In its March 1993 issue the New York style magazine, Paper, put a cannabis leaf on its cover, with the strap line: 'Pot is Hot and Hemp is Politically Correct'. Inside, David Hershkovits reported: 'Little more than a year ago, T-shirts bearing the logo of the Phillies Blunt, a cheap cigar of the inner cities, started popping up with uncommon regularity. Those in the know smiled when they saw the saw the ovoid Phillies Blunt logo because they understood the coded message: a blunt is a joint made of marijuana rolled up in the inner leaf of a Phillies. Soon Beastie Boy Adam Horrowitz wore the T-shirt on MTV...'
The Beastie Boys, a white trio who achieved infamy as the boisterous, beer-swilling perpetrators of Fight for Your Right To Party, definitely preferred pot by their second LP, Paul's Boutique, in 1989, the lyrics to which are littered with references to 'cheeba.'
Smokin' Cheeba Cheeba was a rare groove perpetrated by the Harlem Underground Band (featuring George Benson on guitar) in 1976, that was sampled by Tone Lõc for a seminal pro-pot rap called Cheeba Cheeba. Lõc (as in loco, or one who is partial to the loco-weed) came to prominence with a version of The Trogg's Wild Thing and, with his shades and his rasping, wry style, represents the acceptable face of the gangster element within rap music. On Mean Green, a rap from 1991, (a cohort of) Tone Loc puts the case for continuing with the current system of distributing cannabis to 'cheeba believers:
When a believer gets the fever for the flavour of the cheeba
Don't you sweat, I can get it, I got my home boy's beeper number
If you wanna get some of the chronic, supersonic
Yo, my man's got that high-powered hydroponic...
...Don't mention cocaine, heroin or speed
In the same breath as weed, because nobody ever ODed
Puffing reefer, cannabis sativa, hemp or the cheeba and I'm a believer.
But Cypress Hill must take the lion's share of the credit or blame for kick-starting the blunted rap bandwagon. Aside from titles, like Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk and Something For The Blunted, as a cover story in the March, 1992 edition of High Times reported: 'Cypress Hill's self-titled debut contains more marijuana references than a classic Peter Tosh or Bob Marley album'. The second Cypress Hill album, Black Sunday, showed that the rappers had been reading Jack Herer's book, too. Inside the record's gatefold sleeve - which became the biggest-selling rap album in the UK - are listed 19 things you might not have known about the history and various uses of cannabis sativa. The grooves contained strident pro-pot anthems including I Wanna Get High (sampling the classic, One Draw) and Hits From The Bong.
In 1994, Cypress Hill were one of the main attractions of a music festival held to mark the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. Pre-publicity for the festival was sceptical as to whether the atmosphere of the original event could be rekindled in an age when the President of the United States, in order to be elected, had adamantly denied that he'd smoked a joint in the 1960s despite photographic evidence to the contrary. Bill Clinton maintained that he 'did not inhale' and commentators were quick to predict that Woodstock '94 would be the 'festival that won't inhale'. There were official reports that contraband would be confiscated and unofficial rumours that sniffer dogs would be used to detect cannabis being brought on site.
In the event, these misgivings proved to be groundless and the festival turned out to be much like the first time: rain turned the site into a mud bath, but everyone got too stoned to care. Cypress Hill taught the crowd their weed leaf sign and had them chanting the lyric to I Wanna Get High which includes the line 'tell Bill Clinton he should inhale'. Another highlight of the festival was Bob Dylan, who closed his set with a glorious rendition of Rainy Day Women. And everybody did.
By that time, it seemed as if everybody was smoking pot and talking about smoking pot once again. At the 1992 New Music Seminar, a music business convention in New York, representatives of disparate pot-smoking musical subcultures got together to discuss their common love of cannabis in a panel discussion the title: "Pot in Pop: Let's Be Blunt". It wasn't long before the likes of Guns 'n' Roses - whose use of hard drugs was common knowledge - were allowing pro-legalisation stalls to be run at their concerts and fellow travellers like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, along with Chris Barron of The Spin Doctors and Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam, queued up to testify to their love of pot in the pages of High Times.
NORML, the American National Orgainisation for the Reform of the Marijuana Laws, and High Times Magazine began working on music projects together in 1993 and, after a "Rock for Pot" benefit concert featuring Sebastian Bach with seminal hardcore band, Bad Brains, and a High Times/NORML national tour featuring a metal band from Arizona called Sacred Reich, it was decided to compile a benefit album with contemporary bands performing classic pot songs, i.e.: songs that explicitly or implicity celebrate getting high.
In High Times' Special Music Issue of July, 1992, Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes explained: "Pot's nothing to be taboo about, man. It's a part of pop culture. In the eighties, it was sort of passé. People who were wrapped up in money saw the weed as a frivolous extravagance. It's really old-fashioned". Watching the long form video of the Crowes' Who Killed That Bird Out On Your Window Sill?, High Times Music Editor, Steve Bloom thought he heard a snatch of Dylan's Rainy Day Women in the background and a call to the band's management confirmed that not only was there a finished version of the song, but that it had been released as the B-side of Hotel Illness, from the Black Crowe's 1992 album, Southern Harmony & Musical Companion.
Consequently, the Crowes were the first band to contribute a song to NORML's 'Hempilation' CD. Released in 1995 by Capricorn Records of Nashville, it contains a live version of I Wanna Get High; Blues Traveler interpreting Sly Stone's I Want To Take You Higher, and The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies doing up Joe Cocker's High Time We Went. The first Hempilation has a decidedly rockist orientation, but the word is that its successor, Hempilation II, will be a lot more country, with Willie Nelson playing a major role.
A cover story in the American music trade mag, Billboard, provided affirmation of the new attitude in February, 1993: 'That famous anti-drugs motto "just say no" has evolved into "no big deal" for a number of record labels currently cashing in on the appeal of acts that brazenly admit to using marijuana. And, while some radio stations and video channels have rejected certain drug-oriented releases, for the most part, programmers and retailers are also accepting of artists' pro-pot stance... Ruffhouse, Imago, Def American, Interscope, and Hollywood are just a few imprints that openly support their artists' right to honesty and the freedom of choice when it comes to drugs.'
Extolling the virtues of cannabis quickly became such a cliché that the January, 1994, issue of the American satirical glossy magazine, Spy, denounced 'Phoney Pot Revivalism' as the 74th most noxious feature of 1993, citing: 'Ubiquitous Phillies Blunt T-shirts, countless news features on the 'hemp' movement, caps emblazoned with marijuana-leaf logos, dope-savvy movies like Dazed and Confused, evangelical albums by Cypress Hill, Dr Dre, and the Black Crowes - all in spite of the fact that DEA statistics show marijuana use down by 13 percent over the last seven years'.
Aside from Spy's apparent willingness to accept Drug Enforcement Administration statistics at face value, the cynics did have a point. On planet Hip Hop, rhyming about toking had become so de rigeur that Dr Dre, who'd made his name as the producer of Niggas With Attitude, called his 1992 solo album The Chronic, after a particularly potent strain of hydro herb. That Dre should so enthusiastically espouse cannabis may have come as a surprise to rap aficionados who'd heard him on NWA's 1990 hit, Express Yourself:
I don't smoke weed, or sens.
'Cause it's known to give a brother brain damage
And brain damage on the mic. don't manage
Nothin' but makin' a sucker and you equal
Don't be another sequel...
Going solo, Dre teamed up with a convicted crack salesman calling himself Snoop Doggy Dogg and established a fresh sub genre of West Coast rap with his own record label, Death Row. The main lyrical concerns of G-Funk - the G is for gangster, or 'gangsta' - are guns and sex with women who are routinely dismissed as whores, or 'hos'. Not only did Snoop Doggy Dogg sound like the archetypal Staggerlee, he acted out the part offstage, even going so far as to face charges of being an accessory to murder. After appearing at the MTV Music Awards in September, 1993, Snoop - a.k.a. Calvin Broadus - turned himself in and, eventually, in February, 1996, the rapper and his bodyguard were acquitted and an older and perhaps wiser Doggy Dogg was free to rhyme another day.