Illustration by Sofya Levina
Back in 2010, rapper and Harlem native Smoke DZA started the Smokers Club with Jonny Shipes, Steve-O, Shiest Bubz, and Bud Guru. The goal was “to share their love of weed culture and music with the rest of the world.” It was a collective mission to unite potheads across the globe under one roof with good music and better weed. For that first tour in 2010, they brought along budding (at the time) bud-loving rappers like Wiz Khalifa, Dom Kennedy, and Curren$y.
The tour—helmed by Smoke DZA in support of his Substance Abuse, Substance Abuse 1.5: The Headstach, and George Kush Da Button mixtapes—began on the East Coast with crowds of 400. By the time they made it out west, the packed houses had reached 1,200 people. Now, the Smokers Club is a full-fledged community of kush and music lovers around the world complete with a growing list of affiliated rappers, a record label, and a clothing line. If you’re a smoker who’s into rap, or a rapper who’s into smoke, there is a place for you in the Smokers Club.
So it didn’t come as a surprise when Smoke DZA rolled up to our interview in a Jeep Wrangler reeking of green before he even opened the door. Once he did, though, the sun sparkled playfully off of the Bob Marley chain hanging over his Patrick Ewing Knicks jersey, and he took a couple tokes from an almost finished blunt and came to sit next to me on the stoop of his Harlem brownstown.
Smoke DZA’s third and most recent album, Dream.Zone.Achieve—what DZA actually stands for—came out in April, but the day we met, in early May, he was preparing for his album-release show at New York’s SOBs by running errands, shopping at Denim & Supply, and stopping by his jeweler. Although DZA made a name for himself with mixtapes like Rolling Stoned, he claimed that, with this latest release, he’s ready to move on to his next chapter, beyond his weed-smoking persona.
Surrounded by the sweet summery May breeze and overlooking an ice cream truck down the block, it was the perfect day to talk about smoking lots and lots of weed with the self-proclaimed kush god.
VICE: How does the Smokers Club work?
Smoke DZA: It’s as a hub for all official smokers and potheads around the globe to come party and smoke pot together. Potheads attract good potheads, especially potheads who smoke good weed. Everywhere I go around the world, I got friends that have a particular strain. It wasn’t hard because the cannabis world is so connected. It just happens organically. Weed brings everybody together.
What’s your favorite strain?
OG Kush. It’s more of an indica. I like hard weed and that distinctive taste.
What does it taste like?
It tastes like coffee. OG Kush smells like Folgers. It’s better than coffee.
But does it wake you up?
Yeah, it wakes you up. I do it when I wake up. It puts me right in my zone—that’s the best.
How old were you the first time you smoked?
I might’ve been like 13 the first time I smoked some trash.
Do you remember the first time you got high?
I’ll tell you about the first time I smoked good weed. It was in seventh grade with my man Jose, God rest his soul. He used to live on Audobon Avenue. That’s where all the good weed was back then—all the purple haze and stuff. He used to be like, "Yo, don’t bring none of that porcada"—that’s what they called dirt—"cuz we got the good stuff." I smoked with him at around 9:30 AM, and I was high until 4PM. It was one of those highs where I was riding the bus going home at the end of the day like, Am I ever going to come down? I was panicking because I was going home to my mom’s. That was the first time I smoked good weed.
And the first time you freaked out?
The first time I caught the shakes.
How’d you get over it?
I think I might’ve just ate mad snacks—I had crazy munchies. I went home and ate them off, and I think I might’ve fell asleep, and then I woke up and I was cool.
Where do you get good weed around here now?
I’m the kush god, so the good weed just comes to me. It just grows off the trees. When I touch the tree bark, cannabis flows out to me. It starts budding.
How do you become a kush god?
You become a kush god by knowing what you're smoking, by other people knowing what you smoke, by you smoking nothing but what you say you smoke. That’s the trinity. The three steps.
Where’s the best place to learn about weed?
I educated myself through traveling. I spent a lot of time in LA before I actually was rapping about weed like that. Purple haze and all that shit was on the market, so I’ve seen all types of weed come before my eyes. That’s the best way to learn what’s good and what’s bad.
Is that what you would recommend for other people?
Spend some time in LA and try to go to some dispensaries. Go to Denver, try to get into some dispensaries. Go to San Francisco.
What’s your favorite way to smoke weed?
Well, I’m from New York, so I like smoking in Dutch Masters, and I like smoking in raw papers.
What about spliffs?
Spliffs are a New York thing. Sprinkle a little tobacco on there, and it goes straight to the head and gives you a cleaner way of smoking a blunt. I’m not a real fan of spliffs, but I smoke them from time to time with Dame. Dame Dash smokes spliffs. Harry Fraud smokes spliffs. I might indulge with them every now and then, but it’s not really my thing.
Are you into edibles?
I used to be a big fan of brownies. Me and Jonny Shipes used to bake brownies. We used to let the oil and the weed simmer for a few hours and get that shit nice and right, and then we’d put it in the brownies and mix it all up. But I haven’t ate edibles in a long time. My last trip on brownies wasn’t too good. I drink, but I’m not a big drinker. I don’t like feeling drunk. I ate too many brownies and started to feel a little drunk. The body high started to turn into some other shit that I wasn’t fucking with.
What are your thoughts on legalization?
I think legalization is cool, but I’m more of a fan of decriminalization. I think if it’s decriminalized, then that means anybody can just be smoking weed right here, and you won’t get in trouble—no ticket, no nothing. Legalized is you actually have to get it from somewhere that’s approved. In New York, we don’t have dispensaries, so legalized wouldn’t do anything for us over here. Anyway, they can’t find a way to tax it, so it’ll probably be a little while before New York sees what that’s about.
I hear in Colorado they’re making billions of dollars on weed.
For sure. Colorado has great weed. Colorado is not California, but it’s something.
What will happen to all the drug dealers if it’s legalized?
A lot of people will be out, because that’s the way they’ll make it legal. They’ll get the other guys out. In Harlem, it’s nothing but hustlers out here, so we’ll find a way. We’ll figure it out.
How do you stay motivated when you smoke so much weed?
Smoking weed is like meditation for me. I stay focused because of my grind. I have so many short-term goals that I haven’t accomplished yet. I’m focused on my goals, so the weed don’t really stop me from doing what I got to do if I don’t have my goals accomplished. Plus, other than that, I have a family. I have a wife and kids that I have to provide for, so that always keeps me afloat to actually focus and do what I got to do.
How old are your kids?
I have two five-year-old twins and a ten-year-old son.
Would you smoke with them?
Nah, I don’t even smoke around them. Not right now.
Did you ever smoke with your parents?
By the time I started smoking, my dad stopped smoking.
That’s what you think.
My dad’s a pretty solid guy. We talk about too much for him to lie to me about smoking weed.
Do your parents care that you smoke so much?
They just don’t want me smoking in the street. My mom is like, "You’re not over that, yet? When are you going to be over it?"
But you’re a rapper! What are some of your goals?
One of them that I can say out loud is to score a major deal imprint for my company and all my friends that’s with me. That would be really fucking cool.
A lot of my goals I already accomplished. To be on television more—you might catch me here or there. It’s nothing wrong with Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, those guys. I’m trying to really get on TV. I want to act. I want to do different things. I’m working on a movie about my life. It’s not actually a documentary. It’s not based on real events, but it’s little parts of real events that I’m trying to tie in. I’m working with Dame on it.
Do you play Smoke DZA in it?
I don’t play Smoke DZA. I’m playing a character.
Are you going to film it in Harlem?
Follow Lauren on Twitter.