The Best Year Ever for Lit Music

By David Jenison on August 18, 2018

Despite what some gossip sites might suggest, the video for Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" does not feature Barack Obama as an extra, but this generic hip-pop travesty did take the No. 2 spot on the Hot 100's year-end chart. Ironically, the song includes the line "I puff on dank," making it the first song ever to give cannabis a shout out and finish the year in the top two.

This impressive chart feat offers a telling snapshot of 1993, the year in which music artists brought cannabis back into the pop culture fold.

Cannabis-themed music started during the Prohibition-era jazz scene, and rock artists made it famous in the late '60s and early '70s, but Tricky Dick's war on drugs helped turn the tide. By the start of the Reagan-Thatcher decade, lit music had receded from popular music and only remained relevant in reggae circles. Rap music, still a novelty genre itself at the start of the '90s, brought lit music back into the mainstream with its own meteoric rise during the Clinton years.

Leading up to lit music's reemergence on the radio dial, the non-singles "Light Another" and "Stoned Is the Way of the Walk" appeared on Cypress Hill's 1991 debut, followed in 1992 by Redman's "How to Roll a Blunt," The Pharcyde's "Pack the Pipe," Gang Starr's "Take Two and Pass" and Sublime's cover of "Smoke Two Joints." And then a quarter of a century ago this year, the floodgates opened wide.

Cypress Hill deserves huge credit for "Insane in the Brain," a mainstream hit that Hot 100 ranked 65th for the year, in addition to "Hits from the Bong" and "I Wanna Get High." The trio even moved into alt-rock territory with the Sonic Youth collaboration "I Love You Mary Jane" for the Judgment Night soundtrack. Equally important, Dr. Dre dropped The Chronic in the final weeks of 1992, and it dominated 1993 with hits like "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang," ranked No. 11 on the same year-end chart.

In hip-hop circles, the mainstream also got an early look at Warren G and Nate Dogg when they appeared on Mista Grimm's "Indo Smoke" for the Poetic Justice soundtrack, while Total Devastation released the album Legalize It! and the single "Many Clouds of Smoke." KRS-One narrated a hip-hop smoking circle from the blunt's perspective on "I Can't Wake Up," while The Coup's debut album featured "Last Blunt."

Cannabis-themed rap tunes defined the year, but rock artists also got back on the lit tip. Most notably, Tom Petty reached No. 1 on the rock charts with "Mary Jane's Last Dance" from his Greatest Hits album, while 311 released "Hydroponic." Some limited their lit tunes to b-sides, but they're still worth noting: Ween's "I Smoke Some Grass (and Get Really Really High)" is eight minutes of stoned zaniness, while Nirvana's "Moist Vagina" features Kurt Cobain screaming "marijuana" over and over again.

The momentum kept building from there. In 1994, artists with lit-themed tunes included Dave Matthews Band, OutKast, C+C Music Factory, Lords of Acid, E.S.G., Method Man and (once again) Tom Petty, among others. As the decade continued, cannabis-themed music could be heard everywhere.

Some might argue that other years had more and/or better lit tunes, but 1993 was the most influential year in moving cannabis-themed music back into the mainstream, and the trend remains more prevalent than ever 25 years later. Thanks primarily to hip-hop, cannabis moved beyond the hippie/rasta subculture and joined the general global culture in ways that transcend music. This trajectory started on a meaningful level in 1993, which makes it the best year ever for cannabis-themed music.

Bonus trivia: Only one other song (besides "Whoomp!") clearly name dropped cannabis and finished the year in the top two. Any guess as to the other song? The lyrical reference is "I see Xzibit in the cut, roll the weed up!" and the song—"In da Club" by 50 Cent—finished 2003 as the year's No. 1 song.

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