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DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill on How to Make It in Cannabis Without Selling Out
culture  |  Feb 4, 2020

DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill on How to Make It in Cannabis Without Selling Out

The legendary producer dishes on balancing culture, business, and art while blazing his own trail in the legal weed world with a new role as creative director of edibles company, Bhang.

The legendary producer dishes on balancing culture, business, and art while blazing his own trail in the legal weed world with a new role as creative director of edibles company, Bhang.

Legendary music producer DJ Muggs has done a lot. Besides co-founding the seminal hip-hop group Cypress Hill and creating the thumping beats behind timeless tracks that still blare in our minds (“Insane in the Brain” and “Jump Around,” to name a couple), he’s also the sonic mastermind of the Soul Assassins, a rotating collective of artists that has featured Dr. Dre, Raekwon, and Kool G Rap. 

All the different projects make sense when you talk to him. The man who’s worked with everyone from Ice Cube to U2 prides himself on two things: sharply rejecting classification and moving at a breakneck pace.

“It’s a gift and a curse… sometimes I gotta wait for people to fuckin’ catch up,” he acknowledges of his penchant for seeing the future, as he did with hip-hop when he and childhood friends Sen-Dog and B-Real founded Cypress Hill in the late ‘80s.  

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DJ Muggs (left) with Cypress Hill, photo via

Muggs is now bringing that same vision more prominently to the cannabis industry as creative director at Bhang Inc., a publicly traded company based in Los Angeles specializing in gourmet cannabis edibles. Bhang started out as a boutique chocolate brand sold in high-end grocery stores, but has since made a strong pivot into the weed world. Today, the company offers everything from CBD-infused gum and vape cartridges, to premium THC-infused chocolate in a variety of nuanced flavors like Fire Orange Spice, Ice Peppermint, and Cherries & Cream.

DJ Muggs intends to act as a “cultural provider” to the brand, helping them with art direction, artist collaborations, and much more. MERRY JANE spoke with him by phone about how the icon has seen cannabis culture change since his salad days, the commonalities between music and weed, and where he thinks the pot industry will go next.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length

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MERRY JANE: It’s great to connect with you, Muggs. Tell us about your new role with Bhang. What makes them different from all the other companies expanding into cannabis edibles right now?

DJ Muggs: Bhang — it’s really about quality control. Number one, their roots come from chocolate. The gentleman who started the company was a chocolatier — [making] high-end chocolates sold in places like Whole Foods. Coming into cannabis, the goal was to make an edible that tasted like a chocolate, and not like cannabis. 

For sure. There seems to be a lot of concern over things like taste and consistency now, even just looking at the whole CBD craze.

Quality and consistency are so important. You want to know that you’re getting a consistent product, especially when you’re gonna put it in your mouth. When you’re gonna digest something, you want to be 100 percent sure you know what you are putting in your body, and that it’s the best. Quality and consistency are keys over here… we test before, during, and after the product is made. 

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You’ve had such a huge influence on both music and cannabis. What kind of similarities do you see between the cannabis business and the music business, specifically hip-hop?

Both were shunned underground cultures. Hip-hop was shunned at first by many musicians because it was a sample-based format, and then by the industry because they thought it was just a fad... a counterculture, you know what I mean? [Music executives said], “We don’t do that — that shit over there’s bad.” It comes along with these negative connotations.

But, as you start to take a closer look, and get to know these people and get to know their personalities, you put the shit under a magnifying glass, and you start to realize the benefits and beauty in both of these things. Once you see that, [they start saying], “Oh, we can make money,” and then all the corporate fucks start coming out of the bushes, you know what I’m saying?

I love that term, “corporate fucks.” There’s controversy in the industry about people getting involved in cannabis who’ve never used it, or who previously were against it. Is it ethical for them to participate in the industry?

You know, it’s like this, man: To each their own. Everybody has to figure it out themselves. It’s gonna affect each human being differently, and everyone’s gonna have a different say on that. If people really wanted marijuana to be legal, and they wanted it to grow, this is part of the growth. The same thing happened in music, like we were just talking about. 

If you have a company, it’s your job to keep your authenticity. It’s your job to continue to bring the greatest product to the table without sacrificing your artistic integrity for an extra dollar, you know? If it costs a little bit more money for this testing, or I have to put a little bit more money [in] for more artistic packaging, that’s important: not to cut corners for profits.

There are definitely pros and cons to the “green rush” of money coming into cannabis.

The investor side is a beautiful thing! If you’re a company and you need the investment side, it’s a beautiful thing… but understand what you are bringing in, and understand where the lines are drawn and your expectations and their expectations. Control — you always want to have artistic control of your product.

When I signed with Columbia Records, the thing back then was A&R people telling you how to make records, what you should do, how to take pictures. I was like, "Get out of my fuckin’ studio. Don’t ever come into my studio again." This is how I do my thing… I’m gonna live by my sword, and I’m gonna die by my sword. I had confidence — I knew what my product was. I had vision. The label didn’t.

The press release mentioned you’d be working on creative direction and strategy with Bhang to make them a “household name.” Can you elaborate on that a bit more? Any specific plans or tactics you’re going to bring to that mission?

I’m not gonna give the whole game away, because everyone’s always looking for an edge, you know? But I will be bringing art direction, artist collaborations, general advising, content… basically just bringing culture, overall culture. I’m a cultural provider.

Is that hip-hop culture? Is there a certain connection you guys want to make there?

It’s just culture. I transcend lines. I transcend rock and roll. I transcend hip-hop. I transcend marijuana. It’s hard to put a tagline on something. It’s just culture.

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That’s awesome, and I would say much-needed in the industry today.

'Cause I’m still with the people, I'm out there living and breathing and walking and talking with people every day, you know what I mean? We don't just keep ourselves away from the people and be on the internet and stuff. Nah, close the fuckin internet. I’m with the people every day. I know what the people want. I know what the people need.

They’re bringing in a lot of people to run stuff in the industry, but they have no idea what culture is…. They try to look at it on the internet, or try to go to Instagram and be like, “This is culture!” But it’s like, What are you talking about? You can’t read about culture. You can’t go buy culture. It’s something you have to live, and absorb, and then understand what you’re absorbing.

You said you have a lot of vision. Aside from the new role with Bhang, what do you see coming next for DJ Muggs, artistically or professionally?

You know what it is? I leave everything open to the world of infinite possibilities. I’m open, you know? I’m on a path. You keep your mind right, you keep your spirit right, you keep your body right, you stay open… I let things flow through me like a conduit, and I stay aware of what’s going on, and I just stay open. The objective is constant growth. Constant growth and constant artistic integrity… then I just let nature take its course.

What would you say is the role of cannabis reporters and others in the media to contribute to that culture you mentioned?  

I think we all have an obligation when we take on a profession just to do our research. Anytime we are doing something, do the research. Understand what we are talking about. Then, as an individual, ask, What is your goal as a writer? Are you trying to push the culture forward? Or are you trying to get clicks?

We need to help the culture and push [cannabis] culture forward — both recreationally and medically — and the press can really sway opinion. Just taking responsibility for oneself…. Be authentic. Reach out. Writing about the right stories, it just comes down to integrity. But sometimes, you know, you gotta pay some bills and need some bill money!

You seem like a guy who’s been able to balance artistic integrity with commercial success, and I don’t think that’s an easy thing.

'Cause I don’t give a fuck… I do my thing and I always have. You know, once you give in, you give in. It’s always about truth and authenticity — that means more than anything. So does artistic integrity. Doing my art, the way I wanna do my art, with my middle finger up. Just like Salvador Dali or Picasso, you know what I mean? Or someone like Alejandro Jodorowsky. I come from this kind of lineage. These are the artists I study. 

For more on Bhang, visit the company’s website here

Follow DJ Muggs on Instagram and Twitter

Follow Raj Chander on Twitter

author_raj_chander

Raj is an entrepreneur and cannabis policy reporter based in Washington, D.C. His coverage of social justice and equity in the industry has appeared in Leafly and Marijuana Moment.

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