The 1990s were a time marked by socioeconomic challenges, racial tensions, and the crack epidemic battled by the United States government’s War on Drugs. Enter hip hop and cannabis, two avenues of escape from the realities of life in the U.S. in the 90s. This time period led to, particularly in younger generations, a move towards counterculture and rebellious tendencies as a means to protest their distaste for the country’s social and economic climate.
Hip hop and cannabis were there when the people needed them most, rising from counterculture to mainstream as the decades have passed since.
The Rise of Hip Hop in the 90s
The 1990s saw the emergence of hip hop greats like Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg, and Warren G. The 90’s witnessed the emergence of a vibrant hip hop culture that influenced not only music but also fashion, language, and social movements.
Hip hop gained widespread popularity and commercial success, reaching mainstream audiences like never before. Baggy clothing, oversized jerseys, sneakers, and gold chains became iconic fashion statements associated with hip hop. While the distinct language and slang used in hip hop lyrics found their way into mainstream vernacular, influencing popular culture.
The Cultural Impact of Cannabis
The criminalization of cannabis in the United States and the subsequent War on Drugs had a profound impact on marginalized communities, particularly African Americans and Latinos. The policies implemented during this period contributed to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates, further perpetuating systemic inequalities.
Despite legal restrictions and the criminalization of cannabis, the 90’s saw a surge in consumption, particularly among young people looking to rebel against a social climate they didn’t approve of. The cultural shifts and changing attitudes toward marijuana set the stage for its integration into the hip hop scene.
Early Connections: Hip Hop and Cannabis
Cannabis and hip hop go together like peanut butter and jelly. Hip hop artists often used cannabis as a symbol of defiance against societal norms and political oppression. It became a tool for self-expression and a means to challenge authority.
Music videos and album art became powerful outlets for showcasing cannabis culture. Imagery portrayed cannabis consumption as a central element of the hip hop lifestyle, reinforcing its association with the genre. Hip hop artists like Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill began embracing cannabis as part of their public image, helping to bring both into the mainstream.
Hip Hop Lyrics and Cannabis References
Hip hop songs in the 90s used cannabis references in lyrics all the time. Take, for example, Cypress Hill’s 1993 track “Hits From the Bong” off their second studio album Black Sunday. A song that basically provides instructions on how to hit a bong, Cypress Hill loves their weed, and it shows in many more of their tracks. Their music showcased a deep-rooted connection to cannabis, and they actively campaigned for its legalization, using their platform to raise awareness and promote change.
Snoop Dogg, arguably the most famous rapper for loving cannabis, started turning himself into the cannabis and hip hop icon that he is today in the 1990s with songs like “Gin and Juice” off his first studio album Doggystyle. Many more hip hop artists also began to associate themselves with cannabis in the 90s as part of their everyday lives and in their song lyrics as a means to reach a younger generation of fans and others who loved cannabis.
Here are other notable lyrics from the 90s:
“Legalize it, and I will advertise it”– The Message – Dr. Dre feat. Ice Cube
“Pass me the zig-zag, let me roll up my chronic”– California Love – 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre
“Rollin’ the marijuana spliff, keepin’ my cypher complete”– Protect Ya Neck – Wu-Tang Clan
“And all I need is some weed and some Hennessy”– Regulate – Warren G feat. Nate Dogg
“Pass the weed and let’s get high”– Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg
“Smokin’ mad blunts, with my crew from the Hill”– How I Could Just Kill a Man – Cypress Hill
Cannabis and Hip Hop Fashion
For many hip hop artists, embracing cannabis culture was seen as a way to establish authenticity and credibility within the community. It became a marker of street culture and rebellion. Hip hop fashion and style embraced cannabis-related symbols and aesthetics. Clothing lines and accessories incorporated cannabis leaf motifs, further solidifying its presence in the culture.
Underground Mixtapes and Cannabis Culture
Mixtapes in the 90s served a variety of purposes, but one, in particular, was to create a collection of hip hop songs with similar thematic elements present in the artists’ lyrics. DJs, fans, and even artists themselves took this unique opportunity that mixtapes provided and compiled tracks featuring a host of common references to cannabis and other cultural topics.
St. Ides ‘94 Mixtape
St. Ides ‘94 cassette mixtape is a great example of compiling a tracklist with lyrics centered around a specific subject matter from various popular artists at the time.
- Snoop Doggy Dogg – St. Ides In The LBC
- Warren G – When We Sippin’ On Tha Brew
- Nate Dogg – Drank Anthem
- MC Eiht – The Brew Took Me Unda
- Scarface (3) – Drankin Toon
- Wu-Tang Clan – Shaolin Brew
- Snoop Doggy Dogg – Dogg Food ‘n’ Drank
- Ice Cube – Crooked | For All Ages
Imagine sipping on a St. Ides malt liquor, puffing a jay, blasting this mixtape while perched on the stoop with your friends. It was iconic, limited, a very intimate and powerful moment where St. Ides captured the culture so perfectly.
Cannabis in Hip Hop Films and Documentaries
The integration of cannabis into hip hop culture influenced mainstream media and popular culture, shaping attitudes and perceptions towards marijuana in society at large. Movies like Friday, starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, were full of cannabis references furthering the reach of cannabis and hip hop cultures. Documentaries like The Show and Rhyme and Reason, while not specifically centered around cannabis, covered hip hop and its connection to the plant. These films and others were stewards of cannabis and hip hop culture, becoming a part of popular culture.
The West Coast Connection: G-Funk and Cannabis
G-funk and cannabis are deeply intertwined, as G-funk, a subgenre of West Coast hip hop, often embraced and celebrated the cannabis culture. This west coast style of hip hop emerged in the early 1990s, with artists such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G at the forefront. G-funk is characterized by its smooth and melodic sound. This sonic landscape creates a relaxed and atmospheric vibe that resonates with the mellow and euphoric effects associated with cannabis consumption. The laid-back and carefree attitude of G-funk resonated with audiences and contributed to the mainstream acceptance and integration of cannabis culture.
East Coast vs. West Coast: Different Perspectives on Cannabis
East Coast and West Coast cannabis cultures have distinct characteristics reflecting regional differences in attitudes, history, and influences. East Coast hip hop, particularly during the 1990s, often focused on social and political commentary, reflecting the realities of urban life.
While cannabis references were present, they were not always as prominent as in West Coast hip hop. Cannabis references were often used more subtly, as a form of escape or coping mechanism within the broader context of the artists’ narratives. West Coast hip hop, particularly during the 1990s, embraced a more carefree and laid-back image. It celebrated the California lifestyle, with cannabis being a prominent aspect of that representation. West Coast artists often incorporated cannabis references more prominently in their lyrics and visuals.
Cannabis Today: Evolving Narratives in Hip Hop
To this day, cannabis and hip hop continue to go hand in hand. More music artists feel comfortable sharing their love for cannabis through their music and impact on popular culture trends. Thanks to the groundwork done by hip hop icons from the 90s, we have seen cannabis’ presence in music last through the decades since.
Today cannabis is legal in many states and has only become more prevalent in hip hop and rap music. Artists like Wiz Khalifa and Berner have their own strains and cannabis products. Berner, the founder of Cookies Co., has made a name for himself in both industries helping to further the acceptance and integration of cannabis into popular culture.
Conclusion: Celebrating the Cultural Fusion
The connection between cannabis and 1990s hip hop music and culture was a multifaceted and dynamic relationship. Cannabis served as a symbol of rebellion, coping mechanism, and celebration within the hip hop community, while hip hop artists played a significant role in advocating for cannabis legalization and challenging the negative stigma surrounding it. To this day the fusion of these two cultures continues to influence the mainstream making them both more accepted than ever with no stop in sight.