Weed rap: (noun) A term, often used in a pejorative context, referring to the subject matter of a certain class of rappers who are concerned with matters of the sticky icky, the green, the tree, “the good shit,” the ganja, the Keyshia Cole.
What follows is an argument between two Prefix writers–Andrews Martin and Winistorfer–who try to answer a query that is burning bridges between them: Why doesn’t anyone respect weed rappers? The Andrews try to get to some deeper truth about themselves, “weed rap,” and the career of Curren$y.
Andrew M: Let’s get it straight from the jump: Rappers writing bars about weed isn’t anything new. The supposed sub-genre of “weed rap” has been around since dudes like Method Man and Redman, Devin the Dude, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg and the like began focusing solely on their love for the green stuff. But it’s only been more recently that ganja-centric lyrical content has come out in droves.
And standing at the front of the pack with a huge blunt in his mouth is Curren$y, an MC who in the early-to-mid 2000s could have been considered another Cash Money one-hit-wonder. He found a muse of sorts in marijuana in the latter 2000s and has since consistently dropped (mostly) good-to-great material. From the How Fly mixtape with Wiz Khalifa through Weekend at Burnie’s, Spitta has proven that weed rap can be extremely easy on the ears and, more importantly, really fucking intriguing.
Curren$y’s stream-of-consciousness flow is akin to those of MF DOOM and Ghostface Killah, two of the most critically adored rappers who have made a career rapping about villain and gangster shit, respectively. In Ghostface’s case, much of his success has come while rapping about pushing harder drugs (mostly crack cocaine) and yet he’s glorified as one of the best to do it. So why is it that when Curren$y does almost the same thing — replacing grittier beats and harder drugs for jazzy beats and weed — the respect of hip-hop heads and fans alike loses its gravity?
That’s not to say his albums haven’t been well received. They have almost all garnered glowing reviews and sold pretty well, but it seems like a lot of folks don’t take him seriously because he raps about weed a lot. It’s like his want to roll up a blunt somehow detracts from his killer wordplay or his ability to pick some of the best production heard in a minute. The same goes for many other new(ish) so-called weed rappers, from Wiz Khalifa to Domo Genesis to Smoke DZA. These are guys who might love Mary Jane as much as yuppies love Trader Joe’s, but weed also serves as the impetus for broader reflection and wordplay.
Andrew W: It’s interesting to me that you open with a mention of Method Man, because he’s about the only “weed rapper” who I think can manage being obsessed with talking about weed with actually, you know, rapping about stuff other than weed. His verse on “Triumph” is a good example of that: He references weed a ton, but then he proceeds to make Cappadonna his bitch.
For me, the “problem” with weed rap comes down to problems with weed culture: There’s an obsession with letting everyone know that you’re high, about to be high, have been high in the past and would be interested in getting high again if the conditions are right that I find totally boorish. I fucking get it, all right, Wiz Khalifa? You enjoy smoking weed. I think it was Daniel Tosh who joked one time that he wished weed was legalized just so that potheads wouldn’t have anything to talk about. I can’t agree more.
But here’s the thing: Take away the weed talk from Smoke DZA, from Wiz, from Domo Genesis, or from your beloved Curren$y, and what are you left with? A few half-baked bars about cars, pretty much. There is no substance beneath the weed talk, and that’s what I find troublesome. Ghostface and MF DOOM might rap about coke and dope, but there’s an abstract art to it. Curren$y is the High Times Lite of the rap game, a veritable advertisement for high living that is as toothless as it is tiresome. To me, it’s more interesting that a major label would take a gamble on someone like Curren$y: I can’t imagine he has much crossover capability. He’ll sell the hell out of some rolling papers though.
Rapping about drugs is a cornerstone of the journalistic attention to detail that often goes hand in hand with hip-hop, but there is something just not quite there for rappers who stake their claim on the weed rap game. No weed rapper has made something as transcendent as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, or Hell Hath No Fury, or any other coke-centric album I can think of. Maybe weed people are just less interesting than coke people. Fuck marijuana, you made rappers boring.
Andrew M: Weed made rappers boring? Really? Do you hate punch line rappers, too? Because that’s what a lot of weed rappers actually are, though some, like Smoke DZA, have a socially conscious side, too. Listen to Pilot Talk again. If you don’t even grin a little bit at lines like “Olympic swimmin’ in bitches/Michael slash Leon Phelps”; “Kick the shit out the beat until it die/Call CSI”; “She just wanna ride with a G/I can’t knock her/For fuckin with these imposters/Lower case G’s, little me’s”; and so on. If you’re not going to change your tune, I will prove Curren$y’s worth (no pun intended).
But even if you somehow cannot get down the lyrical content — which makes sense if you happen to abhor marjiuana — you simply cannot deny the production these guys have filled their albums and mixtapes with. Hell, I could even argue Curren$y was the muse for one of hip-hop’s best producers, Ski Beatz, who has been on a tear since Pilot Talk dropped. Who else made live instruments sound that good in hip-hop? Too often, the use of actual guitars, drums, and bass equates to the rawk trash we heard on Travis Barker’s album or, shudder, nu-metal. But Ski and his band make jazzy boom-bap that’s neither a throwback to the Native Tongues nor a watered-down version of what would sound better on an MPC.
The same goes for everyone else supplying these guys with production; be it Tyler, the Creator and Left Brain producing Domo Genesis’ Rolling Papers or Big Jerm making those fuzzy blunted beats for Curren$y, Big Sean, and Wiz Khalifa’s recent collaborations. You might hate the “laziness” heard on the raps, but to the same point, don’t we also praise guys like Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, and Lil B for having some of the best production out there? So why is it that we’re OK with the bullshit they’re spitting — sometimes with the worst flows imaginable — but we can’t accept that weed rappers are just as important?
Andrew W: I don’t even necessarily abhor marijuana–I abhor people who can’t shut up about it. Like I said, I get it already. I don’t need more than one Curren$y mixtape to know what dude is going to be rapping about. Even Pimp “Sippin on Some Syrup” C would agree dude needs to diversify. And dude can be funnier than Louis C.K., and that doesn’t change the fact that Weekend at Burnie’s is about the dumbest album title of the year.
And while I agree that Ski Beatz is at least better than what we’d hear on a Travis Barker album (seriously, why do rappers love that guy? He’s not fit to hold ?uestlove’s beard trimmer), I don’t think his production adds any redeeming quality to Curren$y’s music. What we have with Curren$y is a mid-quality rapper getting above middling beats. Without weed, he’s Gudda Gudda (no Stevie Wonder).
BUT, I am going to concede this debate to you for that last argument you laid out. You’re right– at least in terms of Waka Flocka or Gucci or Lil B– we are willing to cut some rappers slack for being lyrically vacuous, due to their production. A lot of that has to do with the bonkers beats that these guys usually get–stuff that you could probably fart over and it would still move fists in the air–but I guess Smoke DZA saying “George Kush” in every available empty space is preferable to whatever Lil B’s “Ellen Degeneres” is really about.
But at the same time, it’s easier to like the idiot savant act of Gucci Mane than it is to get excited about Jackie Chain’s latest opus about good bud. So, to answer the original query: Why can’t we respect weed rappers? Because hating them is easier.