(Rapper Del the Funky Homosapien will be performing at the after-party for the International Cannabis Business Conference set to take place in Vancouver on June 24 and 25, 2018. Get your tickets here.)
“I thought it was straight up dumb.”
That’s what prominent Bay-area rapper Del the Funky Homosapien thought of pot when he was young. While it’s a far cry from his views now, since discovering the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) he still steers clear of any bud that promises a strong psychoactive trip.
In his youth, the fear surrounding pot stemmed from a persistent cultural stigma that hovered around all drug-use, from hash to heroin. Growing up in Oakland in the 1970s, the world at the time was fixated on a developing overdose crisis, made only more visible by the tragic deaths of music legends like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Del says substance awareness programs in school also made him hesitant as they displayed propaganda from a then-thriving drug war.
It wasn’t until he started hanging around the pot-friendly west coast crowd, while vacationing with family in L.A., that he began to understand the appeal of weed.
“I stumbled into fooling around with it [cannabis]. A lot of people were I trying it…and I was like: ‘Hey, this ain’t dumb. This is actually kind of cool',” he says, talking to the Straight on the phone from Richmond, California.
Inspired by the counterculture movement driving the underground pot scene, he began smoking more regularly with friends and reading magazines like High Times.
His use continued through the 80s and early 90s, as he and his cousin, rapper Ice Cube, produced his first solo album, I Wish My Brother George Was Here in 1991.
A chance encounter with border agents, however, forced the then 21-year-old rapper to reevaluate his feeling about getting high.
“I was on tour overseas and coming back from Amsterdam. My manager at the time, Kwame, and I got stopped randomly. I think they stopped us because Kwame had dreadlocks and we were coming back from Amsterdam,” he says, laughing.
“They took him to a back room, stripped him, and found nothing. So then the called me, stripped me naked, and found nothing.
Then, they took my wallet and a tiny crumb of hash I forgot behind my ID tumbled out on the table. They were just like: ‘Oh ho!’ and I was like: ‘Man…come on. I couldn’t smoke that even if I wanted to. Just throw it out!’”
The comment was enough to frustrate the officer and Del was detained in the airport.
“I had to pay $500 to just leave the airport, then go back to Michigan and fly back there [to Amsterdam] to go to court,” he says.
“The judge basically threw the case out, like: ‘Why you wasting my time?’ But I still had to be on probation and take a drug safety class for like a year.”
Del revisited the encounter in the third verse of his song "Wrongplace" on his 1993 album No Need for Alarm , in which he raps: "They had to strike me with a fine or time/I said fine/mines was 500 bones for a gram of hash/my mind was blown/come back to Michigan so we can pitch again/federal offense/now I better go and convince the judge."
During that year, Del completely stopped smoking. After his probation was over, he sparked a joint only to find the head high that followed left him severely paranoid and nervous. With his asthma already making it difficult to smoke weed, the adverse reaction was enough to push Del to examine his cannabis use.
“I decide from then on I didn’t have to smoke weed anymore. I used to just put up with it, but now I knew what it had been doing to me,” he says.
Around the same time, word of CBD's (a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis) health benefits began to spread in the media and it peaked the rapper’s curiosity.
“I started reading about it and thought: ‘This sounds like the shit!’ If I could get the benefits of weed without getting high, I was all for it.”
Del now regularly vapes CBD concentrate and says the calming effects help level him out—the feeling he originally wanted from weed but couldn’t achieve when smoking standard bud. Inspired by the benefits to his overall well-being, he now plans on developing his own line of CBD products.
“If I am making it [CBD] and creating it, I will always have some on me!” he says, adding that as much as the line is about creating products he would want to ingest, a large part of the inspiration came from learning about children using CBD to treat epilepsy.
“I would call myself an advocate [of cannabis] in some ways, but it’s more about helping people get to know themselves...and the right thing [product] for themselves.”
The product line is in its early stages and a few "foggy ideas" still need to be sorted out before Del talks in detail about his plans.
When asked why the cannabis community seems to be into hip hop now more than ever, Del says the genre is a natural fit for a head trip. Vancouver’s 4/20 protest and farmer’s market this year, for example, boasted a rap-only lineup, headlined by rap legend E-40 and featured local hip hop groups like The People NorthWest.
“Sound wise, concept wise, lyrics…there’s a lot to get into,” he says.
“Listening to shit like that when your mind is already expanding, the layers take you somewhere else. The more that is offered to you to be tripping off of, the better it is. Hip hop is one of those newer forms of music and it offers you a lot to take in.”
Del is currently touring to promote his latest album, Gate 13. Linking up with producer and DJ Amp Live, he says the partnership has allowed both Bay-area staples to explore a new sound that can be loosely described as electronic-infused funk rap.
“It’s definitely an album you should check out, especially if you’re smoking weed,” he says.
“It’s different. It’s kind of funk and soul-induced, something everyone can vibe with.”
Headlining the after-party for the International Cannabis Business Conference (June 24 and 25) before touring with the Gorillaz, Del thinks the new sound is something the suit-and-tie cannabis industry executives can also sink their teeth into.
“It’s going to be cool. As long as they enjoy the show, which they have in the past when I’ve done these things before, that’s what I am there for.”More