Today in cannabis culture we’re talking about the evolution of stoner music. As you probably know, some styles of music are inextricably linked to drug culture. Even more specific, some music is considered stoner music, or the soundtrack of smoke circles and hacky sack games. While that discussion itself is interesting, the way stoner music has changed is intriguing as well.
You’re sure to find a few old favorites in this review of stoner music and maybe even a few new tunes to pop into your playlist.
Folk is the music of protest sung by people with enough privilege to safely call for change in direct language. Artists like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan sang songs about social justice and warned against the perils of empty, Orwellian society.
In the 1950s and 60s, folk became the focal point of gatherings and festivals that brought flower children together to smash convention and have life changing experiences. I think it goes without saying that this environment gave eventual birth to cannabis culture in the US and the future of stoner music like jam.
The Jam Sandwich
Jam music is really the OG stoner music, at least as far as today’s pop culture is concerned. Jam is characterized by an easy, rambling sound that is guitar driven but not aggressive. It often contains strong elements of blues or folk. However, some jam bands lean more into progressive music and jazz. You’ll often find all of these styles in the catalog of our favorite jam band.
Obviously, the most famous example of jam music is The Grateful Dead and we all know what they did for stoner culture.
The jam band style churns out songs that seem to last forever and the tunes may lack a strong, catchy hook instead favoring a dancy shuffle that goes on and on. Like jazz, there is lots of room for solos which also feel endless at times.
Southern rock and some country even fit.
The truth is, before jam there was jazz and the musicians and fans were edgy and bold. The music was experimental and so were many of the people immersed in jazz culture. Jazz and marijuana were closely associated with each other and some even believe cannabis and other drugs contributed to the boundary breaking sound itself.
Cue this Sun Ra number up during your next sesh and thank me later.
Blues music also features prominently in the history of stoner music. The Blues is born of struggle, strife, and longing for a better world. Like the jazz musicians, blues musicians appreciated cannabis. Muddy Waters can tell you all about it.
Another closely related category in stoner music is world music. Specifically, most cannabis friendly bands add elements of world music into a jam band style to create fusion sounds. World music features a lot of acoustic percussion and organic sound layering and may also feature some spiritual elements like chanting, wailing, or native instruments.
Michael Franti is one of the first pop artists to popularize this style of fusion music and many jam bands followed suit. If you like the exotic, try out some world music or one of its most uplifting subgenres: afrobeat. Get that dance on.
Zydeco is a mash up of world music and jam with a bit of bluegrass, blues and folk sensibility tossed in. It imparts a heavy cajun feeling and features all sorts of regional instruments like washboards, banjos and even the accordion. Zydeco delivers another dance party and you’re likely to see hoopers and lindy hoppers cavorting about near the stage at an live show.
Reggae And Dub
While I am sure some of you are incensed to see both of these iconic genres included in the same category, this humble author finds them intertwined. Reggae is obviously a long standing stoner soundtrack that owes much of its widespread popularity to the infamous Bob Marley.
Reggae and cannabis have spiritual associations because of the link to Rastafari culture.
Dub, on the other hand, borrows elements of reggae and mixes it with electronic manipulation. The result is super dancy yet again (noticing a trend here?) and this style emphasizes the womp womp thumping sound reggae creates. Lee Scratch Perry is the obvious place to start if you want to know more about Dub. Next, check out King Tubby.
There are some who believe hip hop has a direct connection to dub and dancehall and whether that’s true or not, each of these types of music have a connection to cannabis.
Rappers talk about smoking marijuana copiously. It goes far beyond Snoop Dogg.
Believe it or not, bands like Black Sabbath are also stoner music. Some cannabis fans like their music dancy and others like it thrashy.
Obviously, smoking cannabis does not cause you to like stoner music necessarily. That being said, it is still surprising to some that metal makes the cut. Lump Sabbath together with bands like Led Zeppelin and you get a category of music called Stoner Rock which actually exists according to this article at least.
You can also have fun reading about the top 10 stoner metal bands by OC Weekly while having a bit of Ozzy.
Back in the 90s, there was a genre that came to be known as college music. Dave Matthews Band, The Counting Crows, and even bands like REM. These days, the term College Music or College Rock is antiquated, but through the 80s and 90s it described a particular type of alternative rock heavily played on college radio stations in the US.
Many of the fans of these bands and perhaps the bands themselves had a love affair with marijuana. DMB particularly fostered a cult like following who showed up for shows like it was a very preppy Dead tour.
Here, have some Dave and Bela Fleck, it’s fun if a bit rambling.
Electronic, Dubstep and EDM
While fans of these genres won’t like seeing themselves classified together, to anyone on the outside in there are some similarities. Electronic music has always had a connection to the drug scene and while most associate MDMA with club kids, listen to some Portishead and tell me you don’t want to smoke a joint.
After and alongside electronic music with all its subgenres comes Dubstep. You either love it when the beat drops or you think of this type of music as more of a meme. Either way, dubstep must be considered when talking about stoner music.
Finally, EDM is one of the latest evolutions of electronic music and I’ve been to some of those shows and you guys are loaded! It isn’t everyone’s kind of stoner music, but the clicks and the beeps do attract their fair share of cannabis lovers. I recommend glitch music if you’re completely unfamiliar with EDM.
If I missed your favorite, don’t come for me. Just reach out on social media and let me know who or what I missed!