Roll Models: Decriminalization of Cannabis in South Africa Opens The Flood Gates for New Content Ideas in Hip Hop
Cannabis consumption in hip hop is something you cannot ignore, disregard or pass off as a fad that comes and goes. Throughout the history of hip hop, custodians and participators of the culture have championed cannabis culture, and this is not a surprise as some of the founding fathers of the culture such as DJ Kool Herc had their roots in Jamaica – a country where cannabis consumption, culture and lifestyle formed part of the themes of the music made by the youth at the time.
As the culture grew and became a serious disruptor of mainstream music (beating out rock as the most popular genre in the world), rappers have undoubtedly shaped the perceptions, created lifestyles and ideas centered around weed; and most importantly promoted healthy views about consumption dispelling negative perceptions which society and the powers that be hold. In the 90s, rap groups such as Cypress Hill, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and artists such as Snoop Dogg, Redman and Devin The Dude unapologetically positioned themselves as weed consumers and this formed part of their identities in music. In the 2000s, weed or stoner rap quickly rose to prominence with the assistance of the internet. The sub-genre is no longer underground but a powerful mainstay in the culture that is reflective of the time we’re in – conservative views on alternative lifestyle are being frowned upon.
Legalization and decriminalization of weed is something that is being widely discussed and addressed; with many countries relaxing prohibition laws, allowing citizens to consume and grow and creating new industries through which government institutions are deriving a lot of value in the form of tax dollars. South Africa is no different from these countries as the state is relaxing its harsh stance on cannabis for its medicinal, agricultural and industrial potential. This shift in the political and societal view of cannabis presents an interesting case as it directly affects local hip hop culture as it does beyond South African borders.
In a landmark ruling in 2018, the private use of weed was decriminalized and many rejoiced and celebrated this new freedom. Now, what does decriminalization mean for South African hip hop? As much as we don’t have full legalization of the plant, decriminalization serves as a normalization and somewhat of a co-sign of something hip hop has always embraced, championed and celebrated – recreational consumption and business. Decriminalization means that all the negative perceptions linked to cannabis culture as a result of decades of propaganda will slowly be eradicated, and what better way to do that than use hip hop as a mouthpiece, unifier and cultural vehicle.
Hip hop’s power of the creating the ‘cool’ is a feat that should not be slept on, and the alcohol brands already know this as they have collaborated with the culture to move product and boost ROI. Decriminalization presents a lot of opportunities for young South Africans in hip hop to venture into an industry that is untapped, moving themselves from consumers to business owners. While the current laws do not allow for distribution, there is a space for innovation in the lifestyle space of cannabis culture. There is a huge opportunity for content platforms dedicated to showcasing the intersection cannabis culture and hip hop culture are needed. Some creatives and hip hop heads have already jumped at the opportunity to craft content pieces that speak to this.
Content producer and YouTuber, Anarchadium, in partnership with Konsider Kush have developed a web series called Roll Models where they feature active creatives in hip hop. It comes as no surprise that the show leans more towards hip hop as one of the members of Konsider Kush is Mothipa, one of the most respected and highly skilled MC’s in South Africa. Roll Models is a discussion-focused interview show where the featured creative takes center stage as they have a casual conversation about how they started consuming cannabis, the role cannabis plays in their professional and creatives and questions centered around who they are as a person. Roll Models is a step in the right direction for the culture and the fact that young people who are passionate about hip hop are at the forefront.
Once we have full legalization of cannabis in South Africa, the opportunities for young people are going to endless for ownership, innovation and cultural progression.