writer Cesar Soriano, 24, waited patiently backstage as weekend headliner B.o.B. finished performing his hit "HeadBand." Then, just as the song ended, Soriano strolled onto stage with what appeared to be an enormous dark green baton exuding smoke, handing it to the befuddled superstar.
The rapper took a tentative puff, and his eyes widened. What was this thing? He took a few more hits, longer and deeper than the first, and then raised the intricately constructed, half-pound cannabis cigar triumphantly in the air. The crowd went wild. Backstage, the mad genius who had painstakingly constructed the elaborate, multilayered cigar breathed a sigh of relief.
On Instagram, his 58,000 followers know him as afgoo_head, a prolific marijuana wizard whose surreal, 100 percent cannabis creations seem almost impossible to smoke, let alone to construct. In real life, he's a fidgety, modest former Los Angeles high school teacher with a goatee and thin glasses.
And he prefers to keep a tight lid on his identity.
Because although this 35-year-old South Los Angeles resident has earned admiration from weed aficionados and blunt historians worldwide, his family and former colleagues have no idea that he grows pot, let alone being aware of his feats of smokeable artistry.
"No face shots," he told the fans who wanted to take photos with him on the convention floor in San Bernardino. It was a weekend of top-shelf bud, 70.75 percent THC butane hash oil and detailed seminars on everything from growing to legalization, but even the pros at High Times were floored by afgoo_head's craftsmanship.
"His work belongs in a museum," Soriano says. Even Cypress Hill's B Real was impressed when he took a few hits backstage, particularly with how slowly it burned and how light the hit felt.
Afgoo_head draws inspiration from the Thai sticks that soldiers used to smoke in the 1970s in Vietnam, also known to growers as "harvest cigars" - whole buds of marijuana tied with hemp rope around a bamboo stick or cannabis plant stem.
The idea was that you removed the hemp rope and pulled the stick out before smoking, creating a thin passageway for airflow and obviating the need to grind the weed.
But afgoo_head has gone way beyond that. After a few months of tinkering last year, he began coating the flowers in alternating layers of wax, hash and whole cannabis leaves, which harden into a protective shell. Each layer takes about two days to dry, and each cigar takes about two weeks to complete.
"This is going to be the future of cannabis cigars," says James, 25, of Gold Coast Extracts, an L.A.-based extraction team, which took top concentrate honors at the 2013 Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam and Seattle. (Because extracting cannabis concentrates remains illegal in California, James did not want to reveal his last name.)
This past February, at the Los Angeles Cannabis Cup at the NOS Center in San Bernardino,