A dozen rad weed songs from the land of reggae

Not confining ourselves to the island.
Bob Marley
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“GANJA SMOKIN’” by Bajja Jedd (1995)

Jedd also shows some of hip hop’s influence on reggae by the ‘90s, but he is more eclectic than that. The Antiguan native draws inspiration from the melting pot of island cultures he encountered when he moved to New York. This is 1995, so the “legalize it” refrain is in full effect. But this is mostly a full-throated encouragement to give ganja a spin.

And, seeing as we just mentioned Sublime, this is another song that was inspired by Bradley Nowell. Except Nowell would have had to smoke about ten thousand more spliffs to reach Bajja Jedd’s insanely gruff baritone. Since much of reggae is sung in the upper registers, it’s a nice change of pace. I have no medical evidence of this, but I think you might just be able to get a contact high merely by listening to Bajja’s voice.

“GANJA FARMER” by Marlon Asher (2006)

Asher spearheads a group of Trinidadian reggae performers with this massive hit. It comes at a crucial moment, as moves to legalize weed were picking up speed. Asher penned this modern plea for acceptance, using more modern instrumentation and blending much of what came before.

You get thanks to Jah for the gift of the herb along with a rundown of all the wondrous possibilities it presents. You get a plea for legalization so that it can be readily incorporated into science and medicine, for the betterment of all. And you also get indignation and anger at the way governments continue to try to wipe it out. In an otherwise upbeat, gentle song, Asher has a verse about using a rocket launcher to blow a “big stinkin’ helicopter” out of the air when it begins burning the farmers' lands.

“100 WEIGHT OF COLLIE WEED” by Carlton Livingston (1984)

Most of the reggae songs we have talked about so far are more along the lines of meditations on the wonders of weed. There are calls to legalize it and brief snippets of narrative, but there really aren’t very many outright story songs in early reggae. Livingston changed that.

“100 Weight…” is a beautiful, vaguely haunting story about transporting his stash and running into some trouble. His gentle tenor floats over the heartbeat of a bass line and minimal drums and keys add accents. The effect is hypnotic and the story is compelling. Slick Rick and Robert Earl Keen would offer up story songs in hip-hop and Americana a few years later with much more humor and rambunctious energy. But Livingston, in the finest of reggae traditions, plays it cool. And it manages to be just as compelling.