It seems as though with a plethora of celebrity and rapper endorsement, CBD and cannabis is finally breaking into the mainstream.
There is also a dark side to hip hop artists endorsing drug use in their songs where some artists have moved on from simply reminiscing on hazy days of smoking ‘Cali’s finest’ under palm trees in smoky riffs.
An emergence of a new genre labelled mumble rap, defined as a micro genre of hip hop mainly spread online and popular with younger audiences has come under fire for glamourising harder drugs.
There has been a recent outbreak of young ‘soundcloud rappers’ endorsing the use of opiates like ‘lean’ and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, both of which are far more harmful than cannabis and CBD.
This lifestyle led to the tragic death of 21-year-old Lil Peep, who overdosed on Xanax and fentanyl a day after posting a video on Instagram stating he had taken six Xanax tablets. He also released the track ‘praying to the sky’, which alluded to his use of the anti-anxiety drug.
To this date, there has not been one fatal overdose from cannabis or CBD, with the infamous saying of ‘you’ll only die from weed if a cart full falls on top of you’. If anything, it should be used as an alternative to hard drugs for those seeking escapism, although people still need to be educated on the risks potent cannabis can have on mental health.