Vic Mensa is shaking things up with his new initiative called 93 Boyz, which is the first black-owned cannabis company in Illinois.
Core to the company’s mission is to reinvest in communities and individuals who have been historically and disproportionately impacted by outdated laws and biases regarding cannabis use, while uplifting the underserved.
Among the community initiatives the brand will undertake is Books Before Bars, a program dedicated to providing books to Illinois prison libraries, offering inmates potentially transformative resources.
REVOLT chatted with the rapper about his new initiative, his experience with edibles, his upcoming album and more. Watch the cat below!
93 Boyz is your newest venture and it’s the first black-owned cannabis brand in Illinois. What made you want to get into this sector?
Cannabis was the first industry I worked in as a pre-teen – selling weed was my first hustle before I did anything rapping. In different ways and at different times in my life, I have been involved with cannabis. As Illinois law has changed, my priority has been to participate in this industry. Coming from a community that has been so affected by the war on drugs, I felt it was necessary for all of us to be represented in this cannabis industry.
What sets 93 Boyz apart from other cannabis companies out there?
In Chicago, the cannabis industry is overwhelmingly white, and very few people of color own it. So far, no black-owned Illinois brand has been sold legally in the state. Our aesthetic, our leadership, and being the first black-owned dispensaries is what sets us apart. We are also committed to using a portion of the proceeds to carry out community initiatives like our Books Before Bars program.
Compared to California and Colorado [that] have been leading the cannabis industry…the state of Illinois is very new to this industry and brand strength is not yet in Illinois.
You mentioned Books Before Bars. Let us know about the program and why you care about it.
Books Before Bars is a program in which we collect a large number of influential literary titles and send them to prisons in Illinois. It is near [and] dear to my heart because I’ve been sending books to my friends in prison for a decade now, and I’ve seen the incredible impact the brilliant books have had on the people in my life while I’ve been incarcerated. I have seen how a small book at the right time for someone facing a life sentence can transform their whole state of mind and bring them a sense of inner freedom even when the body is confined.
In this country, many black men are still incarcerated for possession of marijuana and are fighting to be released. With more businesses being built since weed has become legal, do you think we will finally see changes in our system and get marijuana possession charges overturned?
I have to say release Allen Russell who is currently serving a life sentence for an ounce of weed. The court recently upheld his life sentence and he was sentenced in 2019. We’re talking in the middle of widespread legalization, a brother from Mississippi was just sentenced to life in prison for an ounce of weed. It’s a tragedy and a parody because [it’s a] a complete aberration of justice and a true testament to the ridiculously hypocritical nature of United States law.
Do you prefer edibles or blunts?
I can’t eat edibles in public or I’ll be an emotional rollercoaster (laughs). I would laugh and cry – it’s too deep for me.
Have you ever had a bad trip or a good trip?
Almost a decade ago I was going with my daughter to get her medical card. Back then you had to go to Venice Beach to some of these fake doctors where you said your elbow was hurting and you got a card. I went with my boy Lottery, who was an exec at Motown at the time, and he gave me an edible lollipop when we left our meeting. As we were leaving I started to feel very high and was driving a separate car from my girlfriend. I was extremely distracted by the radio because they were talking about Nipsey Hussle and it was the craziest shit I’ve ever heard in my life to the point where I couldn’t give directions. At this point I was lost trying to get back to the hotel and it was almost time for me to have a meeting with Ethiopia who was running Motown at the time. I was so stoned that I started crying and felt like I couldn’t date anyone. After that I fell asleep and when I woke up I felt happy. So yes, an emotional roller coaster (laughs).
What is the best rolling paper to use and why?
The best rolling papers are the raw papers. Raw papers have taken over. Much of what we smoked on the joint side felt like easy highs and wides. White papers have a strong taste compared to raw papers, which have a softer and more palatable taste – a more natural unbleached paper.
Is there a celebrity you’re having a good time getting high with?
One person I rarely see without smoking is Ty Dolla $ign. He smokes well too. He’s a professional smoker and he’s probably one of those guys who smokes his own thing. He definitely smokes. You almost have to quit with weed.
What are your favorite cravings?
Insomia Cookies and I order the s’mores cookies with ice cream.
You are also expected to travel to West Africa for a festival with Chance The Rapper next year. How do you prepare for it?
We are increasing resources and onboarding artists – working with lots of people on the ground. In Ghana, our team is largely Canadian and it is connected to the culture on the ground. There are many parts, but the mission of the Black Star Line Festival is to build bridges and create a pipeline for global Blackness collaboration.
Describe a Vic Mensa concert experience and what can a fan expect when they see you perform?
My concerts are a powerful and inspiring experience and have a range of energies from high intensity to deep message to lyricism and melody. All in all, someone can leave my gigs feeling inspired.
What is the best concert you have attended and why?
The best concert I attended was the Pitchfork Festival where Lauryn Hill performed. She made me cry. It was a different scream than when I was on the edible…
On “Wraith”, you say, “I swear it feels like attack of the clones, spawned them niggas, I gave them their sound, might have worked if I wrote them their songs, one of a kerby, I got that shit sown. Do you feel that today’s rappers have been heavily influenced by Vic Mensa’s sound?
One hundred percent I gave influence to a lot of people. If you look at some of my early times, like the rock and roll or punk-rock styles I was doing from the start and how hugely popular they have become now – no blame anyone – I’ve inspired people the same way that people have inspired me before me.
You also rapped “This rap thing got slow, it made me a pound, this Tokyo grew…” What makes you feel like you’re slow in rapping right now? Do you feel like Hip Hop is losing its spark?
No, I don’t think hip hop is losing its spark. What I was referring to was just my personal relationship with her and right now I’m more energized with music than I have been in a long time. I’m just really excited about my album. I’m in LA and I’m mixing right now and putting the finishing touches on things.
How do you approach this new body of work to reignite this flame in hip hop? Any rappers you would like to collaborate with?
I collaborated a lot with Chance The Rapper and did a lot more production on this project. This album is largely about my own personal growth and is one of my strongest offerings. It’s really my second full album and it has a lot of depth, variation and it’s great music.
How do you think you have evolved since your last project?
I grew up in too many ways to address them all. One of the main areas of my growth has been honoring and protecting my gift. Gratitude and prioritizing my peace, which are ways I’ve grown as a man in life. So the music will represent that.
Who do you think in hip hop right now is wearing it?
Saba does amazing things. I would also like to quote David Sabastian who is a source of inspiration and influence for me. I think he’s one of the best and I encourage people to listen to him. Also, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Kanye West.