By Jeff Klingman, theBluntness Feature Writer
Billowing clouds of weed smoke have been an iconic image in rap songs and videos for decades, so it’s no surprise to see rappers ushing to use their celebrity and expertise to gain a foothold in the cannabis industry. Signature strains and branded vape pens are becoming as common as tour t-shirts for many hip-hop stars. And a niche industry of cannabis growers and savvy marketers are springing up to get in business with entrepreneurial artists.
Here are five emcees who’ve struck gold moonlighting in marijuana.
1. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg belongs on the heavy-lidded Mount Rushmore of mainstream celebrities most closely tied to weed (alongside Willie Nelson, Tommy Chong, and Seth Rogen). It makes sense then that the veteran Long Beach rapper would be among the first big names to leverage his image towards cannabiz. Snoop’s moves go far beyond signature strain partnerships with independent cultivators. He’s a media player, co-founding the pot culture site Merry Jane in 2015. He’s also the co-founder of Casa Verde Capital, a venture firm focused on funding projects in the cannabis ancillary market. So far they’ve invested in a varied suite of companies including the vape hardware startup Green Tank Technologies, and the B2B software, LeafLink. Casa Verde drummed up $45 million in initial investment themselves this spring, and look poised to be a major player in the industry going forward.
2. Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa is working on becoming the weed icon of the next generation. The Pittsburgh rapper named his hit 2011 record Rolling Papers and released its sequel, Rolling Papers 2, last year. Getting involved on the business end of cannabis was only a matter of time, if only to offset the $10 grand he infamously claimed to drop on weed each month. Khalifa developed a signature strain, Khalifa Kush, with Colorado’s RiverRock Cannabis and has since expanded its availability to California dispensaries. He’s got a licensing partnership with Raw brand rolling papers for a signature line of paraphernalia, and a virtual grow game called Weed Farm on Apple’s App store. Shrewdly, he’s produced a wide swath of tour merch themed specifically to the stoners, moving hoodies with custom pouches and “420 kits” directly to his fans at every show.
Signed to Khalifa’s record label, and having released 16 albums that gained some traction on the lower rungs of the Billboard charts, California rapper Berner’s music career has been far from a bust. But unlike other artists on this list, he’s better known for his brands than his beats. He’s credited with creating the well-known “Girl Scout Cookies” weed strain, and spun that into Cookies, a wide-ranging cannabis and accessories brand. He owns California dispensaries, sells custom smell-proof backpacks, and has invested in ancillary firms and vape pen manufacturers. He’s He also owns HempH20 water, a CBD-infused drink line that’s been stocked in big middle-American chains like Target and Costco. Across the board, Berner’s brands are estimated to take in around $10 million each year.
Cypress Hill released “Legalize It” over 25 years ago, well ahead of the adult use wave currently sweeping the U.S. So some found it a little ironic when group member B-Real voiced strong opposition to California’s Prop. 64 at its 2016 referendum, fearing it to be a subtly disguised corporate giveaway. In the two years since, the rapper’s come around. He opened his upscale Dr. Greenthumb dispensary in L.A.’s San Fernando valley last summer, as a brick and mortar HQ for a full range of proprietary products. As rules across California continue to loosen, he’s plotting a move into weed cafes and adult-use lounges.
5. 2 Chainz
Atlanta’s 2 Chainz is one of the newest hip-hop stars turned cannabis start-up founders. A partnership with L.A.’s experienced creative agency to the cannabis stars, Green Street, and Mazel Management Group, owners of Van Nuys’ Westside Station dispensary, resulted in the launch of Gas Cannabis Co. last fall. Gas produces plant packs and pre-rolled joints in three different strains so far, with plans to expand quickly into edibles, concentrates, and topicals.
For a few rappers turned bud business moguls, a visible sideline in legal weed has brought on unexpected complication.
Earnings generated by The Game’s profitable marijuana investment fund, Trees by Game, are being sought by Priscilla Rainey, owed $7 million in damages on a sexual harassment suit settlement. He’s also been named in a class action fraud suit, tied to his role in promoting a cryptocurrency company that claimed to be a solve the cannabis industry’s banking woes.
Xzibit’s Brass Knuckles brand hit multiple snags in 2018. They were hit with a class action lawsuit claiming pesticide contamination and misrepresentation of THC strength in their vape pens, and for alleged breach of contract by some initial investors in the company. (The latter filing did set the value of the company at $170 million, though, suggesting robust profits to date.)
The old hip-hop wisdom about more money leading to more problems springs suddenly to mind.
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