Schoolly D was the first rapper to rhyme about weed. He thinks so. We think so.
Maybe someone can prove us wrong, but we’re pretty certain.
Growing up in West Philly in the early 1980’s, Schoolly, born Jesse Weaver, smoked a ton of it.
The West Philly native spoke of what he often called “cheeba” on most of the cuts of his classic “Saturday Night: The Album” and a later LP called “Smoke Some Kill.
Dan Gross recently sat down with Schoolly D to talk about how he got into smoking weed, his stance nowadays and his reaction when the same mainstream radio stations that refused to air his drug-referencing rhymes later blasted Cypress Hill from coast to coast.
Do you feel you’re a part of weed culture? As far as I’m concerned you were the first rapper to talk about smoking weed.
I was. It wasn’t so much a culture, it’s just where I came from that’s what everybody just did. I came from a big family, I was the youngest boy and to me it was about an opportunity. In junior high people wanna smoke weed. If you buy a nickel bag and you roll 10 joints and you go in the bathroom and sell them each for $2 by the end of the week you got like $20 and you’re 13. That’s what everybody was doing.
52nd & Parkside was a middle class black and Jewish neighborhood, but people had jobs, then the jobs dried up. Then everybody turned to selling drugs. I never became an official drug dealer and I never wanted to do that. To me it was profitable if I could make some money buy some sneakers, get some food, go to the movies and smoke some weed.
When weed got really bad then crack came on. In 30 days, 13 of my friends were crackheads. There was nobody left in the crew. This was 1985, or 86/87 86, 87.
But you stopped smoking at one point, right?
I have asthma when I started touring overseas I was losing my breath and I’m like 22. Doctor told me you gotta give up smoking weed, drinking beer and eating beef. All three of them were fucking me up. I really don’t miss smoking weed all the time. I’ve been to Colorado more than a few times, people offering all kinda stuff.
I’m going to be 55. I perform better than I did when I was 25. We was so fucking high all the time, I don’t even think I could make it past three songs in 1984. Who could? Nobody.
In the studio it was sex, drugs and rock n’ roll for me. You went into the recording studio people got a joint you hit the joint and go record. When I performed it was authentic, but as the years went on I couldn’t perform anywhere near alcohol or weed cause it just doesn’t work for me.
The only time I ever think about it is when I’m listening to Funkadelic, the “Westbound era” The music they make today is not conducive to smoking weed. When we was coming up the weed just kinda made you relax and see purple shit. The music will tell you that.
You get respect, but not so much of the mainstream exposure of many of your hip-hop peers.
I never did a lot of videos. I never did a lot of radio edits. They didn’t want to play “Smoke Some Kill” and I couldn’t even fathom. Then a few years later Cypress Hill comes out and it’s all they doing “Hand on the pump, puffin’ on a blunt,” I was like “Are you fucking kidding me?” Someone explained to me you’re too believable, other cats seem like comedy, it’s Hollywood. You are too authentic. Being from Philadelphia there’s a certain realness that we all have. We scary.
Tell me about your memoir you’re writing.
It’s not a typical “See the ball, now go get it” story. My life was more complicated than that.
I wrote like 4 paragraphs to get it out of the way. This isn’t a story about gangs, the Parkside Killers, my brother getting shot, my father fucking abusing me, this isn’t that kind of story. It’s about a little black boy who wanted to change the world. I couldn’t write it until I thought about getting that shit out there. I can tell the story about how 52nd and Parkside became one of the meccas of selling crack, talking about getting into music and learning to play when I was 7 or 8.
Ed Bradley, before he was on 60 Minutes, he was our vice principal at elementary school. Ed Bradley said “You kids need to change how people think about black people and little brown girls all over the world. I tried to take that seriously.”
What are you up to now?
Working on music, painting, sculpture, making furniture. All kinds of art. I’m heading off next year for a European tour tour of Abel Ferrara’s films I scored. I’m developing a cartoon series [Schoolly D scored the Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force for 14 years] I’m putting together a new live band, getting together some new recordings, gonna do some local shows.