Why Weed and 90s Hip Hop Were a Natural Fit Together?
When Hip Hop Met Weed
Hip Hop purists will remember the 90s as a heyday for its popularity, and they may perhaps even be nostalgic for that time. Between the late eighties to the late nineties, when Hip Hop soared to mainstream popularity, Hip Hop was risqué, drawing both the attention and the ire of the white conservative class of Baby Boomers who were parents at the time. However, being edgy wasn’t Hip Hop’s only appeal. Hip Hop was candid and truthful, and told of a perspective that was very real that these conservatives didn’t want to acknowledge.
So the combination between the need to push boundaries and the already prevalent practice of smoking ganja among the young African-American urban populace at the time made ready fodder for scores of albums of creative material in the 90s Hip Hop milieu. Going back, you could name any number of figures from Cypress Hill’s B-Real to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (and its millennial successor, aptly titled The Chronic 2000) to numerous references to the holy herb by Snoop (Doggy) Dogg.
The Dawn of the 90s
In the 1980s, America was undergoing a scourge of drug-related calamities. Cocaine was becoming more popular among the Wall Street yuppie set, yielding to freebasing and eventually crack cocaine, which spread across the US like wildfire. As a reaction, countless numbers of special interest groups and government initiatives against drugs like the ill-fated War on Drugs and Tipper Gore’s PMRC began to emerge, including many coming from music.
So as more traditional rap started giving way to Gangsta Rap and Hip Hop, the anti-drug ethos was still, in these early days, prevalent among acts as diverse as Ice-T and, surprisingly, NWA. The latter’s seminal album Straight Outta Compton featured a single titled “Express Yourself”, which was an anti-drug anthem, with member Dr. Dre rapping, “I still express, yo I don’t smoke weed or sess.”
However, it wouldn’t be long before many Hip Hop artists – including Dre himself – pulled a sudden 180 on this stance, and by 1992, ganja had gone from a verboten topic to the prevalent theme of Hip Hop to come, even in the mainstream.
90s Hip Hop’s Early Canna Soldiers
In 1992, Dr. Dre released another seminal Hip Hop album – this time solo – titled The Chronic. A far cry from his anti-weed stance, the title itself is a reference to “chronic” a slang whose meaning varies from smoking up all the time to the name for the bud itself – “smoking chronic”. And Dre wasn’t alone. Although The Chronic is arguably the album that pronounced weed and Hip Hop to be man and wife, a year earlier, Cypress Hill planted the first flag with their self-titled debut, which featured a skull and a pot leaf, and lyrics candidly praising pot smoking. It was a brazen defiance of conservative America’s stance against drugs, and a trailblazer for an entire decade.
This defiance was certainly not lost on the emerging youth of the Grunge era, who had kept their pot smoking ways under wraps whenever possible. But now that this brazen new sensibility was breaking boundaries on pot culture, the youth were ready to eat it up, having been fed on a sterile diet of anti-drug platitudes since they were schoolchildren. To boot, their parents hated it, making the allure all that much more appealing.
Into the Mainstream
It would still be a few years before chronic Hip Hop would make its way into the acceptable mainstream, mainly due to pushbacks from suburban conservative white Americans, who were slowly losing their throttlehold on the American virtue system against a tide they could no longer push back. Hip Hop weed culture was here to stay, and it was proud.
On through the 90s, this vanguard was held by Snoop Dogg (“sticky-icky-icky”), Busta Rhymes (“yo spliff, where the weed at? Gimme some mo’”) Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and several others before the end of the decade culminated with Afroman’s upbeat, radio-friendly hit “Because I Got High”.
With that, the heyday of 90s Hip Hop cannabis culture drew to a close; there couldn’t be anymore fresh ground to cover after cannabis become well-accepted, popular, and mainstream. However, purists look back on this era with a note of nostalgia, remembering when Hip Hop was about resistance and standing up for who you were in the face of the system, which made the marriage between Hip Hop and pot in the 90s simply immortal.
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