Smoking cannabis on a yacht is one thing, but it’s an entirely separate thing to capture the opulent essence of luxury in a brand — and that’s what Monogram by Jay-Z has effectively accomplished. The matte black, heavy-hitting packaging and carefully selected cultivars that Monogram produces feels like you’re in the presence of a supercar or a stunning watch — minus the six-figure price tags.
American icon Shawn “Jay Z” Carter has been in the “drug” discourse for some time as a prolific storyteller, leveraging the cocaine days into a multi-platinum and unparalleled music career — but that was just the beginning. After partnering with The Parent Company as Chief Visionary Officer, the game truly changed, and Jay-Z entered the “ouid” chat.
Not content to simply profit from a product line in his name, Jay is turning real experiences into guidance for one of cannabis’ biggest firms. He’s stewarding inclusion in a big way — and not just for people of different backgrounds. Rather, he’s focusing on people who have been directly harmed by the War on Drugs.
Enter: Deandre “De” Watson, Culture and Cultivation Chief at Monogram, a long time participant in the cannabis industry. He is the terpy glue holding down the flowers in their cultivation facilities, and an important link to the legacy market.
Focused on the future he is building with TPCO and Monogram, De told MERRY JANE more about the historical importance of his role. “We all know that the War on Drugs disproportionately victimized people of color and I am one of those people. It was a major challenge to break into legal cannabis. I never thought it would be a legitimate business and I’m blessed to be living a dream that I never even dreamed. Working with Monogram has been so fulfilling because of what we’re doing to increase social equity within this industry. That starts with creating more above board opportunities for people like me.“
De spends every day working directly with the plants that make up Monogram’s premier offerings. His level of expertise is not only tied to the success of the brand, but it’s also destined to influence how the industry grows as a whole — especially when you consider the significant global influence of Jay’s projects.
Working hard with team TPCO to launch Monogram’s No. 8, a unique cultivar line designed for aficionados, De saw the project through many stages of production. “No. 8 came about as I was going through one of my daily walks of the facility, when we were building No. 1 and No. 3. I was wondering what we were going to do next, but I never rush the process. When I first saw the strain that would become No. 8, I smoked it a few times and immediately knew I needed to bring it to Jay and the team. They all thought it was cool. We ended up smoking it for about four or five months before it came out. That’s the thing about cannabis — you need to make sure it’s going to be stable and consistent.”
Due to its unique expression, it was not a set-it-and-forget-it type of grow. “No. 8 kept getting better and better on its own, the more we smoked. Then we started perfecting it into what it is today. Honestly, No. 8 is a vibe. It’s light, it’s easy, it’s engineered to give you a good high.”
One of the ongoing cannabis cultivation debates centers around what makes someone an expert grower. One school of thought holds the perspective that if you didn’t work in the “before times” of weed, you can’t be an expert. Regardless of when people get in the game, however, it's all about learning. This is why De is such a vital part of team Monogram.
“This industry is exploding right now and a lot of people want to add credibility to their products,” De told us. “It’s the experience that gives you credibility. I’ve been in the weed game since I was a kid. Granted things were different back then, and I wasn’t cultivating the product at the same level that I am now. But I grew up in this culture. It’s part of who I am, so it’s part of what Monogram stands for”
For Jay, for De, and for fans of the flower, this is about more than money.
“The culture is everything,” he told MERRY JANE. “We’ve been part of the weed culture for years, and it’s getting legalized across the nation, but still has that bad stigma. Smokers deserve better, right? We want to turn the ‘underground stoner vibe’ into something that’s appreciated and accessible to all. That’s a big part of our mission: Bringing dignity and respect back to cannabis.”
*This was written in partnership with Monogram.