“There’s talent in every one of us,” says Raekwon the Chef. “We’ve just got to find it. And I think that cannabis has allowed us to be able to open a door for people to come in and be educated.”
The iconic rapper and founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan has been known as a cannabis advocate from the beginning of his career. But over the past four years in particular, as the artist has gotten involved as a businessman, first by founding his brand Hashstoria and then partnering with the organization Citizen Grown, he’s taken on new legendary status as a mentor for those in his community.
Watch Raekwon serve up the cannabis industry at Trailblazers New York!
Raekwon The Chef Speaks At Trailblazers New York
Raekwon appeared this summer at Trailblazers New York, an exclusive gathering for a curated community of cannabis and psychedelics industry leaders. (If you want to join the fun at the next Trailblazers summit in Ojai, California, October 10-12, check the organization’s website now for details or sign up to be a member.)
Featured on the East Coast Culture and Cannabis panel with Ghetto Gastro co-founder Pierre Serrao and Cannaclusive co-founder Mary Pryor, Raekwon expressed his pride at bringing greater awareness of the plant to more New Yorkers, especially aspiring entrepreneurs of color.
“I grew up with a lot of West Indians who would explain to us that cannabis was almost like a vitamin,” Raekwon commented on the panel. “It was something that could help you. It was something that could stimulate your mind to make you grow and dream better, just expand your mind on things… To this day, I still think about people who are locked up, that have been away for so long [and] are still in those situations, but you have other people capitalizing off it. It’s like, ‘Hold up. What happened to these guys that have seen what they’ve seen in the greatest form for us?’ We have to stand up for wealth and discuss how we have to stay on top of things now and make sure that we are involved. For me it’s all about making sure the community could see the light.”
Raekwon, Citizen Grown And New York’s Best Cannabis
Part of that is certainly communicated in the artist’s work with Citizen Grown. Known as “the superheroes of cannabis,” the organization is inspired by the universal income proposal. Raekwon has helped the team popularize its homegrow initiative, where they supply special cultivation boxes to communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. Citizen Grown also provides various resources from education to direct community reinvestment to support the flourishing of local entrepreneurship.
“It’s definitely about making sure we could be better growers,” Raekwon noted. “We could know a little bit more about how it works.” Answering Mary Pryor’s question of what he would like to see from New York cannabis, he quickly enthused, “It’s got to be the best, it’s got to be good stuff.”
“Go through it, tell me what the best is!” Pryor urged him with a laugh.
“I want to see it become fresher and healthier,” Raekwon ultimately affirmed. “Something we can share with our family members. We need to open people to know that it can help.”
Raekwon On Cannabis As Medicine
As the artist explained to Team Honeysuckle, he’s observed over the years that cannabis can alleviate major stresses in people’s lives. Medical patients benefit from cannabis treatments; cancer patients can relieve symptoms while going through chemo such as nausea, loss of appetite and insomnia. People with chronic anxiety can use cannabis to manage their conditions and participate more fully in public environments where they never could have without access to the plant.
“That’s how it was for me,” Raekwon admitted. “It became a supplement of all these different things… It wasn’t so much of the high factor, it was about the encouragement that it was giving me. Making me feel good, taking me out of an anxiety moment, helping me incorporate my music in a great way… And now today, not only has it helped so many industries, but the amount of money that was made from it, I could say maybe not even three quarters of it was given back to the places that really should have been recognized. At that time we didn’t have the knowledge, we didn’t have the support system. Now the door has been opened. We needed a ground zero to really express ourselves. Now, with so many brands in the room today that are uniting and have so much knowledge and so much to share, I think that’s really going to open up the door for more people to look at this legislation we’re building. It’s going to happen.”
Raekwon and Advocates On The Evolution Of Legacy And Marginalized Cannabis Communities
Following the panel, Raekwon spoke to numerous Trailblazers guests and partners. When the discussion turned to social equity in New York, advocates encouraged the idea of a Black and Latinx-led collective that would give support specifically to communities in the Empire State suffering from overpolicing and decades of cannabis criminalization. They argued that more attention needs to be paid to Upstate New York residents, as Black and brown communities in those areas have fewer economic opportunities than their downstate counterparts.
“That’s the way it’s going to get full recognition,” Raekwon agreed, responding to the suggestion that cannabis businesses in such a collective become “a well-oiled machine” representing different sectors of the industry. “I think each voice means something. Everything small starts as a seed and has to grow. Trailblazers allowed this platform for us to connect and talk, and next thing you know, it’s just going to get bigger. I’m here to stay because it ain’t just about the finances. It’s about the economy, the equity that could grow in these communities, giving jobs and discussing things that we never thought we were open for. It’s going to start small, but we are creating our own Senate.”
“We’re leading by example,” Happy Munkey CEO, Vladamir Bautista stated. He added that after years in the legacy market, working his way from selling nickel and dime bags up to building an established lifestyle brand, he could serve as a role model to friends and neighbors who hoped to make that same transition. Comparing the cannabis industry to alcohol, Bautista used the example of Al Capone and Joseph Kennedy Sr., who had both allegedly amassed fortunes in illegal operations during the Prohibition era. Because Kennedy crossed over to the legal alcohol industry at the right time, he managed to lay a foundation where his children could be successful.
“They both were notorious, but one created a generation of wealth forever,” Bautista concluded.
According to Raekwon, however, the power of generational wealth isn’t just economics but knowledge. Cannabis is the same thing as music, he claimed – you can have an innate talent for working with the plant, cultivating and processing it and even branding it. But more people have to understand that aspect of the industry and engage in acquiring the knowledge and skill sets for it. The key is seeking out people who want to see change.
Is The Black Community Too Reliant On The Entertainment Industry?
Raekwon’s cannabis-to-music analogy led one advocate to ask whether the Black community was too reliant on the entertainment industry for economic inspiration. Cultural analysis over the past several generations has focused on the perception that Black success could be found in professional athletics or in entertainment. Now cannabis seems to offer another pathway. Yet with the abundance of celebrity brands emerging – from Jay Z’s The Parent Company to Mike Tyson’s Tyson 2.0 and Ice Cube’s Fryday Kush – it does pose a question of how non-celebrity entrepreneurs can thrive in the legal market.
With an almost Zen-like serenity, Raekwon offered a much more uplifting take on the issue. “I don’t look at it as reliant. I think it’s just [that] we share the same values of life and, being that our voices are so much bigger, you just need that as a supplement to a voice. There’s so many of us that could relate to it. At the end of the day, it’s only right that we sit here to see that there is a committee out there that’s looking forward to helping people grow. That’s what we always want to do. We want to go where we know it’s serious. And people really care once we know that people really care. That’s where we come in, because we have the wider, broader audience that we could talk to. We’re up here with these guys being a voice, but you’ve got to have your knowledge right. And knowledge makes everything grow after that.”
What Excites Raekwon About New York Cannabis?
Of course, Team Honeysuckle had to press the artist to share his cannabis wisdom. What’s his essential New York strain?
“For me it would probably be the highest grade of cannabis,” he replied immediately. “It would probably be Haze. Sativa’s cool. But certain stress factors that you may want to [mitigate] at that time that it’ll help you through, that’s [what you want to look for]. I was always big on Haze and the real high potent leaf strains.”
As to what excites him about New York’s cannabis industry, it’s encapsulated in one word: Soul.
“The soul is just how so many people from our city can relate to cannabis, the cannabis world itself. It helped so many people. It gave hope; it gave experiences. We lost friends that we’re now trying to get home from dealing with situations that they were just trying to take care of their families with. Now it’s a new day and it gives us an opportunity to come back. We have a greater platform now to build something. We are unifying. Another industry has tapped into us that has always been there, but now is there on an educational side. And of course people like Trailblazers, the brand itself, just being a voice and taking a look into what we’re thinking and what we’ve got going on. It just makes the soul of what we’re standing on even bigger.”
What If Cannabis Had Never Existed?
What would have happened if cannabis had never existed, we asked the master – where would these opportunities go?
Without cannabis, Raekwon supposed, “It would be a slower process for us to reach these levels of dreaming. The dreams come along with what you may feel or what you may be thinking, and you don’t really get a chance to dream that much, if you don’t feel like you’re in a certain mode or a certain moment of happiness. For us, cannabis brings happiness. It brings joy in the room. It brings people in the room. That’s saying, ‘We’re having a good time. Where are we going? What are we up to? Oh, this is what’s on my mind. This is what I want to do.’ So without it, it would be a slow process. Not saying we wouldn’t get there, but it wouldn’t be as fast as we are today.”
“You’ve got to have a light in the window,” we acknowledged.
“Absolutely.” The artist nodded his approval, repeating the lesson for all to hear as he swept away to his next adventure. “It’s all about the light.”
Find out more about Trailblazers by visiting trailblazerspresents.com. Register now for Trailblazers Ojai, October 10-12, 2022. For more about Raekwon’s cannabis ventures, check out citizengrown.com and hashstoria.com.