One aspect of cannabis that appeals to many users is its ability to create a sense of heightened awareness and focus. This increased mental acuity lends itself well to the appreciation and enjoyment of the arts, and music is no exception. But are there any genres that can be considered the best music for smoking weed?
To explore that question, High Times checked in with songwriter, musician, and visual artistDavid Russell Talbott, who employs marijuana to enhance the creative process. He also spent more than 15 years in the retail music trade, where he often saw pot’s influence on recorded music.
Talbott notes that jazz artists of the ‘20s and ‘30s were the first Americans creating weed music, and they suffered the wrath of pot prohibitionist Henry Anslinger because of it. Anslinger demonized jazz, minorities, and cannabis into a triple-threat jeopardizing traditional values.
In the early 1970s, weed smoking music took a larger stage as rock musicians came to appreciate the herb.
“The Beatles and the whole British Invasion was the start of mainstream artists getting involved with smoking marijuana, and it became apparent in the music they were writing,” said Talbott.
Louis Armstrong and other early jazz artists were the first to bring cannabis culture into American popular music. Their songs introduced the parlance of pot—terms like reefer, Mary Jane, muggles, and tea—into the vernacular. Later, artists such as John Coltrane also incorporated weed (and other drugs) into their music.
Talbott says that the Beatles’ best songs were written under the influence of marijuana, and can be found on albums including Rubber Soul, Magical Mystery Tour, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar and its distortion can put one in a psychedelic perspective very similar to the experience of smoking marijuana. Concept albums like The Who’s Quadrophenia and works of Pink Floyd can be some of the best music for smoking weed. The greatest of them can bring you to a wholly different place.
Probably the genre most associated with cannabis, reggae is definitely some of the best music for smoking weed. Bob Marley is, of course, the most well-known reggae artist. Other artists like Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Eek A Mouse, and Augustus Pablo all had odes to herb. If roots and dancehall reggae are energetic like sativa, dub is indica. Go deep in the couch with dub remixes from Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Scientist, and others.
“Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album, with the debut of Snoop Dogg—some of those songs are synonymous with smoking weed,” said Talbott.
Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday and all the Outkast albums are good weed music, with Aqueminibeing the most stony, trippy one. Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys and anything by De La Soul are great when you’re high.
As electronic keyboards and synthesizers were integrated more and more into pop music, artists began to explore the range of sound available from new technology.
“DJ Shadow fused hip-hop and electronic music and to this day are the kinds of things stoners can listen to, especially Endtroducing DJ Shadow,” Talbott said.
Other acts like Portishead followed the dreamy, trip-hop beat. More great electronic weed smoking music can be found from artists such as Air, Moby, and Massive Attack.
One of the most famous pot-friendly musicians is Willie Nelson, whose love of the plant extends to non-psychoactive hemp varieties. Willie and his cannabis company GCH are leaders in the American Hemp Campaign, an effort to make the crop a viable option for more farmers. Other country artists including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Toby Keith also have weed music songs.
Indie rock acts have also created weed music great for toking while listening.
“Radiohead’s Kid A would probably make a lot of top 10 lists as one of the definitive mind trip albums out in the last 20 years because of the journey it takes you on,” Talbott said.
He added that alt-J vocalist Joe Newman sounds like he’s stoned. Their album An Awesome Wave has a lot of sound effects and stops and starts and plays with your head a lot.
Of course, no inventory of the best music for smoking weed could be comprehensive. So, Talbott considers his suggestions as a starting point for further exploration. The truth is, cannabis can enhance any music listening experience. And while many pot icons are represented, some obvious choices didn’t make the list this time around.