View profile

Puff, Puff Pass...The Bucks

Backseat Freestyle
Puff, Puff Pass...The Bucks
By Jayson Rodriguez • Issue #17 • View online
Stoned was once the way of the walk. But these days rappers aren’t just putting one up in the air. They’re also putting down business plans to turn their green ideas into greener pastures.

Snoop Dogg // Credit: Jeff Kravitz (Getty Images for Triller)
Snoop Dogg // Credit: Jeff Kravitz (Getty Images for Triller)
Front Seat
This is what’s driving hip-hop this week….
WELCOME TO THE NEW HOME of Backseat Freestyle. Substack’s priority wasn’t right, so we switched factories to Revue. I’m catching up after a week off while I migrated my archives, so the curation section via Trunk has more links than Zelda. This past week, though, many celebrated 4/20 and what was once a stoner holiday and an alternative slice of rap life has matured into big business. Verzuz partook in the festivities with a Method Man/Redman face-off and artists readied plenty of smoker-tinged records. It’s only gonna get bigger. Or smokier.
Back Seat
Respect my mind or die from lead shower.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, I received an email invite to a press event Russ was holding over Zoom. The message said he’d be making a special announcement and I was intrigued. I figured he’d reveal he signed to a new major in an unprecedented arrangement or there was some independent distributor who was gonna make him a partner and chief creative officer. 
Instead, after a few minutes of a confusing presentation, it was relayed that Russ was partnering with Wonderbrett for a new line of cannabis called “Chomp.” I immediately left the meeting. And I thought to myself, weed is just the new vodka or rim deal. 
Maybe a week later, a follow-up message arrived in my inbox about a new record Russ had written and he composed the song while using Chomp. Interesting. I had a quick chuckle, but I also admired the lifestyle pairing as a means of promotion. There was a synergy that was more practical than, say, alcohol, which, of course a drink feels good while listening to music. It’s just that a colorful bottle in a music video is a generic promo placement at this point. 
Stoners, of course, aren’t a new function in hip-hop. Cypress Hill, Redman and Snoop come to mind. And there’s many others we can name. But we’re seeing a separation between lifestyle posturing and business opportunity.
At the Leafs by Snoop launch party in Denver // IG: @jaysonrodriguez
At the Leafs by Snoop launch party in Denver // IG: @jaysonrodriguez
Take Snoop, for example. He started an edibles company a few years ago and I traveled to Denver to get down with him at the launch party. A household name, the product is not. Seriously, I can’t remember the name for the life of me. (I had to check my IG to verify it.) And though he started Merry Jane (a brilliant idea), that media company isn’t at the forefront of this new revolution. 
Revolution might seem a heavy word choice to some, but after spending time in Denver and speaking to Hawaii fka Hawaii Mike of Chef For Higher and Fly Private Social, I see it. In Denver I met food inspectors turned edible inspectors whose salaries rocketed amidst a growing industry. Hawaii produced a special for us at Revolt that we’d have been all the better for if we let him truly cook. But his thesis for the piece was the new economy that will arise in the wake of sweeping legalization. There’s new credit unions, compost companies, caterers and that’s just the tip of the joint. 
It’s a growing industry that only some in the rap game are starting to grasp dollars from despite being the foremost spokesmen. I’d argue Jonny Shipes’ success stems more from his Smokers Club tour foremost. That created so much business and he was able to transform Cinematic as a result. Wiz Khalifa has incorporated his strands into his flow and merch better than anyone. What’s frustrating is watching too many take this as a passing opportunity to score extra dollars during just one week out of the year. 
It was just in 2012 that Biggs was sentenced to jail in a huge pot bust.
You can drop a new video that shows you’re down, but there’s a stark difference between being with the movement and being behind it. 
Now, we’re witnessing Jay-Z’s entrance in the arena with Monogram. It’s his own strand and he has a YouTube channel associated with the brand to help mainstream his efforts. It’s the ultimate hustle and one with Emory Jones in tow. Slow hand clap for those guys. Remember, it was just in 2012 that Biggs was sentenced to jail in a huge pot bust. 
Marijuana sales are up over 50% year-to-year as folks sit at home during the pandemic. Arrests for low-level drug offenses aren’t going down to the same degree. This is opportunity that can be restitution for a generation and communities.
It’s damn near hearty to see the OG’s circle back to bud and go from advocates to entrepreneurs. Cypress Hill’s B-Real has about seven stores open where customers can purchase a variety of products. Ghostface is in the game, Jim Jones, 2 Chainz and the list goes on. 
NFTs, crypto and all these digital opportunities are the rage and should be explored, too. Look at what Nas made with his Coinbase investment. But like all things natural, with cannabis, it could take time to arrive at greener fortunes. 
Put that in the air.
Trunk
Music, reads, podcasts and videos (music and more) I’m checking for.
Regular Backseat Freestyle readers know the affection I have for Memphis rap this year. This time it’s Moneybagg Yo delivering the listen of the weekend with his newest LP, A Gangsta’s Pain. “Clear The Air,"FR” “ and "Shottas” are early highlights for me. [Listen]
Last week’s album of the week just released a deluxe. But I’m still working my way through the original! Young Thug‘s Slime Language 2. Thugger might have become a legend faster than any rapper in history. He already has grandchildren. A long way from riding in Propane’s backseat with me during AC3 in 2013. [Listen]
Nah, but Keke Palmer really got some bars off on this Fam0us.Twinsss’ “Hood Bitch” record. [Listen]
This Lyke Mike album by Myke Towers…my gawd, so much fire. I wasn’t ready for it to start hot like it did and continue to be a banger throughout. I almost put this project first before Moneybagg Yo. [Listen] Related: New Sech album to listen to as well. [Listen]
I don’t know who’s working this record harder, SpotemGottem or Junebug? The former just put out “Beat Box 5,” this time featuring Polo G. Meanwhile, just a few days ago, Junebug hit day 42 of his…deluxe edition of the #junebugchallenge. (Also, shouts to Polo G on his first chart-topper with “Rapstar.” Kid is my favorite young talent.) [Listen]
The Alchemist taps Earl Sweatshirt and Navy Blue for “Nobles,” the first single from his forthcoming EP, This Thing of Ours. Al’s place in history really needs to be discussed, because he’s leaping over a lot of producers. [Listen]
I’m absolutely certain Cordae is gonna drop a classic before he turns 30 and then another one on the other side of 30. First two records off his Just Listen… EP are sublime. [Listen]
Lil Yachty is sharp. I learned that firsthand when I interviewed him a few years ago and I took his disinterested physical posture at face value. Here I thought I bombed an interview with Lil Boat but upon playing back the chat, I laughed at his subtle jokes and asides, and realized how much he actually had delivered. His recent Breakfast Club appearance only affirmed that and his instincts are even more on point on his latest offering, Michigan Boat Boy, where Yachty puts the spotlight on the rising Flint rap scene and shows Detroit love, too. Don’t sleep on his rhymes, though. You read that right. Complex has a nice Q&A with him talking about the project’s origins. [Listen] [Read]
My brother, Branden Peters, pens some word to remember his Bay Area brethren, the late Shock G, by for Mic. [Read]
Maybe my favorite read of the week: Choreographer JaQuel Knight launches a company to copyright dance moves. Damn right. TikTok is the new frontier and some outsiders are out for the gold rush. [Read]
One of the good guys, Ian Holder, was promoted to SVP at Sony Music Publishing. [Read]
I wanted to hire Brittany Spanos so bad before she landed at Rolling Stone and from time to time I think about how ill he would have been at Revolt. But alas, wasn’t meant to me. Regardless, wherever she’s at, she’s a star and she smoked this Issa Rae cover story. [Read]
Jay-Z, Puff and Nas endorsed a candidate in the NYC mayoral race. I’m team Maya Wiley, but as long as Andrew Yang loses steam we Gucci over here. [Read]
This isn’t really a hip-hop story, but pieces that talk about licensing are always of interest to me, so this NYT story on TV theme songs and the struggle to keep the original tunes in tact when a project moves to a streamer is fascinating. [Read]
Kevin Liles is a unique executive in that he espouses a certain leadership principle; this Bloomberg piece tries to capture that in action. [Read] Related: Lyor Cohen guests on Variety‘s new music pod. [Listen]
Music industry “Race Report Card” on the way? [Read]
Spotify @ 15. [Read]
Former No Limit rapper Mac Phipps was granted clemency. If you listened to his arc on NPR’s Louder Than A Riot, you know how big of a deal this is. I highly recommend the pod; I spoke about it to Poynter and it’s ambition should be admired. [Read]
I was recently a guest on the Intuitive Minds podcast talking about my career, this newsletter and the media game. [Listen]
DMX tribute pieces I admired by Jon Caramanica, Bonsu Thompson, Clover Hope and Craig Jenkins. [Read] [Read] [Read] [Read]
Speaking of, X’s Celebration of Life services from Barclays Center will air today at 4pm ET. [Watch]
Jerry Lorenzo and Kerbito connect for Interview. [Read]
Revolt, MTV, BET, Conde Nast Entertainment, somebody please put a contract on Vince Staple’s desk. He needs his own show on the regular. I can wait for an album. [Watch] [Watch]
Alchemist’s homeboy, Evidence, has a new video, “Better You,” from a new album, Unlearning Vol. 1, due June 25th. It’s a steady thumper of a record. I gained a new appreciation for Ev following a “Live at Vevo” interview I did with him in 2018 for the Weather or Not project; he was candid beyond measure and still managed to torch the mic. [Watch] [Watch]
IDK has a workman like grind that you can’t bet against. He’s almost there. Peep his latest video, “SHOOT MY SHOT,” featuring Offset. [Watch]
Daddy Yankee surprised me by not sampling Ginuwine for his “El Pony.” He’s been on such a blatant sampling spree the past couple of years that he could make Diddy or Jermaine Dupri seem like Dilla-esque cratediggers. Still, DY is DY and he’s done it again with this track and visual (which feels a touch J Balvin in aesthetic but Yankee makes the video all his own). [Watch]
Paloma Mami’s “Frenesi” might be the best song on her new album and the video is vibe-y to match. Would love to see this record in some R&B playlists on DSPs. [Watch]
Don Tolliver is set to appear on Zane Lowe’s Apple Music 1 show on Thursday, 4/29 at 9 a.m. The next day at 5 p.m. is episode 2 of J Balvin’s Ma, G! Radio on Apple Music 1. Reminder: you don’t need to be a paying customer to listen.
Shouts to LL Cool J, just because I am absolutely loving his IG exploration across New York City. He’s popped up at Big Pun Blvd, touched down in Coney Island and taken selfies in Queens. These days are strange, but a bright spot like Uncle L being able to travel around the streets that inspired him as a kid by way of wearing a mask is something to smile about.
Backseat Freestyle is written and produced by Jayson Rodriguez for Smarty Art LLC. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to email me: jayson@smartyartllc.com. And follow me elsewhere:
Twitter: @jaysonrodriguez
Instagram: @jaysonrodriguez
YouTube: jaysonrodriguez
YouTube: smartyartllc
Podcast: coming soon
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jayson Rodriguez

What's driving hip-hop? Find out with a reported essay + curated links to new music/music vids, pod recommendations and good reads delivered straight to your inbox every Friday. Vroom, vroom.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue