Cannabis has a reputation for prodding creativity from artists of all stripes — but musicians have a unique platform to share their love of the plant.
As the plant’s legalization spreads to more U.S. states, musicians across genres, from Melissa Etheridge to Jay-Z, are getting in on the action. Artists are launching their own lines of cannabis products, typically pairing up with existing cultivators to get their brands on dispensary shelves.
But some musicians simply love the plant and its effects. Here are five artists, from pop stars to hip-hop artists and country musicians, and the strains that act as a creative force in their work.
You may not expect a former member of a kid-friendly act like One Direction to be a vocal proponent of cannabis, but Zayn Malik — who goes by the mononymous “Zayn” — isn’t your average boy band pop star. After leaving the famous “on-hiatus” U.K. five-piece group in 2015, he embarked on a solo career, collaborating with hip hop legends Timbaland and Nicki Minaj and even remixing tracks by August Alsina and Beyonce.
In 2016, he told Billboard in a cover story that he only smokes sativa strains, which the magazine helpfully (and accurately) described as “the more energizing, cerebral strain of marijuana.” While not a specific strain, it’s the one direction he prefers to go when it comes to smoking cannabis — likely for its purported creative effects.
As one of the most famous hip-hop stoners to come out of the early 1990s hip-hop scene, one might think Redman, aka Reggie Noble, would be jumping on the cannabis brand bandwagon. No ma’am. The co-star of stoner buddy flick “How High” (with frequent collaborator Method Man) is a co-founder of the political National Cannabis Party. He had some choice words for his fellow hip-hop stars who are licensing their names to cannabis brands in a June interview with CelebStoner:
“None of them don’t know s**t about the cannabis industry,” he told journalist Steve Bloom, saying he’s turned down “mega, mega money” he could have earned endorsing cannabis strains and products.
But of course, the songwriter of tracks like “How to Roll a Blunt” and “Smoke Buddah” has his go-to’s. He told High Times in 2017 that sativa Sour Diesel is his go-to, along with the hybrid XJ-1 — though he may have meant XJ-13. He also gave hybrid Gelato a shoutout in the same interview.
We couldn’t blame the average listener for not recognizing John Vanderslice by name, though the prolific indie singer/songwriter has released at least a dozen albums since the 1990s. But his recording studio, Tiny Telephone, has produced tracks for big alternative acts like Death Cab for Cutie, Spoon, Okkervil River, and Sleater-Kinney.
In a 2020 interview with High Times for a feature called “What’s in Your Stash?” Vanderslice gave the weed mag an inside look at his, well, stash. And it was impressive.
In addition to the Purple Diesel, Chocolate Hashberry, and Berry White strains of flower, he also had sublingual sprays, tinctures, and edibles.
But the No. 1 go-to for the man behind some of indie rock’s iconic sounds? Homegrown indica Grape Ape: “It’s biodynamic and delicious,” he told journalist Sharon Letts in the feature.
Run The Jewels
Cannabis isn’t typically the focus of socially conscious and explicitly political hip hop duo Run The Jewels, but they know their stuff when it comes to the plant. And being responsible touring artists who don’t travel with cannabis in their vehicles, their favorite strains are determined by where they’re performing, according to a 2015 interview with Blare Magazine.
“Here it’s been Jack Herer and it’s been pretty cool. In New York, you pretty much get Diesel but it’s the best Diesel around,” Killer Mike said in the interview.
In 2017, country music superstar Toby Keith officially came out of the canna-closet with his weed-celebrating track “Wacky Tobaccy.” (To be fair, he’d talked openly about his cannabis use in interviews.)
And while he name-checks several different types of cannabis in the song, he lands on a favorite. “You got your Mexican and Jamaican with those buds of blue/Humboldt County and Hydroponic too/Okeechobee Purple from down in the South/And that ol’ stuff your uncle smokes will give you cottonmouth/Homegrown is healthy, synthetic can kill ya/My all-time favorite is Redhead Sinsemilla.”
What is Redhead Sinsemilla? Sinsemilla is a Spanish phrase that translates roughly to “seedless.” Seedless cannabis was a rare and highly potent treat through much of the 1990s until using feminized seeds that produced buds without seeds became the norm in cultivation.
But what about the “redhead” part? Hard to know for sure, but Keith is likely referring to Red Hair Sinsemilla, so called because of the red hair-like strands sometimes found in its buds.
Keith has since launched his own cannabis company in Oklahoma, Big Dog Cannabis, and the menu contains no sinsemilla. Likely because all cannabis today is essentially sinsemilla.
Next time you’re in the mood to get in a groove and create some music, consider these favorite strains from some of the industry’s most recognizable stars.