The Game holds his breath after a drag from the glowing red tip of cigar-sized blunt. Pondering the question of how long he’s been involved in the weed business, his mouth cracks with a smirk, his lungs full of smoke. He exhales his answer, along with a cloud that fogs up the room. We’re sitting near a large window in High Times’ office, overlooking L.A. “All my life,” he says, without the hint of a cough. There are few things that bring him pleasure like good weed—except maybe hip-hop and his kids. It’s as much a part of him as the signature red star L.A. tattoo on his right cheek. Some might even say the bud business has always been in his blood.
“It’s not like I woke up a year ago and decided to get into the weed industry,” says the 37-year-old rapper, born Jayceon Terrell Taylor, sporting a blue L.A. Dodgers cap, a black distressed Givenchy hoodie and grey sweats. “I think if you’ve been smoking weed or weed’s been in your life or the way I grew up where your parents are smoking weed, you’re already part of the weed industry.”
The only difference now, he says, is that the laws now make it okay to sell a natural substance that’s been used for the benefit of humanity since its origin. But as far as rappers go, only a few have managed to make that transition successfully. And The Game is definitely one of them. Last year the Compton rapper made waves by announcing his co-ownership of Santa Ana dispensary known as The Reserve, making him the first celebrity to own one of 10 operations that sprang up in the wake of the city’s lottery for new cannabis dispensaries last year. The Game reportedly invested $1 million into the Reserve. Since then he says he’s more than tripled his return on investment. He’s also become a spokesman for The Reserve brand and other cannabis-related industries, such as Green Street Marketing, a business in the penthouse office on the floor above High Times.
In a post Prop-64 world, Green Street is one of the many businesses that connects the worlds of cannabis and commerce. In a swanky top floor office suite in the L.A. neighborhood of Miracle Mile, one of the company’s mini cannabis brand expos is in full swing on a rainy Friday afternoon. Stepping out of a pair of antiquated, manually operated elevator doors into the Penthouse-turned-office, a table of beautiful women sit by a fireplace in tight nightclub dresses, rolling joints of premium bud while a bustling crowd experiments with different pot products designed to get you good and stoned. Representatives of a cannabis-infused lemonade and edibles company offer free samples next to a professional masseuse doling out some tension-busting massages with THC-infused body lotions (which actually won’t give you a buzz, but feel damn good). Located at the top of a building that’s become a beacon for new businesses inside a vintage shell of Art Deco L.A., this pot party makes it easy to see the world through emerald-tinted glasses.
For the Compton-born rapper, this lifestyle, which he might easily find at a cannabis convention or in the stylized fiction of a rap video, is a far cry from less glamorous days of getting high on chronic in his old Compton neighborhood starting in the late ‘80s. He took his first puff at age 7. Having older brothers around forced him to grow up fast, a little too fast the night his brother George, aka rapper Big Fase 100, put him up to it while their mother was out working at the post office on a graveyard shift.
“I think he stole it from one of the bigger homies in the hood,” the rapper remembers. “But this was chronic in 1987 when everyone was smoking stress, this was like a rare jewel, almost like finding a rare diamond in the middle of Africa.” As any third grader would, the first hit caused the rapper to nearly cough his lungs out of his chest. “I felt like I was gonna die,” he says laughing. “They was laughing at me like ‘get your bitch ass up, look at you’ and I’m like coughing going, ‘help me!’”
Though he’s got plenty of weed stories to look back and laugh about, dealing with the impact of the government’s crackdown on pot in his old hood, and an overcrowded state prison system reminds him just how lucky we are to be living in this era of legalization.
“Look how many people have been locked up for weed and how many people wouldn’t have been locked up for a small amount, maybe an ounce or two if it was now and they got pulled over,” he says. “And it’s just like when alcohol was illegal, the Patrons and Hennessey’s of the world were criminals, smugglers…as soon as it became legal, all those old brands are now the billionaires of the world. So anybody with any sense knows that now is the time to get involved.”
Since investing in The Reserve, the rapper’s dispensary continues to churn out new cannabis innovations at a Wonka-like pace, including the Reserve’s potent strain of bubble gum kush he puffed on during the interview, which is sold in canisters that look like cat food, until you open them up. “It smells like bubblegum, and it doesn’t lose its scent, and the taste is crazy,” he says. “As soon as you pull it back you get a whiff of that bubble gum and you gone. That’s definitely one of my top five favorite strains.” It also comes in a potent strawberry banana version.
Aside from bud itself, Game’s partnered with G Farma Brands, which includes his G Drinks—his personal favorite line of cannabis products, including G Lemonade, a 100 mg potable infused with liquid cannabis oil. “They’re really potent,” the rapper warns, “definitely a sipper.”
With a preponderance of pot products that resemble stuff kids might like—lemonade, bubble gum and candy—the Game’s role as a entrepreneur will soon collide with his role as a parent. When asked whether he thinks he would allow his three kids—ages 6, 9 and 13—to smoke when they’re older he says, his kid’s first time getting high will probably be their last.
“Let’s just say if my son is 15 and he wants to take his first hit of the weed, I’m gonna make sure it’s the most crazy strain ever in life,” the rapper says. “He gonna feel like he ate a pack of edible gummies. I’d want them to have a terrible first experience and then have them be like nah, I’m cool, I smoked once with my dad, I’m good.”
Though it sounds like a joke, for the Game there’s definitely an underlying hope that just as gangsta rap has gained mainstream acceptance to the point where it’s become ubiquitous, he hopes society’s perception of weed will follow suit. Of course, the amount of time that takes is irrelevant for a rapper who got to the top living by his own rules.
“Forty years from now, everyone will have at least taken a hit of weed at some point in their lifetime,” the Game says. “Social acceptance comes with time and if you’re like me, you don’t really give a fuck how long it takes for other people to accept it because you don’t care and you’re gonna do you regardless.”