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A History for the Blunted: How Weed Culture Evolved Through Hip-Hop

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In 1989, scientists concluded that 1988 was the hottest year yet recorded in human history and panicked about the “Greenhouse Effect” that was contributing to global warming. Simultaneously, a different kind of green revolution was beginning to be stoked in hip-hop. During that historically searing spring and summer, a fleet of seminal, groundbreaking albums was released – this included, but was not limited to, Run-D.M.C.’s Tougher Than Leather, EPMD’s Strictly Business, Public Enemy‘s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Eric B. & Rakim‘s Follow the Leader, Salt-n-Pepa’s A Salt With a Deadly Pepa, 2 Live Crew’s Move Somethin’, Ice-T’s Power, and both Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It and N.W.A‘s Straight Outta Compton; that’s a short list limited to just a few months. This slew of albums did more than produce hits, it was possibly the strongest display yet of how hip-hop was influencing fashion, pop culture, politics, and even slang.

The tone of these summer jams ranged from hyper irreverent to hyper political, fit for clubs, cars, or headphone contemplation. But unlike the climate of today’s rap, there’s a topic missing from each of these albums: smoking marijuana. This was a pre-Chronic world where crack was still an epidemic, a world in which Ice-T (who had been one of the first rappers to brand himself as a former hustler) and several others released singles laced with explicitly anti-drug lyrics. Arguably the most important album released that year was Straight Outta Compton, and the project’s third single, though not released until 1989, was “Express Yourself,” a pivot towards abstinence for the otherwise confrontational group.