Afroman Calls Himself The Michael Jordan Of Marijuana
Two days ago, the Yelp-like marijuana dispensary review company Weedmaps posted a ridiculous video of Afroman sitting on a couch, smoking a blunt and rapping a remix to his 2001 mega-hit "Because I Got High." The video—complete with dancers dressed up as marijuana leaves and blunt raps—took off on YouTube, passing a million and a half views in two days with its over-the-top, goofy ridiculousness.
But the song, dubbed the "Positive Remix," is actually part of an awareness campaign put together by Weedmaps and the marijuana legalization non-profit NORML, and the new lyrics serve to educate people about the benefits of smoking and legalizing weed (Essentially trading in lines like "I was gonna pay my child support / But then I got high" for "I had problems with glaucoma / But then I got high"). While the viral campaign has clearly worked so far, there's a deeper line behind just remixing a song that will make people nostalgic for the last decade.
"[The song is] such a cult classic and it's a prime opportunity to kind of turn that stereotype on its head," says NORML's Sabrina Fendrick. "Because this is an election year, we have three states with ballot initiatives where the time is absolutely prime right now to get this message out and drive the public narrative for marijuana legalization."
Those three initiatives—in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C.—could potentially lead to legalization and a further step forward for the pro-marijuana movement after the recent ballot success in Colorado and Washington state. And with the possibility of five further ballots on deck for the 2016 elections, there's a real chance that a significant chunk of the United States could be dealing legal weed by the time President Obama leaves office.
With the "Because I Got High" remix continuing to gain steam, XXL spoke to Afroman about the new remix, his views on marijuana legalization and his career as a whole—with a quick detour into typical stoner territory like the McDonalds McRib. Light up. —Dan Rys
XXL: Were you at all apprehensive about remaking that song after such a long time?
Afroman: No. When I thought about the contribution to the legalization, when I thought about its benefit to humanity, I was intrigued, actually.
What do you think is the importance of the legalization movement?
Well there's several that rush to my mind, but one good one is the decriminalization of it. A good guy that's feeding his family doesn't go to jail for six months to a year because he has a joint, he's contributing to his household, he's contributing to taxes and to the neighborhood and to society as a whole, so I think decriminalization would be good because a lot of people consume but they're not criminals, you know what I mean? They're just people trying to cope with stress and get through it. Then there's medical benefits, then there's economic benefits that the state gains. There's all kinds of things, now that I've been informed, I've realized that can happen from the legalization of marijuana.
I read in a recent interview you did that you said the initial reaction to "Because I Got High" had a negative effect on the legalization movement because people took it as, "You're lazy if you smoke." Do you feel any responsibility for that?
No, man, it was just a good song, it was just a party anthem, you know what I'm saying? [Laughs] Everybody liked that song. It's a great song. I was trying to write a hit song and I got one. It was funny, you know what I'm saying? That's a party anthem. I had a great time with that, and I still have a great time with that song. I'm just happy to have another version. This one, I focus more on giving information to the uninformed, or I'm just pointing out some good things about smoking marijuana and everything. So I was just happy to make this one. It's another remix, it's a beautiful song. I like it, I think it informs people that maybe don't know a lot about marijuana and maybe encourages them to do more research. And just make more informed decisions.
The original version of the song did receive some negative backlash back in the day though because of some of the things you were saying in the song, and now you said that you rewrote it to get more information out and put a positive spin on it. Do you wish you had written it this way initially 13, 14 years ago?
Nah; I meant to make a funny song that people can enjoy, laughing and having a good time to. And I accomplished my goal. I didn't care how I got it done, I was a little kid trying to make it in the music business and make a funny song that people liked. I wrote it and it worked, and it's a great song. Right now I got 157 texts from people that I gotta answer from people that want me to come sing it right now, and my voicemail is up into the 80s of people that want me to come sing that song.
It's a hit, and I'm proud of it. I wrote that song. That song is out there. McDonald's makes the Big Mac, then they come with the McRib. You know? It's a party anthem, it's out there, people love it and I'm happy to make this song. When I was younger I was trying to make a party song, I was trying to make a hit and I was trying to make some money. With this song, I'm talking about—I had to educate myself. I mean, I knew it made me feel good, I knew what marijuana did to me. But then as I spoke with NORML, I got more informed about other things marijuana did that I was unconscious of. So I got educated. So now I wanted to rewrite it as, this is a different remix. That magic I had, that's like a half court shot, that's a wonderful song. This is beautiful. I'm rewriting this song, and this is to educate the average human as to how good marijuana is. Not that my first song was bad—my first song was great—but this is 2014, this is what I'm writing right now. This is what I'm happy about jumping off right now.
Hip-hop has a really long history with marijuana in general, but in the last couple of years guys like Krayzie Bone, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa have gotten into the weed business from the business side. How do you feel about that?
Yeah, you know, on the low you have all these sports and all these leagues, I joke with my friends that I'm the Michael Jordan of marijuana. [Laughs] But it's something I like, something I'm proud of, something I've been successful at, and yes... I'm just getting with NORML and Weedmaps and everything, but I'm ready to explore and see what's going on out there.
Wiz has partnered with a dispensary for his own line of weed, Snoop has his own G-Pens, Krayzie has a weed vending machine in marijuana dispensaries. Would you ever think about doing something along those lines?
Yes, I'd think about it.
After such a long career—and you've never really stopped putting out music—when you look back, how do you feel about your career? Do you have any regrets, or anything that you're particularly proud of or that you would do differently?
No; life comes at you like a blitz. You hike the ball and it's coming at you and you just gotta make the best move that you can. I look back on my life—man, I came up from South Central L.A., I've done great. A lot of my friends are dead or in jail and everything; I've done great. You know, it's a beautiful thing. When you play cards, they say, "This is the hand you're dealt." And it's to your best interests to play your hand best in that scenario. And that's what I've done. Some people, they get little hits, then they get a bigger hit and they kind of climb. And then some people get real big ones, you know what I'm saying; there's the Bobby McFerrin's, there's people that say, okay, one big song, whatever. But I've done good, man. Out here, there's a lot of people that know more than "Because I Got High." But you know, when you talk to the entire world, the masses are gonna know that song.
But my career is great. I remember I thought the Beastie Boys fell off because I didn't see them on MTV or I didn't hear them on the radio. I got a job cleaning houses, and I was cleaning a little boy's room and I seen all these posters, posters of albums I'd never heard of. And I came to find out that the Beastie Boys were larger than life; I was just out of the know about them because I got all of my music, all of my information from MTV, radios without knowing. But now with all these Internet sites you can go on, you know what I mean, it's a beautiful thing now in 2014.
What do you see as the future of this partnership with NORML and Weedmaps?
I see informative, educational, humorous videos going viral. I see good things happening for the economy. I see good things happening for NORML and Weedmaps and Afroman. We're gonna just move the chains, try to get 10 yards at a time and every now and then we're gonna throw a touchdown. [Laughs] This truth is marching on. We're gonna march on into the future and do every thing we can.