1980 Sinsemilla - Black Uhuru
The vocal trio of Duckie Simpson, Mykal Rose and Sandra 'Puma' Jones were the first reggae group to win a Grammy and a powerful live draw (sic) in their day, backed by Sly 'n' Robbie, who produced the classic album of which this is the title track: "I've got a stalk of sinsemilla growing in my back yard..."
1981 Champagne and Reefer - Muddy Waters
From Muddy's King Bee album on Blue Sky Records: "Bring me champagne when I'm thirsty / Bring me reefer when I'm gonna get high". "I'm gonna stick with my reefer" affirms the blues legend, who died of a heart attack in 1983, "Ain't gonna be messing around with no cocaine." Texan blues belter, Ian Moore, performed the song in tribute to Muddy on the NORML Hempilation and The Black Crowes have also been known to do it up live. Lyric.
1981 Nederwiet - Doe Maar
Joost Belinfante tested the tolerance of his native Dutch authorities on this track from the album, Skunk, in which the singer patiently explains how to grow your own weed at home and the best way to enjoy it. It's also included on Doe Maar's Greatest Hits, De Beste. Lyric
1981 Reefer Madness (Instrumental) - UB40
Closing track from their debut album, Signing Off.
1981 Mary Jane - Rick James
Best remembered for the hook to Superfreak - sampled by 80s one-hit-wonder, MC Hammer, on You Can't Touch This, - Rick not only wrote this love song to pot, but also launched The Mary Jane Girls, whose eponymous album on Motown (1983) is remarkable primarily for its novelty or kitsch value. The Medusa-headed rapper, Coolio, performed a version, I'm In Love With Mary Jane on the soundtrack to the cultish 1998 stoner movie, Half Baked. The original MJ is collected along with the sometime Superfreak's other greatest hits on Bustin' Out (Island, 1994).
1981 One Draw - Rita Marley
A Bob Marley song from Rita's album, Who Feels It Knows It (Shanachie, 1980), One Draw was released as a single after Bob's funeral, at which Rita symbolically placed a stalk of sensimilla in the coffin. Cleary indicating an end to the mourning, this infectious, pro-ganja delight which was banned in Jamaica on release, but made musical history as the first reggae single to top the Billboard Disco Charts, the chorus inspired and was sampled by Cyprus Hill for I Wanna Get High (q.v.). A version of the original features on the Legalize De Erb compilation.
1981 Pass the Kouchie - The Mighty Diamonds
Donald 'Tabby' Shaw, Fitzroy 'Bunny' Simpson, and Lloyd 'Judge' Ferguson enjoyed a Jamaican hit with this sublime version of the classic Studio One rhythm, Full Up, produced by Gussie Clarke, which appeared on their Indestructible album in '82. Musical Youth famously covered the song the following year, but changed the title to 'Dutchie', which makes no sense at all since a Dutch oven cannot easily be passed from the left hand side, unlike a ceremonious pipe, chalice, or 'Kouchie' (or 'Kutchie', as in Lee Perry's Kutchie Skank; or 'Cutchie' as in Dillinger's Bring The Cutchie Come; or indeed, 'Couchie', as in the song of that name by Triston Palma). The original is included on Big Blunts Vol.1 (Tommy Boy, 1994).
1983 Police in Helicopter - John Holt
Title track of the veteran reggae star's album, in which the singer balanced his lover's persona, borrowed from Gregory Isaacs, with that of the rootsman who here righteously complains about the aerial ganja interdiction squads. Name-checked by Top Cat on Love Me Sess (q.v.), it's included on Big Blunts Vol.2 (Tommy Boy, 1996)
1983 Smoke Two Joints - The Toyes
Mawg and Sky of The Toyes were living in Honolulu in 1983, escaping from L.A., where Mawg was playing in 'a horrible Top 40 band' when he wrote this tune, taught it to his brother, and the pair borrowed $1000 from their mom to record it: "I smoke two joints in the morning, I smoke two joints at night / I smoke two joints in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright / I smoke two joints in time of peace, and two in time of war / I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints, and then I smoke two more". It features on The Toyes CD from 1996, along with songs called (Hey, Uncle Sam) Leave Us Pot Smokers Alone and Monster Hash (a parody of Monster Mash). Various cover versions exist in foreign languages, plus Sublime did a version on their album, 40oz to Freedom.
1984 Sensi Addict - Horace Ferguson
Early digital reggae, pre-Sleng Teng (q.v.), sparsely produced on what sounds like a rinky dink Casio keyboard by Prince Jazzbo for his Ujama label, with the singer declaring his addiction: "Wisdom, knowledge and understanding / Are what the sensimilla really bring", while scorning harder drugs: "Me don't want no coke, 'cause that's a joke"; "Me no drink white rum / Me will tumble down". It features on a 1993 album of the same name and is included on Big Blunts Vol.3 (Tommy Boy, 1996).
1985 (Under Mi) Sleng Teng - Wayne Smith
Widely credited with kick-starting the digital revolution in Jamaican studios, the Sleng Teng rhythm was built by King Jammy upon a pre-programmed Casio backbeat and spawned numerous versions. The original lyrics are more concerned with that other hardy perennial, sex, than with weed, although the 'sensi' from Westmoreland is promoted as the ultimate aphrodisiac. The tune is the centre piece of Big Blunts (Tommy Boy, 1994), which also includes a funk/hip-hop remix by DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill, and appears on a UK compilation, Legalise De 'Erb (Kickin Records, 1997).
1985 Under Mi Sensi - Barrington Levy
Paul Love, aka Jah Screw, had been the selector for U-Roy's sound-system before teaming up with deejay Ranking Joe to make records. For their first production, they recruitied broader-than-Broadway Barrington Levy to yodel over this wicked tune, castigating official hypocrisy over the weed trade: "Babylon, you na like ganja man / But we bring the foreign currency 'pon the island." An enduring anthem, it appears on numerous collections, including Tommy Boy's Big Blunts and in a re-recording with the Long Beach Dub All-Stars (formerly known as Sublime) on Hempilation 2. There's also a 'triple bass' mix featuring Rebel MC, from 1992, and Beenie Man's Jungle Dub X Project Remix, a UK club hit in 1994 that features on Big Blunts Vol.2 (Tommy Boy, 1996). Real Audio Sample @ www.turntablelab.com
1985 Real Thing - Barrington Levy
Another track from Barrington's breakthrough album, Here I Come which, through dwarfed by Under Me Sensi is a classic in its own right, with the singer begging, "Gimme the grass, won't you gimme the grass" and declaring that cocaine will mess up his brain, "because when you smoke the cocaine, you can get jumpy. When you smoke up the cocaine, you don't what you're thinking about. When you smoke up the cocaine, you're going to ruin your brain..." Big Blunts Vol.3 (Tommy Boy) features a funky workout of the tune with a phat bass line, Gimme The Grass.
1986 Herbsman Hustling - Sugar Minott
A version of Don Drummond's Heavenless rhythm reworked by Sly and Robbie, over which Sugar sings this paean to nickel and dime street salesmen in his classic roots style. Although it's the humble herbsman who risks his risking his neck to make his daily living, all levels of Jamaican society are implicated in the ganja trade: "Wrap up a draw for the lawyer / Wrap up a draw fe' commissioner..." A Jamaican hit on the Black Roots label, it features on Sugar's RAS Portraits album (RAS 3319), appears on Sly & Robbies' Taxi collection (1986) and is included on Big Blunts Vol.1 (Tommy Boy, 1994).
1988 Love Mi Sess - Top Cat
UK-based DJ scored a mighty hit for Joe G's records with this unambiguous paean of praise to top-quality draw, which came again in the mid-90s when recreated in a Junglist mode - the Herbsman 2 Remix - by Michael West, aka Rebel MC in his guise as Congo Natty. The original is included on Leglize De Erb (Kickin' Records, 1997). Lyric (to the Congo Natty mix.
1989 Urb-an Music - Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
A sly comment on both radio formatting and the felicitous combination of music and herb from the album, One Bright Day (Virgin): "Lord they fight it so / And I bet they don't even know / What it can do for all of you / Urb-an music, urb-an music, urb-an music..." Lyric.
1989 Cheeba Cheeba - Tone Loc
The rasping rapper first had a hit with a re-make of Wild Thing and this proto-typical pot head rap is a highlight of his debut album, Loc'ed After Dark: "...it seems a lot of times I'm at my best / After some methical or a bowl of sens. / I'm creatin', multiplyin', big time supplyin' / Enuff bud to keep tha whole party high on / I might get ill and roll an 8th in one hooter / Park my Benz, or cold jet it on my scooter..." It's included on Phat Blunts: Rap Unda Tha Influence (Priority, 1996). Lyric.
1989 Paul's Boutique (LP) - The Beastie Boys
The beer-swilling brats of Fight For Your Right To Party switched to cheeba for their massively influential second album, produced by the Dust Bros. The entire record is littered with mad rhymes and weed references and we all have our favourites. Mine include: "Space cake cookies, I discover who I am / I'm a dusted old bummy Hurdy Gurdy Man" (Car Thief); "I smoke cheeba, it helps me with my brain / I might be a little dusted, but I'm not insane" (3 Minute Rule) and "I'm so high that they call me Your Highness / If you don't know me then pardon my shyness." (Mike On The Mic.) Lyrics.
1989 Express Yourself - Niggas With Attitude
The first hit single from Straight Outta Compton re-worked an old groove written by Eazy-E's Dad. Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Bands' original was updated by Ice Cube, who declared: "Even if Yella Makes it a-cappella I still express, yo, I don't smoke weed or sens. / Cause its known to give a brother brain damage / And brain damage on the mic don't manage / Nuthin' but makin' a sucker and you equal / Don't be another sequel..." Dr Dre, the producer, obviously didn't share these sentiments, as he was to demonstrate with The Chronic (q.v.).