One of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan is backing the effort to get cannabis prisoners out of prison as people reap millions doing exactly what others are locked up for.
The joint rolling kit collaboration between GZA and Sackville & Co. is also meant to pay homage to GZA’s Liquid Swords album on its 25th anniversary. GZA’s sophomore solo outing was his first as a member of Wu-Tang, and he was first to have a record deal. Many put the record in the debate for the greatest of all the Wu-Tang solo projects — at the very least, it’s certainly a consensus top five pick.
The Shaolin-themed rolling kit is certainly the hardest offering yet from Sackville & Co., whose target demographic had traditionally been women who liked bright pastel branding. But after murdering out the box with a flat black and throwing in a ninja star, they were really on to something.
Sackville & Co. is obviously thrilled to have GZA’s support on the effort that will see all the profits go to The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit coalition of cannabis industry leaders, executives and artists dedicated to criminal justice reform initiatives such as cannabis prisoner release, record clearing and reentry programs. We previously talked with one of the board members when we profiled The Farmer and The Felon.
“The cultural impact that Wu-Tang has had is astronomical and felt across the globe. To this day they’re regarded as one of the best rap groups of all time, and to collab with an artist as impactful as GZA in a space that now allows cannabis to exist without taboo is significant,” Sackville co-founder Lana Van Brunt said. “We’re dedicated to making the cannabis industry a safe and equitable industry and to taking tangible steps to make this an ongoing pursuit of progress.”
“I have a lot of relatives that have done time. Especially for nonviolent crimes. This is one way to contribute to the cause,” GZA told L.A. Weekly, as we discussed how he settled on the Last Prisoner Project. “Imagine bootleggers back in the day getting arrested for illegal alcohol distribution. Did they suffer the same hardships? Or people without a license serving alcohol to this day. They might suffer a fine at worst.”
“Marijuana stigma lasted for so long, but now it’s so widely accepted,” said GZA about the continued overtones in society around race and marijuana. “Weed was always looked down upon and depicted as a black drug. Poor man’s stimulant. Look at Birth of a Nation. They associated weed with black people and how they got high and terrorized white people. Eventually, it made its way into white culture, and of course medicinal and furthermore what we now identify as recreational.”
He also questions why the judicial system does not acknowledge these changes in a retroactive manner: “That’s because the prison system is for-profit. Why would they release someone they can monetize? A lot of people got bad deals.”
“It’s called the “criminal” justice system for a reason,” he noted, “I said [it] in a song with Tom Morello.”
“I live in a land of
Black robes, white justice
As long as she wear
I can’t trust this”
Given GZA’s front-row seat to some of the most racist cannabis enforcement policies to ever exist, what was it like watching the evolution of law enforcement’s relationship with pot in NYC, even with the end of stop and frisk.
“All I have to say is most black and brown people have always been stopped and frisked for whatever reason,” he replied. “It’s a violation. A man could be out with his children in the park. It’s prejudice. How many times did they stop and frisk the Son of Sam? It’s a poor excuse for enforcing laws. Just glad it’s gone. Where do you draw the line?”
Like many great rappers, GZA was not always smoking the flame, like he is these days. “In the ’70s and ’80s, there was no difference, all weed was brown with a lot of seeds,” he said. But the “inweedients” are a lot different now, and certainly a lot nicer.
As for what he’s been doing during the lockdown? “Staying indoors. Social distancing. Masked up. Staying healthy,” GZA explained. “I was actually in Hanover, Germany, on March 12. In the midst of starting a whole two-month European tour, but that was changed because of the global lockdown and pandemic.”
But GZA certainly didn’t let the lockdown stop his productivity; keep an eye for both a forthcoming book and album.