In the 1990's a pervasive force was stirring up a global discussion about the role cannabis plays in recreation, medication, art, and relationships: hip-hop. The popularity of hip hop is undeniable—today, it is the most heavily consumed music genre. Most hip-hop heads would agree that the 90’s was the genre’s Golden Age. Hip hop was often intertwined with cannabis—both began as subcultures in this country, both have been vilified, and both remain extraordinarily popular with consumers. Here are some of the best songs of the decade that showcase the relationship between cannabis and hip-hop music.
The Pharcyde—“Pack the Pipe” (1992)
The grungy beat moves at a slow but steady pace, mimicking the lifestyle of constant smoking Pharcyde depicts in this tribute to weed. The lyrics are unapologetically pro-canna—the third verse describes a controversial situation where the MC chooses to expose a 4-year-old boy to weed rather than hide it from him: “He's lookin' through the window, yo why we tryin' to hide it?/ To make a boy grow to be ignorant and misguided/ About the bud!? Now I have to play the part of the adviser/ Because the bud is just the tasty tantalizer/ The bud not the beer 'cause the bud makes me wiser.”
Gang Starr—“Take Two and Pass” (1992)
This entire song appreciates the way cannabis enhances social interactions and life in general. In the last verse of the song, the MC chips away at the stigma of cannabis by emphasizing its consumption as a normal part of his lifestyle: “Even in the morning like the flavor of juice/ A blunt adds spice and a blunt can spruce/ Up your day, but I’m not advertising just telling/ Of aspect of a part of our lives/ And around the way there ain’t no shame in our game/ Cause the fame is no thang, we get together and hang.”
A smooth track from the southern rap group’s album southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, this song is a reminder that “there’s only so much time left in this crazy world.” The lyrics make it clear that in a community rife with violence, fear, and tragedy, cannabis is a temporary reprieve from the chaos rather than an exacerbating factor of it.
Cypress Hill—“Everybody Must Get Stoned” (1995)
A slick beat sits beneath lyrics that celebrate communal smoking and the joys of getting “high with a little help from my friends.” Cypress Hill brings listeners right into his session with relatable and comedic lines like “You right in front of me, I can’t see ya/ I’m blind and faded and I get the G-rock,” and “Peace to the n***** in all the Budha spots/ slangin’ fat bags o’ weed and runnin’ from the cops.”
Channel Live Ft. KRS One—“Mad Izm” (1995)
The song that added “izm” to the cannabis lexicon, “Mad Izm” commemorates the marriage between creative thought, music, and cannabis. The second verse is famous for these two canna-praising lines: “Wake up in the morning got the yearnin’ for herb/ Which loosens up the nouns, metaphors, and verbs.” The music video also ties together the communal nature of both hip-hop and pot smoking—the former finding life in the cypher, often accompanied by the latter’s inspiration.
Method Man and Redman—“How High” (1995)
With the memorable line “how high, so high that I can kiss the sky/ how sick, so sick that you can suck my dick,” it’s clear that this song is—in typical Method Man and Redman form—an act of resistance. In the music video, it appears that a cop is surveilling Method Man and Redman because of their pot use when you realize that he is actually using his binoculars to leer at street women—one of whom he invites into his car. The song and video emphasize the division between police and their communities and the absurdity of cannabis prohibition.
Scarface—“Mary Jane” (1997)
This romantic ode to marijuana pays homage to the plant’s therapeutic attributes in a way that is surprisingly vulnerable. Scarface’s lyrics make it clear that his mental health is not always well, but he uses cannabis to alleviate the stresses and pains of life: “When my situation’s lookin’ sad I know I got/ A true friend in my time of need—all I need/ You’re natural, you come from seeds—I decree/ Makes me happy when I’m feelin’ pain/ Once again makes me happy just to hear your name/ Do your thang Mary Jane.” In an attempt to show the soothing and comforting effect of cannabis, the music video uses women as a symbol of weed’s role in a man’s life. The imagery emphasizes the plant’s gentle nature and tendency to become more than just a form of recreation, but an essential part of someone’s life.