STORIES

Most Lit Cannabis Song Each Year in the 1990s

By David Jenison on March 3, 2018

Bill Clinton might claim he didn't inhale, but hip-hop certainly did in the 1990s with hundreds of songs that celebrated cannabis. As the hippie revolution got crushed by Reagan's Drug War surge in the 1980s, reggae kept the theme alive in the underground, but all that changed in the 1990s when artists like Cypress Hill, Redman and Dr. Dre brought cannabis anthems back into the mainstream. This is arguably the best decade for cannabis tunes because the inspiration actually spread across multiple genres, including modern jazz, Latin, dance, classic rock, bounce, ska-punk and whatever the fuck Gene and Dean Ween play. As noted on the 2000s and 2010s lists, PRØHBTD purposely avoided terms like "best" and "biggest" since the selection process emphasized criteria like breakthroughs, mainstream reach, influence and underground gems. That said, pack your bowl with a Kief Sweat strain like Em-Dog and drive your membrane insane. 

1999  Kermit Ruffins - "Hide the Reefer" 

The earliest cannabis tunes came out during the Jazz Age, and Kermit Ruffins is a NOLA-based trumpeter committed to preserving traditional jazz. This includes making songs like "Hide the Reefer." Ruffins didn't release the most popular song of the year, but its nod to the early jazz-cannabis connection makes it the most lit. Worth noting, 2001 did drop late in the year with songs like "Let's Get High," but the lesser-known Dr. Dre track does not appear to be about cannabis. 

1998  Manu Chao - "Welcome to Tijuana"

Manu Chao, a Paris-born Spaniard, is an iconic Latin artist with leftist political views that include opposition to the Drug War. In 1999, Chao did a cool cover of Lalo Guerrero's "Marihuana Boogie" from 1949, but he's better known for the "tequila, sex and marijuana" chorus in "Welcome to Tijuana" (from the same album as "Clandestino"). Still, the most lit album was the Half-Baked soundtrack with Coolio's "I'm in Love with Mary Jane" and the Bloodhound Gang's "Along Comes Mary."  

1997  Timbaland & Magoo - "Smoke in Da Air"

Timbaland entered the A-list in 1996 producing hits for Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, and this afforded him the chance to release his first proper studio album, Welcome to Our World, with rapper Magoo. The aforementioned female stars appear on the hit song "Up Jumps da Boogie," but "Smoke in Da Air" stood out as the album's cannabis anthem. Timbaland's future credits would include producing Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" and Missy's "Pass That Dutch." 

1996  Tupac Shakur - "High 'Til I Die"  

Tupac's biggest album, 1996's All Eyez on Me, came out in February, while "High 'Til I Die" opened the Sunset Park soundtrack in April. A drive-by shooting took his life the following September, making this cannabis-themed track the last song he released commercially before his death. 

1995  Ricky B - "Who Got Dat Fire"

More than a dozen cannabis anthems came out in 1995, but the best tracks came from the underground. The relatively unknown "Who Got Dat Fire" is the perfect example. Like crunk in Atlanta or bass in Miami, bounce music epitomized the early New Orleans sound with call-and-response lyrics and chants. Bounce also embraced the gay community, and in this Ricky B bounce song, cannabis as well. Other underground releases included the smooth-riding "Peaches N' Erb" by Society of Soul and "Mad Izm" from Channel Live. 

1994  Lords of Acid - "Marijuana in Your Brain"

Lords of Acid is one of the earlier dance-oriented groups to celebrate cannabis openly, but they weren't the only ones in 1994 with C+C Music Factory dropping the ballad "Take a Toke." OutKast also deserves a nod for "Crumblin' Erb" from the duo's debut disc.  

1993  Tom Petty - "Mary Jane's Last Dance" 

The first year of the Clinton Administration was, ironically, the biggest year ever for cannabis-themed music. Cypress Hill dropped "Insane in the Brain," "I Wanna Get High" and "Hits from the Bong," and B-Real & Co. collaborated with alt-rockers Sonic Youth on "I Love You Mary Jane." KRS-One referenced Clinton in "I Can't Wake Up," The Coup name dropped Jimmy Swaggart in "Last Blunt" and Nirvana repeatedly screamed "marijuana" on "Moist Vagina." Nate Dogg and Warren G made pre-fame appearances on Mista Grimm's "Indo Smoke," while Total Devastation killed it at radio with "Many Clouds Of Smoke." 

"Insane in the Brain" arguably deserves the nod, but Tom Petty ultimately took most-lit honors with "Mary Jane's Last Dance," a new Rick Rubin-produced song for his Greatest Hits album. The Hall of Famer dominated MTV and FM airwaves in the 1980s, and his commercial cred helped give the song major mainstream exposure. Impressively, only two new Petty songs cracked the Top 20 from 1990 on, and both referenced cannabis. A year after "Mary Jane's Last Dance," Petty released "You Don't Know How It Feels" with the oft-censored line, "Let's roll another joint." 

1992  Sublime - "Smoke Two Joints"  

Covers always require a higher bar to make any song list, but Sublime reached such heights with their take on The Toyes' 1983 classic. The Long Beach band actually recorded six covers for 40oz. to Freedom, including The Grateful Dead's "Scarlet Begonias" and Toots and the Maytals' "54-45 Was My Number." Toots Hibbert wrote the latter song after spending more than a year in prison for cannabis possession. Other lit anthems in 1992 included Redman's "How to Roll a Blunt," The Pharcyde's "Pack the Pipe" and Gang Starr's "Take Two and Pass." 

1991  Cypress Hill - "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk"

Cypress Hill must make the list, and what better choice than one of their original anthems. The group's eponymous debut also featured "Light Another," but "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" more closely epitomized the sound they took mainstream two years later with Black Sunday. Ironically, "Stoned" is one of two late additions recorded after the rest of the album had already been mixed. 

1990  Ween - "Puffy Cloud"  

The last track on Ween's 25-song debut, GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, is a messy and mellow ode to what they were obviously smoking in the recording studio. The barely audible lyrics include, "Go away on a puffy cloud, my brain is dead from too much pot, 'cause Gene, Dean and I smoke too much pot." In a year with few lit tracks, Ice Cube dropped a few references in "Gangsta's Fairytale," which described Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep getting high and the old woman in a shoe growing cannabis. 

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