Image of pro-marijuana Reggae singer Sugar Minott
There is no shortage of pro-marijuana songs in Jamaican popular music. Still, it is an illegal substance - although one for which the law has been long applied inconsistently, even ahead of the current climate of a more relaxed approach to possession of a few ounces, while as a nation, we consider how far the United States is going to go and how quickly we should follow.
So smoking a spliff or bubbling a chillum pipe is one thing; getting the required greens to indulge in the practice is another. This is especially so in the urban areas, into which the marijuana has to be brought, as the quantities of pot planted in pots are simply not enough to satisfy demand. It is one of the many results of the wave of internal migration to the urban centres that has left many farmlands fallow at one end of the mass movement and tons of crammed tenement yards at the other.
Satisfy demand
Marijuana must find its market, though, and Jamaican popular music reflects this literal move to satisfy demand. Of course, it is not free flow, because the police are there, with every corner of a potential turn in the weed carriers' life for the definite worse.
It isn't surprising, then, that one of the more popular songs speaking about this movement involving the feared police presence. In Oh Mr DC, a song which he performed with a travelling bag slung over his shoulder (which Bongo Herman continues to do when he performs the song), the late Lincoln 'Sugar' Minott sings about his encounter with the law on the way back into 'town' with a load of herb. He sang:
"Coming from the country
With me bag of collie
I buck up on a DC
Him waan fi hold' me."
In the chorus of the song Minott pleads with the law officer, "oh DC don't you take my ishen." His reason for making the weed run is purely economic, Minott singing, "me children dying fi hunger/an I man a suffer."
Oh Mr DC is not Sugar Minot's only marijuana song, which centres around the rural-urban commercial connection. However, while Oh Mr DC speaks about an incident on the way into the city with the good stuff, Herbman Hustling starts from the other physical end of the trade, with the police inevitably involved:
"Herb a dis a herb man hustling
Bright and early in the morning
Herb a dis a herb man hustling
I know Sergeant where he is
Herb a dis a herb man hustling
I know it's my neck I'm risking
Herb a dis a herb man hustling
But you see that's my daily
Jumps in a minivan we gone a
Lef fi we wife an we hungry
We haffi travel over hills and
Jus fi fin' dis ya good good
Best marijuana parishes
Among the parishes touted in music to have the best marijuana are St Ann, St Elizabeth and Westmoreland. Buju Banton indicates a general direction as well as giving the shortened name for Westmoreland when he deejays, "riding west to get two pounds of chess" and Tony Curtis is heading in the same direction with his song, High Grade:
"Don't bring me no bush I
need the best
So if you cannot find me I will
be heading down a west."
In Puff It, I-Octane makes the west connection at the point of consumption in retail quantities, deejaying: "well de man tell me bout de bess from wes' when dem bring pon di corna/say dem wrap it inna 20, 50, 100 bag sell it on ya."
Then in 100 Weight of Collie Weed, Carlton Livingston is making the run into town from another parish highly reputed for providing a high. He sings:
"Get hustling
With a 100 weight of collie
Coming from St Ann...
The speed limit was 35
Was doing 55
See a Babylon car
Draw out on me
We start to speed round corners
Just like we a daredevil
Couldn't keep up with me
Cause I was too hard...
Can't afford to get arrested
Lord I don't have no papers
on me..
The cops they set up roadblock
And man you know I just can't
The cops they start to chase
Buss up some shot."
And then Livingston makes the connection with the demand at his destination for the 100 weight he is willing to run roadblocks and engage the police in high-speed chases for:
"The dreadlocks are waiting
in the city
Just to get a draw a me herb."
The mix of marijuana, road and police is in Bob Marley and the Wailers' Rebel Music (Three o'clock Roadblock). Although he does not explicitly establish a rural setting, he sings about 'open country', which would hardly be the city:
"Why can't we roam this open
Oh why can't we be what we
want to be
We want to be free
Three o'clock, roadblock, curfew
And I've got to throw away
my little herb stock."
And just like Livingston, Bob Marley is lacking documents, but he makes it a matter of personal papers in the memorable line, "hey Mr Cop, got no birth cerfitikit on me now."
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer ~ The Gleaner ~ January 25, 2015

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