20 Aug Redman on the History of Cannabis in Hip-Hop Culture
“I give a lot of credit to Cypress Hill and High Times for helping solidify the love for cannabis in hip-hop culture.”
Redman on the History of Cannabis in Hip-Hop Culture
Written by Sylvie Barnett
Hip-hop and cannabis – undoubtedly the two most powerful movements to come out of the last four decades. Since the dawn of hip-hop culture in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the genre has been closely intertwined with the concept of “getting high.” Early rap collectives such as Cypress Hill and Wu-Tang glorifying cannabis starkly contrasted the impact of Ronald Reagan’s “Just Say No” era.
Redman rose to fame out of the streets of Newark, NJ A.K.A. Brick City during the golden era of hip-hop in the early 1990s. From day one, Reggie Noble has been a powerful early advocate of cannabis. He came of age when hip-hop culture was all about good vibes and self-expression. Redman carries these values with him to this very day. The renowned emcee seemingly draws on a relentless desire to simply do good in the world, and uplift all those around him.
Throughout the last three decades, Redman has worked with some of the biggest musical names of all-time, ranging from Tupac Shakur to Christina Aguilera. In large part, the rapper’s iconic career signifies the impact of cannabis on popular culture. From his 1993 High Times cover to his starring role in the 2001 hit film “How High,” Redman fearlessly stands behind cannabis as one of its most vocal and popular ambassadors.
His latest EP, the aptly-titled 3 Joints, showcases the Funk Doc’s unwavering love towards Mary Jane with his trademark humor, bravado, plus his always sharp lyrical bars. Now working in the cannabis industry with Chang Weisberg of Guerilla Union (Rock the Bells and Cypress Hill Smoke Out), Redman’s vigorous passion towards their joint venture is undeniable.
It was an honor and privilege to connect with one of the most beloved rappers in the history of hip-hop; Redman is an artist, activist, and superstar who’s just a positive, down to Earth human being.
Check out this conversation to learn about his history with Method Man, his involvement with Wu-Tang, stroll down hip-hop memory lane, and more.
SB: Your debut album went Gold, and you were named 1992 Rap Artist of the Year by The Source magazine, which was at the time the undisputed bible of Hip-Hop. What did it feel like to get that kind of validation from the culture at the very beginning?
R: It showed appreciation. That I was putting in the work and dedication because that’s what I’m about. I’m about a great execution of anything that I do. And so The Source was a hot magazine at the time, fresh with the culture. They were the go-to for the streets, for hip-hop, and so their recognition – anybody they put on their platform – that was definitely official by any hip-hop fan or artist. So, you know if they nominated you as an artist of the year, you were official. So by me getting that award, I was astounded. I ain’t gonna lie, I showed my momma. I was like “Mom, look at this! I got an award. All that cursing I’ve been doing, it finally paid it off!” It also showed my mom, and my family, that whatever you believe in, if you go for it, you can make it happen. And while they might not agree with it, if you follow your dream and your goal, you’ll show them at the end. That’s what that award helped me with – showing people at the end that I stuck with my guts and my goals, and I followed my dreams, I won.
SB: In that era you were an essential member of one of the most legendary crews in the history of hip-hop, the “Hit Squad” with EPMD, Keith Murray, and K-Solo. What are some fond recollections of your time with them and the golden hip-hop era when you first broke through?
R: I guess the golden times with my crew Hit Squad was when we were on tour and building. It took a lot of dedication, a lot of communication and understanding between men. The game of making music and money was fun. Making money and having fun was the key. And those are the years I miss, when we were on tour, making money, having fun, not putting the money before fun and passion. Once you put in the passion and love for what you do, then the money will come in abundance, not the other way around.
And when we were doing that, those are the memorable moments I miss, because we were always around each other. And when we were around each other, it wasn’t just about smoking and having fun, we were very constructive with our time. We would sit there for hours in a studio having fun, but also being creative and coming up with material. I just remember being with other artists, back when we didn’t have that much social media or the Internet, where we had to go out and shake hands and go to record stores to sell our music.
When we did the Rock and Jock for MTV, they were allowing artists to play basketball and baseball against each other, from Dr. Dre to Jodeci. I miss those days. We don’t really have that anymore, because we’re living in a social media world now. In the 90s, without social media we were forced to come together and shake hands, see each other in the eye, and talk to each other. We were forced to communicate, to come out and talk to our fans. Now, you could talk to your fans through a fucking email or a Zoom call.
So those are the times that I miss about the golden era with my Hit Squad crew. And the reason we broke up was because we forgot about the passion, we forgot about the constructive fun, and we put money in the way. And once the money got in the way and everybody started getting greedy, that’s when problems start surfacing.
So I miss the original days of passion and love for the game.
SB: Passion and love are much more powerful than ego. I mean, money is so ego driven. But connection with the fans, like real genuine connection with people, that’s beautiful.
How did you first link with Method Man? How did “How High” (the song) come together in 1995? Because that was the embryo to everything you two have done together in the 25 years since.
R: It was right when I got signed, I was coming out with my second album. I guess because of my and his styles were kinda the same. In other words, we smoke a lot! They started to put a promotional tour together. Now, mind you, in the 90s, a promotional tour consisted of you going from city to city, either flying or driving in a van, and going to record stores and radio stations, promoting your music. A promotional tour took from three weeks to a month and a half. You’d travel from Houston to Florida, and then to Cali. We did one of those tours, it was called the Month of the Man Tour. One of the most pivotal promotional tours in the 90s. On that tour we started establishing the foundation. We just started writing, and it was history from there.
SB: You and Method Man got the only feature on what’s widely considered one of the greatest albums of a generation, D’Angelo’s Voodoo from back in 2000. What do you recall about that experience?
R: Oh, D’Angelo is my boy right, he’s a fool! You know what? I remember we were on a roll, we were on tour, and D’Angelo needed that record. So we went to a studio when we were on the road and got it done. But the video was nuts! Like the video was crazy. The video was CRAZY. First of all, D’Angelo was a smoker as well. So being around the D’Angelo and creating, it’s just like being around one of us. You know, it wasn’t hard, it was really easy. He knew what we wanted. We knew what he wanted. We knew what he expected. And when you have great energy in a studio like that, we complement each other. You know, with no animosity or egos you get a great execution. So it was just great working with D’Angelo. Any time we were around D’Angelo was just good times.
SB: Love his music, he’s an incredible talent. In your opinion, what had a bigger impact on your career, your iconic MTV Cribs episode from your hometown in Newark, New Jersey, which was rerun in perpetuity for over a decade on cable TV, or your movie “How High,” which is basically essential viewing for most people born after 1975? We’d love to hear some good memories that come to mind from either experience?
R: Well, I can tell you something about both of them. First of all, MTV Cribs when it was first being shot, I was always wondering why everybody was so goddamn neat and looking like a museum in there, because most of these kids were in it for show and tell. So I went against the grain, against MTV, and I won! Because at the end of the day, you know, I always believe in keeping everything 100, your first impression is your last impression. And my neighborhood, my community knows that I always keep things 100, and would never believe that one of those cribs was one of mine, because of how I move. I used my original crib, and they were astounded. And it was the most pivotal MTV Cribs.
As far as “How High,” I can tell you one thing about it. Now, what made that movie successful?… It was the communication that we had on the set. I believe you are supposed to treat your king like pawns, and your pawns like kings. I don’t treat no one different. The director and a janitor get the same treatment, you understand? So when you treat people that way, you have people that want to work with you, not have to work. You want people to want to work for you, being the boss of anyone. You’ve got to have the attitude of people wanting to come to work with you. So every day, from the hairdresser, to the janitor, to the director, to the food cart, to the art department, they were all happy to come to the set every day on “How High”. Because they were sure to laugh their ass off and have a story to tell at the end of the day. We had more fun shooting the movie than the movie looks like it was fun! Just the people and the communication we had on set. Those are my real memorable parts, you know, as far as the MTV Cribs and “How High”…
…which taught me a great lesson, because I’ve got videos, I plan to direct a movie, my set has to be a comfortable zone when I work. I will not tolerate an upset set. I don’t care if the cafeteria lady is having a bad day. I’m going to walk to her, and I’m gonna say “What’s wrong? Are you having a bad day? Let’s talk about it.” That brings a successful execution to any plan that you’re going to do.
SB: Thank you for those reflections. Taking it back to the early 90s, it was a different time for weed in the country, the culture, and hip-hop. On the West Coast, Cypress Hill first waved the flag with “Stoned is the Way of the Walk”, but at around that same time, on the East Coast it was you who kicked the door down. Your debut album came out 2 months before Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. You were among the very first marijuana activists in rap, and remain one today. What do you remember about how people/fans/other artists reacted to you being so pro-cannabis in the “Just Say No” era? When did you notice attitudes start to change with regard to celebrating ganja in the hip-hop culture?
R: I’m gonna tell you what. It had to be after Cypress Hill was on the High Times cover. They were the first rappers on a High Times’ cover. That’s what helped seal the deal. Again, I give a lot of credit to Cypress. And I knew I had to be the second artist on their cover, so they kind of set that trend in High Times. I got to give credit to High Times, you know. I’m part of the High Times family, and they are the most established magazine on cannabis, period, and one of the most established magazines that supported the hip-hop culture in the times when they were saying no. So I give a lot of credit to Cypress Hill and High Times for helping solidify the love for cannabis in hip-hop culture.
SB: Those were iconic magazine covers from back in the day! You are basically the honorary 11th member of Wu-Tang Clan. You’ve obviously worked with Meth forever. So, other than Johnny Blaze, who is your favorite emcee in the Wu, and why?
R: My favorite emcees in the Wu Tang Clan have got to be GZA and (Inspectah) Deck. You know? Everyone has a place in the world. Meth has bars, Ghostface has bars, Raekwon got bars, they all do. But the world knows, when it comes to bars, Inspectah Deck be having those bars, GZA be having those bars. You know, all of them are my favorite because they are my brothers, because they all bring a certain flavor to the table that I can appreciate. You are never going to find any of them on a record where it’s not going to match, or sound good, where they are not gonna coincide with each other. They all bring something to the table that I love and appreciate. Bottom line. And being an honorary member, it’s because I’ve been down for so long, I’ve been down since day one, before they even really got hot. I’ve been an honorary member for the longest, since the early 90s.
SB: Wu-Tang and Redman are forever! Switching gears to some cannabis discussion, with regard to your art. How does marijuana influence your creative process?
R: It just puts me in a nice state to write. I don’t really need marijuana to write because I love what I do passionately, but it definitely puts me in a great state to write. I’m not just a smoker; I’m a connoisseur. And that means that marijuana is not just a smoking thing for me. It’s a lifestyle and a movement. And I mean, Snoop kept it real, our forefathers were for this sh*t.
I don’t really need it anymore for my creativity, because writing and doing music is my natural high. You feel me? It kind of just enhances your life, makes it even better. A place of gratitude.
When I’m doing music, sometimes I get tingles and chills, and sh*t that marijuana doesn’t give me. Like it gets bad! I can listen to some Quincy Jones, and some chords he does on some old Michael Jackson joints like “Off the Wall” and “The Lady in My Life”, and I get it. I get… like a sensation. I got goosebumps right now talking about it!
SB: I know what you mean, music is the real drug. Appreciate you taking it there, man. Before we wrap, is there anything else you’d like to share with fans today, Reggie?
R: Yes, I’m dropping an album soon, Muddy Waters 2 under Gilla House. That’s my label under Redman Entertainment. I want to take the time out to shout out Redman Entertainment and Chang’s Blind Tiger. Me and Method working on Blackout! Three. I’m dropping Muddy Waters 2 this year, or the top of next year. It would have had it out already but because of COVID we had to push things back. I will be directing more stuff in the future when COVID is over.
And also if you are ever in Staten Island, or they want to look us up on a website, I have a sneaker lifestyle store boutique in Staten Island. We have people from Japan, and from all over the country come to our store. We’re number one in Staten Island. It’s called Richmond Hood Company.
And yeah everybody just be safe out there. Look for my new music. I’m ready!
SB: Thank you, Redman!
“CANNABIS – LIFE – LOVE & LOYALTY! LIVE THE C3L!”
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