April 6, 2011


Wiz Kid

Kid Cudi made a shocking announcement on April 1 on his Tumblr page: The rapper, whose new single is “Marijuana,” declared he is giving up... marijuana.

This was no April Fool’s prank. “This is not a joke. I know most of you wanna see me all drugged out and f---ed up and I know misery loves company, but I’m sorry those days are over,” he declared. Following an arrest last year for possession of cocaine, this seemed to be a mature career move for the emergent suburban rhymer. That same day, Wiz Khalifa—Cudi’s successful hip hop peer—made his own announcement on Twitter about weed: “when u live this life, sometimes u wake up juss to smoke n go back to sleep.”

Khalifa, too, has been arrested on drug charges—police allegedly discovered two-plus ounces of marijuana on his bus, after a North Carolina stop on his Waken Baken Tour. (That the authorities said they smelled "a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the bus and the backstage area of the auditorium” is almost comical.) His arrest was cute—of course he got busted for weed! His first tweet upon release was even cuter: “waken...baken...wrist still achin. thnx for tha love and support.” But while this response may at first seem glib, it merely underscores the idea that a considerable amount of the Wiz kid’s success—his current single “No Sleep,” about getting high all night, just debuted at No. 6—hinges on his rep as a stoner.

Here are three ways that the 23-year-old rapper is fast becoming a power stoner:

The best branding is repetitive branding.

The rapper is nothing but singular in cultivating his “image.” In addition to naming his album Rolling Papers, Khalifa released his own brand of rolling papers. The CD’s theme: joint-rolling as metaphor for contract-signing. His breakout song, “Black and Yellow”: It’s about his hometown of Pittsburgh, their football team, The Steelers… and herb. His first tweet of every morning: about pot. His career-changing mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice, named after a strain of weed.

If this just seems like a goofy knack for punning, think again—it’s self-marketing. Of his record deal with Atlantic (after a split with Warner Bros.), he told The Washington Post, “I have complete control, creative control over the album. I pick my singles. I pick my packaging. I pick what I’m gonna wear, say what the [bleep] I wanna say. I’m gonna do what I wanna do. And it’s not even a rebellion type of thing. They’re like, ‘Do what you want to do!’ Because they see I’ve built that trust up.” Tellingly, he turned down a spot opening for squeaky-clean Drake to tour with fellow stoner-rapper Yelawolf.

Everyone loves a stoner.

With the proliferation of dispensaries and more mainstream legalization movements, smoking weed is no longer the marker of outré culture. If anything, the drug’s associations—see The Pineapple Express, Harold & Kumar—are resoundingly benign and middle-class. Khalifa’s avowed allegiance to the goofy stoner lifestyle actually makes him more cross-marketable to suburban listeners (who historically help rap stars like Eminem and Drake crossover into pop stars).

What’s also helping: his fan-loving image, joie de vivre, and clean criminal record, less that one pot bust. Khalifa’s fanbase—cultivated through his Twitter account (boasting 1.4 million followers and counting) and that Steelers Super Bowl drive—is diverse, and it’s legion. His upbeat, hook-laden music, in kind, shoe-horns nicely into the Dr. Luke-dominated pop landscape. The rhymer’s second single, the upbeat, sing-songy “Roll Up,” for instance, is a summery anthem that could very well slow-burn up the charts for months to come.

It's important to respect your elders.

Snoop Dogg, hip hop’s reigning Godfather of Ganja, wasn’t always fuzzy and loveable. A murder trial in 1993 and later, drama with Death Row Records honcho Suge Knight gave him a menacing edge. Forbes cites his self-parodying Chrysler “shizzle” commercial as a turning point for the rapper. Since then, he’s reinvented himself as a loveably easygoing dad with whom even Martha Stewart doesn’t mind chillin’.

In an industry rife with beefs, Wiz’s most deft maneuver may be associating with Snoop, who’s parlayed his high life into a $15 million a year mini-empire. His sensei’s advice? “He just always told me to stick to what I know, 'cause I know myself the best,” Wiz told MTV News. “And [he told me to] boss up in every opportunity that I get.”

Their Meth & Red-esque alliance has started with the collaborations “That Good” and “This Weed Iz Mine,” a spoof of the 1998 fake-rivalry track “The Boy Is Mine,” as crooned in tandem by Monica and Brandy.

Featuring lyrics like “A sack full of OG under lock and key / None for the homies, this is all for me,” “Weed” became blogger catnip upon its drop. The track is from Snoop and Wiz's forthcoming buddy movie Mac & Devin Go to High School, presumably about their adventures in toking. Is this the start of a mighty Stoner Voltron? Hey, that $10,000 a month smoking tab don’t pay for itself…