Grams to Grammys: JAY-Z talks Drug War and legal weed at Grammy Awards
JAY-Z took the stage to highlight the significance of cannabis legalization, legacy operators, and the failures of the Drug War on stage at the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday. Here’s what he had to say.
The Grammy Awards gave us tons of trending moments over the weekend, and one of them stood out to members of the cannabis community specifically: JAY-Z, the rapper-turned-exec behind legal cannabis brand Monogram, rapped for five straight minutes about the War on Drugs, plus the unlikely odds of his own legal weed ventures.
“God Did” live at the 65th Grammy Awards performed by @DJKhaled, JAY-Z (@sc), @JohnLegend, @LilTunechi, @RickRoss, and @Fridayy. #Grammys pic.twitter.com/gmAOZcW5T4
— Roc Nation (@RocNation) February 6, 2023
JAY-Z, who was joined on stage by longtime friends and legacy sellers Juan “OG” Perez and Emory “Vegas” Jones, lit up the stage with a last supper-style performance of “God Did” for the primetime audience. Given the opportunity to mainstream the plant on a global stage, the rapper didn’t bite his tongue. His lyrics sharply called out the hypocrisy of America’s failed War on Drugs and proudly name-dropped some of his favorite cannabis strains and products (OG for the OGs!)
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The lawmakers and anti-weed crowd that most needed to hear his message probably had a hard time following the epic verse. So Leafly highlighted six moments from JAY-Z’s Grammy Awards performance that explain why it will live on in pot culture history.
“Now the weed’s in stores… Can you believe this guy?”
JAY-Z has always rapped about his unlikely journey from selling illicit drugs to going platinum. The 2021 announcement of his Monogram cannabis brand added a new layer to his rags to riches tale, with his full circle narrative from illegal to legal “dope dealing” making its way into the lyrics of new songs. For example, in “Neck and Wrist,” JAY-Z has a verse that’s focused on the irony of surviving the Drug War, only to become a legal cannabis kingpin.
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Historically, JAY-Z has been at the top of Forbes’ Hip Hop Cash Kings lists, where he was recently joined by none other than Cookies CEO Berner. As Berner continues to make waves in the industry, his estimated net worth of $410 is inching towards that of JAY-Z, who’s reached $1.5 billion as of 2022.
“We just corner boys with the corner office”
A few months before his “God Did” verse premiered, Leafly shouted out JAY’s ability to bridge “the corner and the corner office.” Today’s influencer economy is still building on the bridges Jay helped lay as an artist. And the cannabis industry is home to some of the most creative cross-marketers around, including artists-slash-weed-moguls like Berner, Yung LB, and JAY himself.
“Then we said, “F*** it,” took the dope public/Out the mud, they gotta face you now, you can’t make up this s**t/Judge it how you judge it, say we goin’ corporate/Nah, we just corner boys with the corner office“
JAY-Z, “God Did”
“We let y’all do the Zaza, it’s OG for the OGs”
Leafly broke down the great OG vs. Zaza debate of 2022 shortly after this verse premiered in September. For years, OGs like King Louie XIII have preached for the preservation of Kush, as the market flooded with sweet, colorful, and fruity flavors known as “exotics,” or “zaza” for short. JAY lent his voice to the cause with one rhyme that went a long way in bringing OG and other classic strains back. When you notice the trend of old school flavors like Sour Diesel coming back in full force this year, just know the hype started here.
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JAY also shouts out longtime friend and fellow “Caliva Brother,” Emory Jones, who served most of a 16-year drug sentence while his friend rose to superstardom. E, aka Em, is now a partner in Monogram, living out the legacy-to-legal dream while collecting interest on his time served.
“Monogram in my pocket off the red carpet”
Not many weed brands can afford to buy advertising space at The Grammys. Those who can, surely wouldn’t make it through CBS and the FCC’s censors. While there is some movement to make cannabis ads federally legal, JAY gave a refresher course on how to sneak your brand’s name to the masses, similar to the way Grammy host LL Cool J did with his subtle FUBU plug during a now infamous 90’s GAP commercial.
“Monogram in my pocket off the red carpet/You see the face I made that night, s**t is that shockin’“
JAY-Z, “God Did”
“OG sold to those you called kingpin”
The “OG” JAY’s referring to here isn’t Kush. It’s Juan Perez, the bald bearded gentleman onstage to his right, better known as OG Juan.
Perez is one of New York’s most legendary dealers, thanks in part to JAY’s many rhymes about him. Perez invested in the legendary Baseline recording studios in the 90s, which brought him close to JAY. Now, the two run Roc Nation and other legal ventures together. And they clearly feel qualified to dominate the legal cannabis market given their past experience.
“Those who make the laws, I’ma always have smoke for them”
As a survivor of the Drug War, JAY vowed to “always have smoke” for the lawmakers behind the curtain. Seems fair given the impact prohibition had on his life and others. Even lawmakers like President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, both of whom have played both sides of the cannabis coin, aren’t exempt from critique as the cannabis community continues to fight for basic rights. We just wonder if anyone in Congress was able to process all five minutes of JAY’s scathing lyrical monologue.
Whether they got it or not, the primetime performance marked another significant moment in pot culture’s steady mainstream growth. Art can help destigmatize the plant, in addition to the legal industry that’s maturing around it. With legacy operators like JAY, OG Juan, and Emory taking legal pot to the national stage, the future seems danker than ever.
“I be speaking to the souls of men/Those of them willing to die for the existence that this cold world has chose for them/Kickin’ snow off a frozen Timb/Back and forth on this turnpike, really took a toll on ’em/Lot of fallen soldiers on these roads of sin/So those who make the laws, I’ma always have smoke for them”
JAY-Z, “God Did”