Of all genres of music, hip-hop has traditionally been the least bashful about touting the joys of cannabis. There have been rock songs, folk songs, and country songs that nod to the experience of this particular high, but none compare to the ubiquity of the weed-smoking rapper.
Rappers are also frequently entrepreneurs. Crack-dealing raps might be a trope in 2016, but early independent rap labels like Ruthless, Rap-A-Lot, Roc-A-Fella, and Death Row were built with startup capital from their founders’ businesses, and that cash didn’t come from selling Girl Scout Cookies.
These days, the business of selling records isn’t as profitable as it once was, and we’re seeing hip hop’s entrepreneurial spirit manifest itself in interesting ways. As marijuana becomes increasingly socially acceptable, with almost half the states in the U.S. legalizing its medical use, and some even adopting full-on legalization, tons of capital has been pouring into what is now a bonafide legal marijuana industry. As a result, the space is rapidly getting crowded.
If you’re a rapper with strong marijuana brand associations — especially if your hit-making days are over — leveraging that brand to sell cannabis and cannabis-related products can help a fledgling business stick out from the pack, and put some green in your pocket. There are rapper-branded “tobacco” accessories, personalized strains, rapper-owned dispensaries, and in the case of Tha Doggfather, Calvin Broadus, even rapper-helmed marijuana VC firms.
It’s gotten to the point where record stores want to start selling cannabis, and some are even asking if it can “save” the music industry. Ignoring the dubious assertion that the industry needs saving, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance by the federal government, so any impact will be felt on a strictly regional level. But with the tides shifting, who knows what the next decade looks like? In any case, here’s a rundown of rappers who are already ahead of this particular game.
Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Lion, or just plain old Snoop, is one of the more — if not the most — prominent weed-smoking rappers in the game. His brand is probably strongest amongst the general public, especially those who don’t listen to much hip-hop. If you asked 100 people on the street which rapper smokes a lot of weed, he’d probably be the most popular first answer.
So it makes sense that Snoop would be leading the charge of rappers in the marijuana business, but the diversity of his investments is nonetheless impressive. He’s started a marijuana-focused venture capital firm called Casa Verde Captial, which has invested in companies like Eaze, an Uber-like marijuana-delivery app, and FunkSac, an odor-lock packaging company. He’s launched his own strain of cannabis flowers called Leafs By Snoop, which are sold at premium prices at LivWell dispensaries in Colorado. He’s even branched out into marijuana content, with his lifestyle platform Merry Jane.
Ghostface has never been particularly concerned with branding himself as a pothead, but his latest business venture certainly trades on marijuana’s influence on the Wu Tang Clan and its music. His branded product, Wu Goo, is produced by a company called Dynamite Stix, which produces cannabis-oil cartridges for vaporizer pens. So far, his contribution seems to be limited to this video.
B-Real of Cypress Hill
Snoop Dogg may have maintained a larger public profile since his mainstream heyday, but there was arguably no group of rappers more devoted to their love of cannabis than Cypress Hill. To break into the legitimate marijuana industry, frontman B-Real literally won the lottery. He was chosen as one of 20 winners out of hundreds of applicants to be granted a dispensary license in Santa Ana, California, as part of the town’s “Measure BB.” It hasn’t been smooth sailing, though; while Measure BB passed and has generated revenue for the city, resistance from other members of the community means Dr. Greenthumb (named after a Cypress Hill song of the same name) is having trouble even staying open.
Of all the rapper marijuana products we’ve found, none were as intimidating as Kurupt’s trademarked Moon Rocks. Moon Rocks are strong cannabis buds dipped in hash oil concentrates, then dusted with kief, the sticky substance loaded with THC that covers cannabis flowers. We’re sure they’re dank, but how do you even break those things up?
Wiz Khalifa’s personal strain — Khalifa Kush — made some waves when Kanye West confused Wiz’s reference to it in a tweet “hit this kk” with a reference to his wife Kim Kardashian. Developed by Cookie Co. 415 in California, the strain has been re-engineered (it’s still illegal to transport even seeds over state lines) by a Colorado company RiverRock as part of a new line of cannabis products to be launched on April 20, 2016. Wiz may be building a business, but he certainly doesn’t follow the old adage to “never get high on your own supply”; part of his contract stipulates that he gets all of his cannabis for free.
Signature strains are common in the legal cannabis industry, and some take their involvement more seriously than others. Riff Raff visited LA’s Black Rose Collective to choose his signature strain, “Jody Highroller.” He chose his for its bright purple color rather than its potency; “Jody Highroller” is a mid-grade strain that sells for $10/gram. Freddie Gibbs was a bit more involved, developing “Freddie Kane OG” with Loompa Farms, going so far as to visit the site of cultivation and consult on the strains development.
There’s even rapper-branded products that don’t specifically reference cannabis, and therefore can be sold in any state. Lil Wayne now has a line of “tobacco products” called Bogey Cigars, designed to be a luxury replacement for the cheap cigars commonly used to roll blunts. There’s a version of Swisher Sweets cigarillos, Dutch Masters, BackWoods, and Philly Blunts.
Of course, rappers don’t have a monopoly on the phenomenon; Willie Nelson’s got a strain, too, and Melissa Etheridge has even developed a cannabis-infused wine. We’re holding out for cannabis coffee; the way things are headed, it can’t be far off.