Editor's note: Soon-to-be-award-winning gonzo music journalist Danielle Bacher prowls the late late night scene for West Coast Sound. For this installment, she hit the town with New York rapper Smoke DZA, who released his latest album last week. Also along were his road manager Bric and some friends.
8:55 p.m.: I walk into the smoke-laden room #709 at the Sheraton in Downtown. It smells like strong marijuana and sweaty gym clothes.
8:56 p.m.: Smoke DZA lives up to his moniker. He's high as shit and has a pre-rolled blunt ready to go in his hand. He sits on a camel colored chair with his shoulders slumped over in an oversized jacket. His eyes are transfixed on WWE SummerSlam silently playing on his computer.
8:57 p.m.: “Do you like wrestling?” he asks. “I grew up on it.”
“No,” I respond. “But I know who Hulk Hogan is.”
“Yeah, no shit,” he says, laughing.
8:59 p.m.: There are about 30 Palma blunt tubes sprawled across a black table, along with Extra Strength Tylenol packets and another pre-rolled blunt. Multiple plastic bags of weed are scattered all over the place. DZA kicks up his right leg and dusts a speck of dirt from his mustard-colored Ewing Athletics basketball shoe.
9:00 p.m.: “I don't smoke because it's cool,” says DZA. “If rap wasn't rap, I'd still be smoking. It's my life. It's my culture. Getting high brings people together.”
9:02 p.m.: He sparks the blunt and continues. “It makes people happy, and it doesn't hurt anyone. It strikes the most thought-provoking conversations. It should be decriminalized and legalized everywhere, so that's my Kushed God speech to you.”
9:03 p.m: Smoke DZA is a laid back dude. He's not flashy or obnoxious. He's thoughtful and honest. He's also not so famous that he's annoying to be around, and he's quite talented. He enjoys creating music with friends like A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa. The rest of his world pretty much revolves around constantly smoking marijuana. Which brings us to our first activity. DZA wants more weed, even though we have plenty here. He decides we should venture to his dealer's house.
9:11 p.m.: DZA, his road manager/best bud Mason “Bric” LaDue and a few friends walk into the elevator. Bric adjusts his hot pink fishing hat as he presses the button for the ground floor. One of DZA's rapper friends named Da$h tells another rapper friend Retch that “white wax is crazy crack.” I have no idea what this means, but we get interrupted when a middle-aged man, his wife and young child walk into the elevator on the fifth floor.
9:15 p.m.: We walk outside the hotel and get inside a black Uber vehicle. The boys smoke another blunt to Too $hort's “Gettin' It.” DZA informs me that people with good pot don't ever hang out with people with bad pot. He always surrounds himself with people who smoke OG Kush or Sour Diesel. He claims that L.A. has the best pot, but New York has good hustlers to sell it.
9:37 p.m.: We arrive at the drug dealer's apartment in Hollywood. Inside, there are copious amounts of weed and wax in the kitchen, as well as tons of Bob Marley papers. They have a special strain called Skittles. It's an orange hybrid that, oddly, smells like Starburst. “You guys are breaking up weed in a magic bullet?” asks Bric to the friends in the kitchen. “It's like weed heaven in here.” He points to the Skittles and tells his friend to roll it because “it's the real OG shit.”
9:45 p.m.: Da$h and Retch carry around jumbo Extra Mile cups filled with sizzurp. I watch one of the guys pour the codeine/promethazine mixture into his Sprite. DZA starts to smoke another blunt. He's blowing so much smoke that I'm getting a contact high.
9:47 p.m.: At this point, I can barely see the other people in the room. I think the crew has smoked about ten blunts, and they show no sign of stopping.
9:53 p.m.: DZA tells me that he worked two years to create his new album Dream. ZONE. Achieve. The work boasts features from artists like Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, Ab-Soul, Ty Dolla $ign and Joey Bada$$. The album is split into three acts: dream, zone and achieve, and, according to DZA, is probably his most personal album. The Dream section is about his inspiration, and everything he dreams of achieving. ZONE is about his hustle and mentality. Achieve is basking in all his glory. “This album really tells a story about me from the beginning to the end and sums up who I am as a rapper. You really get to know me and know I'm more than just a weed guy.”
10:10 p.m.: While DZA rolls another blunt, he explains his experience as a teenager growing up on 119th St. in Harlem. He watched his friend get shot playing a dice game. His friend didn't pay another kid for a bet and got shot in the head. “It wasn't about the money, it was about the pride,” says DZA. His friend had beaten the guy who shot him before, and he didn't want to look stupid again, this time for not getting paid on the bet. “I was in shock. It was the first time I experienced some shit like that.”
10:12 p.m.: DZA nonetheless claims that he didn't have a rough childhood. He rapped and stayed focused, and knew about A$AP Rocky who lived in his neighborhood on 116th St. in Harlem. “I've been blessed with my mom and dad and younger sister. I was always a straight-arrow kid. In high school, I got into my zone and saw crazy shit, but I didn't have a crazy life. I had a good life in the 'hood.”
10:13 p.m.: “Growing up in New York was crazy, but I'm pro-Harlem and that's official. I wouldn't do it any other way.”
10:14 p.m.: He says he learned his hustle, confidence and fearlessness in Harlem. “It's always competitive, and I always wanted to be the best. On top of that, be fly. It's all about the fly shit and what your craft is. Harlem made me who I am.”
10:15 p.m.: DZA married his wife in 2009. He had known her since 7th grade. They didn't date back then, but he was always in love with her. They dated for four years before they tied the knot. “Marriage is very hard. It's a lot of sacrifices and arguments and a lot of love,” he says. “You have to stay strong, especially for what I do. But she is a great mom and does the domestic thing very well.”
10:16 p.m.: He and his wife have 5-year-old twins and a 9-year old. The kids don't really understand what their dad does for a living. “My baby girl asks me sometimes, 'Dad, can I come to work with you?' One day, I'll let them come see what is going on. It will bring them cool points from their peers.” He doesn't influence their music selection either. He wants them to find their own music and discover it. “I heard the kids singing Macklemore's “Thrift Shop” and thought 'What the fuck? What is this shit? People really listen to this song?' It's kind of funny.”
10:25 p.m.: DZA takes a large puff of the Skittles blunt and blows it out. He turns to me and says, “I don't fuck with other drugs. I'm a fan of promethazine, but I'm not a fan of cocaine. I don't fuck with that weirdo shit. Weed is the only thing I enjoy. I don't even support cigarettes unless it has marijuana.”
“You sound like a shitty politician!” screams rapper Retch. “I smoke cigs for breakfast!”
11:05 p.m.: Their other friend sitting on the couch is downing sizzurp. His eyes are bright red, and he keeps falling asleep.
11:21 p.m.: DZA buys about a pound of weed and we head out. We arrive at Bossa Nova on Sunset Blvd. and sit down to eat. DZA orders charbroiled shrimp with white rice, black beans, salsa, mashed potatoes and a Sprite.
11:45 p.m.: The guy on sizzurp is almost falling asleep in his food. One more inch and he would be in his pasta.
11:50 p.m.: Bric tells us that he likes meeting women on Tinder:
“What's your success rate?” I ask.
“Not bad,” he says, laughing. “I downloaded it in the airport on the way here. I've just started doing it. I say yes to everyone. I would rather make my judging process for the people who say yes to me back. Saves time. It's efficient.”
“Until you meet a serial killer,” says DZA.
11:54 p.m.: We play credit card roulette to see who gets to pay the $150 tab. The server picks DZA's card from the stack. “I always get stuck with the bill! Fuck that shit!” He still pays.
12:20 a.m.: We get back in the Uber and drive around Downtown LA. The guys smoke the last blunt. Ty Dolla $ign's “Paranoid” plays followed by J Cole's “Power Trip.” DZA can't stop coughing. He's high as hell now.
12:25 a.m.: We walk into the hotel and DZA heads up to his room. I attempt to get my car out of valet and they try to charge me $50. I argue for about 20 minutes and get my car out for free. Who the fuck valets their car for $50? Not me.
12:57 a.m.: I make a U-turn at a stop light. I see red-and-blue lights flashing in the distance. Oh, FUCK.
1:00 a.m.: See, my Mazda is messed up. The front bumper no longer exists. This is what it looked like after my accident a few months ago:
1:01 a.m.: “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” asks the officer.
“Can you follow my flashlight with your eyes?”
“Okay.” I do this for a few seconds.
“What happened to your car?”
“I got in an accident.”
“No, I just haven't gotten it fixed.”
1:05 a.m.: The officer looks at me suspiciously. I look in the rearview mirror. I can see the shadow of another officer slowly moving toward my car. The first one shines a bright flashlight in my face.
1:07 a.m.: I squint and count to five in my head. My anxiety dissipates slightly. I take a deep breath.
1:08 a.m.: “Have you done any drugs this evening?” he asks.
1:09 a.m.: I hesitate for a moment. The officer's forehead creases. “I've been around a lot of marijuana tonight, officer,” I think, but immediately resist the urge to say it aloud. I'm not sure if he can smell the stench of weed from my clothes. I am sweating even though the air conditioner is on high.
“No, I haven't, officer,” I say, quietly.
1:12 a.m.: “Okay, just watch out on these streets. Make sure you read the signs carefully. Have a good night.”
1:15 a.m.: I'm still in a panicked, nervous state. “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil' Troy blasts loudly as I exhale and drive away.