Sunday, May 16, 2021

Donnell Alexander

Sometimes I get high and feel I'm the most brilliant writer

Sometimes I get high is a series about the activities you do or things you think about when you're high, in deep detail, for the fun of it. When I get high and decide to write, I feel like my laptop knows I'm stoned. We got a connection like that. Nobody knows me like my axe — which is what I call my MacBook when I want everyone to go away from me. When I'm really on one — writing wise — I sleep with the damn thing. The relationship is such that the laptop seems to know how to make my fingers fly like Beethoven or Glenn Tipton.  Cannabis helps me get out of my own way. When I spark and then write, I feel like I'm a brilliant writer, you know? Not one who simply types whatever is asked of them or works their thumbs against screens, but an actual crafter of ideas that come alive in the world of paragraphs. My personal understanding of the gig as a writer is to make words dance in the minds of others. Almost a quarter-century ago, I did just that, when I explained, “Cool is about turning desire into deed with a surplus of ease.” Danced an idea into existence.  And in a story I wrote about the struggles faced by Black American farmers I said, “In the imagination of Black America, farming has existed as a centuries-long, government-enacted crime scene.” Last December those words worked to help enact change. I have the receipts. It's taken decades to get on top of my ideas and language and operate in the neighborhood of peak performance. Mostly when I got high, that brilliance was just a feeling. Back in the days of putting out my own non-fiction stories while faded, there was no social media. No internet. No Apple Macs. The concept of social media was inconceivable. Instant publishing worldwide? Our newspaper editors were physically carrying pages from their typewriters to a woman in an adjacent building called “the typesetter.” If I told you I edited with quill and inkwell, for a second you might believe it. I learned to type on a Selectric typewriter located by the vocational skills wing of Sacramento City College. The Wite-Out company was doing big business back in the 1980s, and the stakes of crafting sentences were higher than you could imagine, as every second thought, every backspace, came with a material cost. One thought hard before committing to a key, to a letter.  At 19 I was a shitty typist. It was all but impossible to let my fingers fly sober, nevermind baked — though I tried.  In 2021, I can type the first neat and wildly inaccurate thought in my head and offend someone important within seconds, simply because I've underestimated my good friend's homegrown cannabis. In 1985, it would have taken a ransom note to get their attention. But today, that Twitter fight with 20 different progressives with whom I'm in 90% agreement is just one misunderstood tweet away. Typos and half-baked theories on display for the world to see.   Being high on social media is all but inevitable. It's what the scribe-inclined does while inside this chasm of risks that can nudge them into legitimate brilliant writer territory. Typing words onto social media platforms gratifies, but it rarely results in brilliant lit. The tell? Crafting writing that is actually good is a painful process, whereas tweeting simply dispenses dopamine.  Inside of a high Twitter moment I may feel like a great writer, but when the tweet I thought could change the world is missing a word that would have made the whole thing clear, I know I'm too high and am over my skis while barreling down the mountaintop. Write for a living long enough and you come to understand that, like most things in life, in order to produce quality work a balance must be struck. When I was in my 20s and working for weekly alternative newspapers, the writing process was demystified by a wayward role model in two steps: “Weed to write, speed to edit.” In a short time, I realized that coffee was the more sustainable cannabis companion. And over many years it became clear that one's relationship to breath can be a more powerful sentence-crafting tool than either caffeine or speed.  The takeaway is this: at some point, a clear mind is required to refine what the influenced mind puts on a page. It's not sexy. No one is liking or retweeting edits made for the sake of clarity or fluidity. Matthew McConaughey is not chewing on the end of his faux glasses, playing this in a film. And yet this is how one turns that feeling of brilliance into powerful sentences that stack on top of one another into unshakeable paragraphs. I don't know anyone who writes well while super high all of the time. That's been my decades-long experience. I don't know, maybe I need to get out of my silo more. Stand-ups seem able to pull off their gigs stoned to the brink of oblivion and certain rappers can do their thing, for a time. But stoned writers? We can usually use a good editor, time away from the page, and fresh eyes.My advice to writers (high or otherwise): descend from that Twitter thread tap-dance that means everything and nothing. Ease out of the high-minded Clubhouse idea exercises. Let it happen. Work out, lose friends. Spark up, but don't forget to come down and come home.  Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

5 weed products rapper Problem can't live without

Last week, West Coast mixtape legend Problem dropped a track called “4 the Low.” In the song's video, you can see the Compton-raised MC talk broad strategy with co-star Wiz Khalifa, bike through Los Angeles's neighborhood streets — joint on his lips, old-school —  and rhyme with Wiz in front of super-fine rides.  Woven into a bright and bouncy beat — produced by Problem, Mike & Keys and Vangogh— are two Problem lines that distill the whole vibe: “Black market on the East side thеy boxed up and got rich For that same thing they doin' now homiеs locked up and I'm pissed” Problem isn't the first MC to articulate rage over the complexion disparities within legal weed ownership; but there's something about this rapper's conviction of delivery that hits at the issue fresh.  Problem's hot verse isn't what's most remarkable about “4 the Low.” At the video's bottom runs a faux stock market tracker. The numbers crawl: Viola, Monogram and Dr. Greenthumb — brands operated by celebrities of color — are up. Also up, coincidentally, is Coffee and Kush, best known as a pair of 2020 Problem albums and the coffee mug and pipe that Problem uses in the video. Something more than self promotion, there's a message in the hip hop artist's wishful thinking. [embedded content] “I just think it's about time for them to allow us to have something that is ours, and let us talk about the way we want to do it,” he said. “When this thing goes federal you're going to see that the minority people are not as greedy as you think. We want everybody to win. We don't hate anybody. We just want to make sure we're alright, too.” Problem, whose government name is Justin Martin, told Weedmaps that his first edible came from “mama's kitchen.” His cannabis roots go deep, and can be felt in THC-assisted verses he's traded with top-shelf rappers like his mentor Snoop Dogg and Freddie Gibbs. Most notable: he wrote the hook and is the first voice heard on the all-time problematic banger, “Function.” Problem's Coffee and Kush: the concept It wasn't until quarantine that Problem fully embraced weed as a brand. Somewhere between his 2018 appearance on the Wiz Khalifa album Gin & Drugs and 2020, dude slowed down. The question, “Whoever thought I'd fall off like the way I did?” from the 2018 mixtape S2, might offer clues as to why he's passed hard on being a standout partier. The midnight mixtape rapper became the guy in line with his girl getting morning coffee, and the early AM java runs opened his eyes. “I wasn't the only one smelling like weed at Starbucks,” he said. “There's a whole morning market that no one was tapping into.” The Starbucks revelation started Problem thinking about the audience for java and bud, but the name was inspired by Khalifa. He had listened to his seminal mixtape Kush and Orange Juice and thought, “Wiz should have started an orange juice company … it probably would have been genius.” Then it was, “No, I should start a coffee company.”  Finally, the rapper realized that he wanted to develop a coffee company and a marijuana dispensary. As of now, Problem has “three or four brands” in development, as well as a new partnership with the Los Angeles brand Green Label. Coffee and Kush: The pipe-mugs and music collections are his broad-based beginning.  “Being able to monetize off your music, especially in today's times,” he said, “is very, very important. With the lack of touring [and] streaming numbers are really not paying out like they should.”  With last May's release of Problem's coffeehouse-smooth Coffee and Kush mixtape came the pipe-combo mugs. A second volume of that mixtape followed. Now, the rapper-turned entrepreneur takes his next steps into rebranding what was once called a “hippie speedball” as “The New Chicken and Waffles.” But Problem, an “old-school” type of smoker, has certain preferences and rituals when it comes to rolling up. Here are four more products he can't live without.  Zig Zags “I'm so old-school, man. I'm an old-school dude. I like rolling up a Zig Zag that hits hard as fuck. Just gettin' into my zone, bruh. I like the black zig zags, the long ones. No disrespect to Raw or anyone else. But I can roll a perfect Zig Zag joint in under 20 seconds.”  Medicinal Marijuana Once a renowned party boy of the West Coast mixtape scene, Problem claims the lifestyle some call California Sober — he claims he doesn't aspirin anymore. “If the weed don't fix it, then it's my time to go.” Khalifa Kush  “Khalifa Kush used to be the weed that got me the highest. He used to give me that shit and I'd be fuckin' stuck. That boy's got some of the best weed out here that's legal. That was my go-to before I got with my boy Steve.” Problem said that for the past three years he's almost exclusively consumed cannabis grown by a 60-year-old unlicensed Los Angeles-grower named Haitian Steve, who will only sell him an ounce at a time. “He fuckin' loves those plants. He sings to 'em, fuckin' reads to 'em, plays jazz. You can tell, it's weed for the creatives.”  Cannabis and Kush Combo Pipe Mug “Ever since this Coffee and Kush mug came out, that's pretty much all I use, bro. Drop a nug in here. I get high as shit, real quick. I got my coffee, I can sip it. I don't have to look for papers and all that shit. The mug keeps me from getting too high because I'll roll up a big-ass joint and smoke way too much — that's my temperament right now. I really use the product that I sell, a lot. I have it in my fuckin' hand right now.” Featured image courtesy of Problem. Graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps

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