Weed and Hip-Hop Culture – A Match Made in Musical Heaven
This article is part one of what will be an ongoing series devoted to exploring the relationship between weed and hip-hop – two topics that are at the foundation of what Loud News Net stands for.
Anyone who is into cannabis and hip-hop will understand that the two have an intrinsic relationship with each other, and some would argue that the music artform might not even exist without weed. What you might not know is how deeply rooted cannabis is when it comes to the birth of hip-hop and its pioneers.
The Birth of the Hip Hop Culture
According to hip-hop legend, DJ Kool Herc was the first to develop the style that was the genre’s framework. This blueprint focused on playing the part of the record that was the most percussive – known as the “breakbeat”. There are few records that have been sampled as much as the “Apache” breakbeat. DJ Kool Herc first started this type of hip-hop DJing with mostly disco records in the Bronx, NY circa 1973. Kool Herc has never been shy about expressing his love for the green, fondly discussing his times in Jamacia in interviews. This was a solid five or six years before the first mainstream hip-hop group, Sugarhill Gang, had the genre’s first top-40 song.
As many hip-hop heads can attest to, much of the beats found in the earliest hip-hop came from the percussion and bass elements found in disco music. Generally speaking, there was a stark contrast between hip-hop culture and disco culture, despite the fact that both were taking place within less than a mile of each other in the same city. People who went to disco clubs in Manhattan were glitzy and glamorous, with many of them loving to show off their wealth. In the early days of hip-hop, cocaine was the drug of choice at disco clubs.
Contrast this with hip-hop’s infancy, where the drug of choice was typically weed, and the budgets were small, or even non-existent. Early hip-hop was a way to get folks off of the streets and out of trouble, thanks to pioneers like Kool Herc. As legend has it, the first-ever hip-hop party is said to have taken place in the summer of 1973, in the recreation room of a West Bronx apartment building. A lot of the heads at these early hip-hop parties chose to consume cannabis.
Weed and Hip Hop – Without The Four Elements, It’s All Irrelevant
Kool Herc, Afrika Bambada, and Grandmaster Flash were the first three hip-hop DJs, which is the first element of hip-hop. The other three elements are of course MCing, breakdancing, and writing graffiti – with the fifth element often thought of as beatboxing – but some heads might argue that weed is the fifth element of hip-hop, as it has long inspired all involved with the art form.
U.S. War On Drugs Takes Shape in the ’80s
As hip-hop grew in popularity, some of the most notable artists of the early to mid-80s include Run DMC, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Rakim, Kurtis Blow, and Biz Markie. Even though both the war on drugs and hip-hop have their roots in the early 70s, both really took off in the 80s. Hip-hop’s substance of choice and the most targeted substance under the war on drugs both happen to be the same – you guessed it, cannabis.
The contemporaneous rise in popularity and general acknowledgment is no coincidence. The influence of Hip hop within the pop culture cannot be downplayed and has certainly played a role in legalizing marijuana throughout the country. As the sales of marijuana have become legally profitable, hip-hop artists have not discontinued the association. Popular rap stars the likes of Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, Master P have invested greatly into marijuana and started the dispensaries.
Even here in 2021, after all of the advancements we’ve made with legalization, there are still 600,000 people arrested every year for simple possession violations, according to The Drug Policy Alliance. There are still close to $50 billion U.S. tax dollars spent fighting the failed war on drugs every single year – despite the fact that two-thirds of Americans favor legalization, according to the Pew Research Center. Naturally, it would be difficult to fathom that hip-hop artists and fans make up much of the third who are opposed to fully legal weed!
Weed and Hip Hop – ‘90s Gangster Rap and Medical Cali Green
In the 1990s is where hip-hop really started to blow up and become mainstream, largely because of gangster rappers like NWA. Arguably hip-hop’s biggest stars, the late great Biggie and Tupac, would not have gotten to where they were without NWA. Everyone knows about the east/ west coast beef, which was largely driven by a news media that is always thirsty for controversy.
In the ’90s, we also got the first-ever medical weed in California, as prop 215 was passed in 1996. West coast Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were never shy about their love for Cali green, with Dre’s album ‘The Chronic’ is one of the best-selling hip-hop records of all time. Also representing Cali and loving weed in the ‘90s Cali was Cypress Hill, although they never really positioned themselves in the east/ west beef. In fact, a lot of heads first thought that Cypress sounded like they were from New York, something that B-Real mentioned on a podcast with Joe Rogan, another famous weed lover. Cypress Hill graced the cover of High Times all the way back in 1992. Now, B-Real owns a successful dispensary and delivery service called Dr. Greenthumb.
Of course, the west coast heads weren’t the only ones who enjoyed some greenery with their hip-hop. On the east coast big stars like Biggie, Wu-Tang, and Nas all rapped and spoke at length about their love for the sweet leaf. Wu-Tang’s Abbot, the RZA, wrote the Wu-Tang Manual, which devoted several pages to speaking specifically about smoking weed with the rest of the crew and playing chess – a must-read for Wu-Tang fans.
The significance of rap and hip-hop culture
In the mid to late ‘90s and early 2000s, hip-hop saw the rise of what would be described as “conscious rappers”, like A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Mos Def, The Roots, and so on. Just as the pioneers before them, consuming cannabis played a huge role, in the making of conscious rap – and it always will!
Just as growers and breeders have perfected their techniques and have been able to grow better and better cannabis, so has music production evolved. Gone are the days where you need expensive studio time to produce records. With the internet and home studios, anyone and everyone can be a YouTube or SoundCloud rapper these days – for better or worse, you decide.
Because of Cannabis’s deep roots in the hip-hop culture is it now an important part of some artists’ identity. The synonymity of Snoop Dogg’s name with the weed culture is because of his well-documented fondness for the drug. Wiz Khalifa for the love of stoner culture opened a restaurant chain themed around it. Kid Cudi popularized the idea of the “lonely stoner” with his song “Day-n-Nite,” which became his identity much to his frustration. Cannabis went from the choice of drug for losers to the choice of drug for superstars.
According to a study on Addictions.com, Cannabis is the drug that is most discussed throughout all genres. However, because of its fascinating history with hip-hop, Cannabis is the cornerstone of the hip-hop culture. In hip-hop culture, Cannabis has become the go-to drug. When people in hip-hop culture consider doing drugs, cannabis is likely to be their first assumption.
Within the last few years, we have seen the rise of mumble rap. Some heads love it, others hate it – there’s not too much in between. We can’t really call it, but we know for a fact we’d like to see young rappers use fewer benzos like Xanax, which has led to a few overdose deaths. Instead, take after Wiz Khalifa: always do what you love, follow your dreams, and take some herb. Yeah, yup!
… And it Doesn’t Stop
Like what you’re seeing? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, BuddyJane, and TikTok – @loundnewsnet on all platforms. Feel free to leave us comments and let us know what lists you want to cover. Be cool to each other, stay safe, and keep it sane. Until next time, keep it LOUD!