Trending: How Marijuana Influenced Modern Music


Despite the negative connotations, marijuana has been part of the creative process of many musical geniuses due to its function as a psycho-acoustic amplifier.

by Joe Daher | 04/28/22 02:10

Marijuana has long been present in musical genres like psychedelic rock and reggae, even before marijuana use emerged into the cultural mainstream. Although it has historically been stigmatized, weed has gradually been decriminalized and legalized across the country, and recreational use no longer attracts as much attention as it once did. And while marijuana, like any other drug, has the potential for addiction and abuse, it’s best known for its euphoric and uplifting psychoactive effects. These effects have inspired musicians throughout history, enhancing their music and creativity.

Weed can first be seen in popular music in the 1920s, particularly in jazz. Legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong was an avid aficionado of the soothing and creative properties of marijuana, recording an instrumental piece called “Muggles” in 1928, which was named after a slang term for the herb. But weed wasn’t common back then – it’s important to note that weed’s association with black culture and music gave it a negative connotation in society and law enforcement. which still persists to this day.

Perhaps one of Bob Dylan’s biggest demands besides his own music is to introduce John Lennon to cannabis. The Beatles then introduced weed (and psychedelics) into the larger white counterculture mainstream with subtle references in songs like “Got to Get You in My Life”.

“Now those things aren’t drugs; they just kinda make you think,” Dylan said of opium and cannabis in a 1963 Playboy interview. world should be bent from time to time.”

With the popularization of the electric guitar, the effects of space guitar pedals gave rise to psychedelic rock, in which a simple guitar riff could evolve into a web of sonic complexity. This counterculture culminated with the 1967 “Summer of Love” and the historic 1969 Woodstock Festival headlined by artists like Jimi Hendrix and The Jefferson Airplane who performed psychedelic sets.

The influence of psychedelics and cannabis on rock music largely receded in the 1970s, although marijuana remained a common theme in Caribbean music styles like reggae and dancehall. Beyond his influence on reggae and ska, Bob Marley was one of the most prolific cannabis advocates of his time. As a Rastafarian, Marley used cannabis as a natural aid for spiritual meditation and religious growth.

Cannabis was a recurring theme in the gangster rap era of the 80s and 90s, again rooted in a culture of a marginalized minority demonized by conservatives and President Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs. Snoop Dogg, once a rapper on the streets of Long Beach turned pop culture icon, remains one of the most recognizable figureheads in cannabis use.

Today, weed’s ubiquity can be seen across the musical spectrum, from down-tempo indie pop to gritty SoundCloud trap. Over the past decade, artists as varied as Lana Del Rey’s “High by the Beach”, Bruno Mars’ “Smokin’ out the Window” and Future’s “Drankin n Smokin” have all implicitly or explicitly referenced the cannabis use in their songs. Weed is no longer seen as part of hippie or black culture – I doubt students today perceive smoking weed as the act of rebellion it once was. You could even say that growing weed became mainstream because it was so commonly embraced by white musicians.

It is interesting to compare the perception and presence of marijuana in music to that of other drugs, especially alcohol, a party drug so ubiquitous in the media that it is often not treated as a drug. . Alcohol also tends to lend itself more to high-energy music – anecdotally, it pairs better with the monotonous, repetitive, driving nature of electronic dance music than psychedelic space rock or rhythm and blues. vibey. Recurring mentions of drug use in contemporary hip-hop often associate marijuana with MDMA, cocaine, and other drugs, further blurring the line with marijuana’s low potential for harm. But marijuana’s accessible psychoactive properties also place it as a primary gateway to the psychedelic umbrella: including genres like acid jazz, chillwave, hypnagogic pop, psychedelic rock, psytrance, and trip hop. .

Given the social stigma against cannabis use in academic and professional settings, the interplay between weed and music remains largely an unscholarly enterprise. However, there is a growing body of interdisciplinary research in musicology, neuroscience and psychology.

Jörg Fachner, professor of music, health and the brain at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, explained the relationship between marijuana and music in an interview with Vice Magazine.

“[Marijuana] works like a psycho-acoustic amplifier,” Fachner said. “It means you’re more able to absorb, focus on something, and have a bit of a broader spectrum. It doesn’t change the music; it doesn’t change how the ear works. Obviously that changes the way we perceive auditory space in music.

Daniel J. Levitin, music psychologist and professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, explained how marijuana alters the brain to enhance the effect of music in his book “The World in Six Songs.”

“THC – the active ingredient – is known to stimulate the brain’s natural pleasure centers, while disrupting short-term memory,” Levitin said. “Short-term memory disruption immerses listeners in the moment of the music as it unfolds; unable to explicitly keep in mind what has just been played, or think ahead of what might be played, people high on the pot tend to hear the music from note to note .

In other words, weed allows a listener to focus solely on the music. Compared to other art forms, music is strictly temporal, unfolding over time on a predetermined path. Music is a natural complement to getting high — unlike reading a book or watching a movie, you don’t have to consciously rationalize music. The euphoric feeling lies in our brain’s pattern recognition ability to identify harmonics, melody and rhythm. Weed’s ability to trigger “hyper-priming” – or connecting to seemingly abstract and unrelated concepts – can lead to more creative lyrical interpretation by listeners, as well as increased creative output by musicians. themselves.

Artists portray weed in their music in unique ways – just listen to the differences between the songs of J. Cole, Rihanna, Arctic Monkeys and Lana del Ray.


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