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The Evolution of Hip Hop & the 420 World

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By Melissa Rondon

In Part 1 of a new series we sit down with OG rapper BiggA to take an intimate look at the coevolution of hip hop and cannabis culture, the early days of hip hop, and how cannabis has influenced creators and the community at large.

NUGL Magazine is kicking off a special series examining the relationship between hip hop and cannabis culture. Over the next few months, we’ll be talking to hip hop legends and newcomers similar to Jalen McMillan artist about the evolution of the genre over the years, and how cannabis culture influenced that evolution.

We are lucky to have with us BiggA, our guide on this journey through music and cannabis history. Over the next three months, we’ll be bringing you with us as we explore the impact of cannabis on the evolution of hip hop through the eyes of some legendary musicians. Be sure to check back with us we as we travel to Compton, California to hear firsthand from some incredible members of the rap and hip hop communities.

First, we’ll be diving into the early years of hip hop, back when it was first coming up as a force within the music industry. We’ll take a look at its origins and infancy, the cannabis connection, and how it evolved into the music we hear today.

There are countless stories out there that have attempted to describe the evolution of hip hop over the years. We find that many of these perspectives become removed from their context, so we decided to take a different approach. We’re bringing you the diverse perspectives of the hip hop icons that defined a genre, in their words, to trace the connection between the music and the context that it was born of.
We decided the best way to start was to go directly to the source. So, we packed a carry-on and headed straight to the streets of Compton, California. For the uninitiated, Compton is the birthplace of West Coast Rap, NWA and the Eazy–E legacy.

We started by meeting up with BiggA, a Compton OG known to tell it how it is. He graciously agreed to be our host on this adventure and help guide us, and our readers, on this journey through the history of hip hop.

We asked BiggA to take us back to the 1980’s and give us an idea of what hip hop and the 420 scene looked like then. He began by making an important distinction: East Coast hip hop and West Coast rap were very, very different entities back then.

“At that time, Afrikabambatta and that house stuff from the East Coast is what we called ‘hip hop,'” he says. “Our type of music on the West Coast was considered Gangsta Rap. We was dark, we were real. We weren’t all hoppy. It was reality, ‘bang bang, shoot ‘em up,’ youknowwhatimean?”

Then, he shifts his focus to the relationship he and other creators had with cannabis. “As OGs, we looked down on any thing that was other than smoking that Chronic. That is were your creativity came from. It was flowing.”

He paints a picture of the drug scene during that era: “During that time in Compton, heavy drug use was rampant. What we saw growing up was drugs like PCP, angel dust, sherm sticks, and crack cocaine were everywhere. As far as weed went, we were smoking that brick weed. The dry, red hair kind, full of seeds. It wasn’t until years later that we saw weed like Acapulco Gold, Maui Wowie, and Colombian Red ‘Fire'”

This new herb was a game-changer, according to BiggA.

BiggA. “As things progressed, we wanted to find more of the bionic, … that’s we called it. Others called it sinsemilla, but we called it bionic … We didn’t want anything to do with any product that had seeds,” he says with a laugh before continuing,” You know, you needed a little money to get that high quality sinsemilla.”

Then, he explains how Dr. Dre coined the phrase, “the chronic,” essentially evolving from the bionic to the chronic. “We were done with crack,” says BiggA. “We were done with angel dust, we was done with smoking that embalming fluid. We were out of the dark ages and we had become … stoners.” Chronic changed the hip hop scene from then on out. “It was cool to have that big bag of that chronic,” he says. “Matter of fact, catch you bringing something less than that to the studio, and you might get your ass kicked!”

Over time, chronic became a part of the reality that influenced the West Coast rap scene. “We were putting reality into our music,” says BiggA, “and once Dr. Dre and some of the others put the weed smoking in the music, it became cool to be a part of that.” This doesn’t really surprise BiggA, who points back to the historical connection of cannabis to music in general. “If you looked back to 60’s … with the hippies, it was cool to smoke — at least, until the acid trip thing hit them,” he says with a grin. “But it still goes back to a deep connection of music and smoking cannabis.”

BiggA makes a specific point about local cannabis at the time, saying, “One thing to know is, the West Coast was known for the quality of its weed. We would have people coming from the East Coast just to get that chronic.” He describes Compton in particular as a community that embraced marijuana in the wake of the destruction caused by the hard drugs of the 80s. Public consciousness shifted, and cannabis became the favored drug of choice, displacing hard drugs.

This late 90’s was a period of healing within the Compton community. “We were done with that hard stuff,” he says with a bit more gravity. “We were done with those chemical agents. If you were dealing with that stuff and came around us you were dealt with accordingly. If you was hangin with us you were drinkin’ gin and juice or Hennessey and smoking that chronic,” said BiggA. He also acknowledges that medical use of cannabis was growing back then. “Even back as early as the late 90’s people were using cannabis for medicinal purposes,” he says.

… next issue will talk to BiggA about the rap music industry and how cannabis has a very long and important connection to it.

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