Inside Jay-Z's Weed Lab - SolidRumor.com

Inside Jay-Z’s Weed Lab

 Inside Jay-Z's Weed Lab

Jay-Z’s brand, of course, is all business: the elder statesman mogul. Or, as Michael Eric Dyson writes in Jay-Z: Made in America: “He doesn’t simply hustle, but hustles the story of hustling, and thereby engages in a kind of meta-hustling. Jay tells a story that celebrates its own narrative as the manifestation of hustling.” More than 10,000 businesses have launched since California legalized weed in 2016, and the California pot industry is projected to be worth $4 billion by 2025. New York will be even bigger, projected at $7 billion for that same year. As we enter this golden age of legal cannabiz, it’s hardly surprising that Jay-Z wants a piece of it.

Given all that, it makes sense that Monogram’s marketing emphasizes its luxury, just as Ace of Spades, Jay-Z’s champagne brand which was recently purchased by LVMH, sells at astronomical prices. Along with the $50 “OG Handroll”–a hefty joint stuffed with 1.5 grams of top-shelf cannabis–the brand also carries packs of pre-rolls and jars of flowers, all packaged in minimalist black boxes embossed with Monogram’s name in relief.

While other weed brands often label their jars with the names of strains and THC percentages, Monogram’s products don’t even say if they are an indica, sativa, or hybrid. Instead, they’re labeled as “Light,” “Medium” or “Heavy,” while strains are identified with numbers as if they were perfumes—No. 88 is sweet and spicy, while No. 03 has notes of grape, diesel, and mint. This simplified system has led to weed media sniffing that Monogram isn’t for “true players” but rather “mainstream Grammy-watchers,” while acknowledging that its strains do “earn the throne.”

Courtesy of Justin Chung for Monogram

Courtesy of Justin Chung for Monogram

My tour finally ends in a room where two young women are sitting at a long table, rolling the weed cigars by hand while a radio next to them plays pop tunes. In contrast to all the sterile factory machinery we’ve just walked past, it’s a far more intimate and cheerful scene. Yet, this is the part where I have to confess that, when I was first given the OG Handroll to try out at home, the joint looked lumpy and kept going out on its own—I couldn’t get it to stay burning for more than a few seconds.

Courtesy of Justin Chung for Monogram

When I tell De about this, his eyes light up. “That’s the point!” he thunders. The OG Handroll, he explains, has been engineered to behave differently than the standard factory-produced, cone-shaped joints. Instead, the rolling papers are individually crinkled by hand so that they burn evenly—which he says is an old stoner trick—then rolled with quality buds the size of mini-pearls instead of ground into powder form. This allows the OG Handroll to be a drawn out, unhurried experience as you burn it, let it go out, then pick it up and light it again. “It’s not a cigarette. You gotta get the vibe and let it sit,” he explains. “You can even put it back in the tube and go to the club.” I realized that what I assumed was a defect in fact exemplified Monogram’s vision of turning underground stoner culture into an upmarket luxury.

Courtesy of Justin Chung for Monogram

Courtesy of Justin Chung for Monogram

A persistent quandary facing the weed industry revolves around whether its racist history will be corrected—or perpetuated—by legalization. Less than 5% of cannabis businesses are Black-owned, a 2017 survey found, and equity programs have sometimes yielded the opposite effect, hurting communities of color. Jay-Z, who came of age during the crack epidemic and War on Drugs, is a drug-dealer-turned-mogul whose hustle towards the American Dream beat the system designed against him. Similarly, De’s grandparents were cannabis farmers in the Emerald Triangle, and he grew up selling weed to his friends in South Central, Los Angeles. Cannabis was just a vehicle, he says, that allowed him to send his kids to college and start multiple businesses (he owns a smoke shop, and is about to open an acai bowl restaurant in LA). Now, they both want to not just beat the game, but redefine it.

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