From the songs of the 60s and 70s to hip-hop, pop, jazz and punk, the use of cannabis has its footprints across the world of music. Yet weed also holds a strong presence in film and even gaming. Our Arts staff assembled this diverse list of our favorite music, movies and more that come to mind when we think about the intersection of art and cannabis.
“Dummy” by Portishead — Kai W. Li
Portishead’s seminal trip-hop record “Dummy” is so redolent of haze and quiet hallucination that I can only listen to it totally intoxicated and out of my element — as if I’m letting Beth Gibbons herself whisper and lull right into my head like a syringe pushing through blood. I have to remind myself sometimes that this record is from 1994. It feels suspended in time and still crawls around in some remote part of my memory. Every track feels motored by vague, constant pulses. Gibbons’ voice is wispy and diaphanous, like a curtain. Guitars moan behind distortions. This is what I suspect it feels like to watch the world from beneath a cold membrane, slightly numb, slightly dissociated. It’s why the heartbreak and sadness in this record doesn’t feel sentimental but rather ruptures beneath you, swallowing you up.
“The Process of Weeding Out” by Black Flag — Drake White-Bergey
“The Process of Weeding Out” by Black Flag is the best and most complete realization of Greg Ginn’s atonal, dissonant and freeform guitar work.
Ginn’s free-jazz guitar drives the album home. For 27 minutes, Greg Ginn seems to lose control over his guitar. Instead, any sense of rhythm or melody is replaced by complete and utter chaos.
The thing is — the complete and utter chaos works.
Ginn proves on “The Process of Weeding Out” that he is a master of freeform jazz. In fact, this EP may be the best punk-jazz hybrid to ever exist. It’s the culmination of Black Flag’s experimentation with jazz, and nothing that has come after it has surpassed the expectations set by it. Not to mention that the title of the EP is a reference to the massive amounts of weed that Ginn was smoking at this point in his career.
“The Big Lebowski” directed by Ethan and Joel Coen — Shu Lan Schaut
For years, audiences have lauded The Big Lebowski — a chaotic, loosely strewn together plot highlighted by psychedelic dream sequences, idiosyncratic characters and dark comedy — as a cult classic.
The movie tells the story of stoner Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, his urine-stained rug and a case of a mistaken identity between him and philanthropist Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski. The subsequent wild, drug-infused ride around seedy Los Angeles has entertained viewers for decades with its variety of eccentric characters, including pornstar kingpins and German nihilists.
It’s hard to characterize “The Big Lebowski” as anything in particular; it is both insignificant and everything all at once: A cultural phenomenon. A religion. A lifestyle. Yet “The Big Lebowski” immortalized The Dude as he has inspired generations of fans to take a step back, relax and abide.
“Substance Abuse” by Smoke DZA — Seamus Rohrer
In 2009, Smoke DZA penned perhaps the best tribute to weed in three minutes and 30 seconds. “Substance Abuse” warps a Jackson 5 sample into a funky, hazed out love letter to Lucifer's lettuce. It’s easily one of the greatest weed rap songs of all time. For proof, look no further than the following lyrics:
“Magic dragon, cause all I do is puff.”
“Shit I’m so high, what the fuck I seen a moon man.”
“Barak Oskama come smoke with the homies.”
“And I admit I do have a problem.”
“Hieroglyph, light more piff.”
“I roll Louisville sluggers, n– batter up.”
“Endtroducing” by DJ Shadow — Kai W. Li
DJ Shadow’s 1996 instrumental hip-hop record punches and batters you forward like a locomotive with its internal rhythm. Certain tracks like “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” and “Midnight in a Perfect World” feel almost occultish and hauntingly beautiful. I catch myself spinning in the center of their sound — spellbound and vulnerable.
DJ Shadow’s production sounds like it’s constantly on the fringe of embodying hip-hop — prodding it, electrifying it, tapping it from a nostalgic or tributary remove. Part of the record’s sound has aged a little, but it’s probably the reason why I’m even listening to it at all. It’s like I’m digging through aisles and aisles of music in the record store, nodding to myself, ready to head home to smoke and put on a timeworn monument of the past.
“Mellow Gold” by Beck— Ace Filter
You may have heard of Beck’s signature song “Loser,” but the artist has much more to offer than lyrics chanting about putting himself down (which was caught during an outtake and turned into the signature lyrics of “one of the greatest songs of all time”). His album “Mellow Gold” is a trip and a half for listeners. Beck himself described the vibes of the album using words such as “satanic” and added that “someone tried to smoke it.” Sounds perfect for an album to get high to.
The dissociation that comes with listening to this album is twofold for me. The songs themselves carry such an air of laxness that ranges from slow-swaying “Blackhole” to absolute ear-destroying, brain-twisting “Analog Odyssey.” Whether you’re looking for a song fit for sitting back and chilling or something to drive your eyes back into your head, “Mellow Gold” has got it.
“Marijuana” by Kid Cudi — Matthew Neschis
Kid Cudi — the self-proclaimed “lonely stoner” — was quite blunt when titling his 2010 ode to cannabis.
The track “Marijuana,” which fittingly lasts four minutes and 20 seconds, expresses Cudi’s complex relationship with the devil’s lettuce and his inability to resist the pretty green bud’s temptations. A hushed, euphonious chorus is seamlessly juxtaposed with a guitar solo by Dot da Genius, launching listeners into a trancelike state they’re unable to break away from until Cudi utters the words “and 4:20” at the song's end.
The music video, shot and directed by Shia LaBeouf, follows Cudi as he traverses Amsterdam exploring the city’s abundant assortment of weed. Shortly after serving as a judge for the High Times’ Cannabis Cup, Cudi visits a coffee shop, lights up in his hotel room and roams the red-light district. The entire video is shot on LaBeouf’s 8mm and 16mm cameras, providing a vintage aesthetic.
“One Toke Over the Line” by Brewer & Shipley — Sylvia Miller
Brewer & Shipley's 1970s hit "One Toke Over the Line" features the joys of marijuana use in an upbeat tune. This song was born and gained popularity in the early 1970s, an era of anti-war protest in the shape of declarations of “peace and love” and the accompanying marijuana use. The relatable song possesses an upbeat, fun melody that instills an unrelenting desire to dance along.
The chorus sings, "I want to be one toke over the line, sweet Jesus, one toke over the line," as a proclamation that they want to be past that threshold.
The phrase "one toke over the line" references the experience of taking one too many hits or "tokes" and — becoming just a bit too stoned to function.
A scene from “That 70s Show” comes to mind. What happens when Mr. and Mrs. Forman go to sleep and the camera circles the room, featuring each character's face and laughter in Eric's basement? The group has succumbed to the joys of marijuana, and perhaps the best giggles come when they are "One Toke Over the Line."
“Everything” by David OReilly — Jeffrey Brown
When I think of playing video games in a chemically-affected mental state, I think of “Everything.”
The first thing to understand is that there is no goal in this game. The player starts as a sheep that can roll in any direction. Soon they are taught how to create a herd if they choose. When they have assembled a large enough herd, they can make the animals dance around in entrancing patterns with the press of a button.
The player can also switch to being any creature or object they come across in their aimless wanderings, with those options getting both very large and very small. For example, you can choose to go from being a sheep to a tree, to a boulder, to an island, and eventually all the way up to being a planet. Or you can go the opposite way and work through the insect world to the microscopic and even down to the atomic.
If that doesn’t sound stoner-y enough, all the while there are audio clips the player can choose to listen to. These are snippets of what seems to be a man with a British accent giving a lecture on the meaning of life and the nature of existence.
Jeffrey Brown is a former Arts Editor for the Daily Cardinal. He writes for The Beet occasionally and does some drawing and photography too. He is a senior majoring in Sociology. Do not feed him after midnight.
Drake White-Bergey is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal. Before becoming editor-in-chief, Drake was the photo editor of The Daily Cardinal. You can follow him on Instagram at @whitebergey.photography and on Twitter at @DWhiteBergey.
Kai W. Li is an Arts Editor at The Daily Cardinal covering music, visual arts, and film. Follow him on Twitter at @kaijuneli.