Weed and hip-hop go hand in hand like hot dogs and baseball. Like butter on toast. Corona and lime. You get the sentiment. Marijuana has long permeated the world of rap music, and over the last few decades, both cultural phenomenons have experienced a joint evolution, each growing into a commercial powerhouse on a global scale, while always being linked at the hip in a certain capacity.
In some ways, cannabis has become so synonymous with rap, weed is often looped into the stereotypical thematic tropes of hip-hop, much in the way drinking, trucks and bad breakups commonly fit in the cluster of topics associated with country music. While there will always be more than enough “weed songs” to go around in the world of rap, there is little denying that Mary Jane has been and continues to be the inspiration behind some of the genre’s most compelling and enjoyable bodies of work.
Southern-based producer-songwriters Imp (Atlanta) and Daniel “DS” Saylor (Orlando) first linked up in an online forum nearly ten years ago. After building a working relationship through shared musical interests and occasional collaborations, they forged the idea to finally make an album together. The result: Loud Pack, a 57-minute instrumental odyssey invested in exploring and embracing the THC experience.
While some might say the ideology of weed within hip-hop is tired, Imp and DS approach the concept from a unique vantage point and execute it with care. The songs on Loud Pack reek of rhythm, suave and intoxicating grooves. Paired with its grimy, enveloping aesthetic, its range of sounds make it both a great beat tape and an emphatically fun high album.
Musically, the project divides into two sections, one for each of the primary forms of marijuana, “Sativa” and “Indica.” As one might anticipate, the Sativa side (also the first side) is loaded with lively instrumentals. Tracks like “What’s Your Name,” “One Step” and “Special Herbs” show influences of G-funk, jazz, R&B and hardcore hip-hop and serve as a catalyst for the album and its sonic thesis.
Subsequently, the Indica side of the record opts for lush, full-bodied beats that shift the album’s tone into more gentle territory. Chill and hazy head-boppers, like the atmospheric “Purple Urkle” and the bass-laden “Désolée,” construct the album’s come down with soft velvety soundscapes, an ideal soundtrack to unwinding after a long day and sinking into a deep sleep on the couch with a half-smoked bowl in your lap.
The aesthetic balance of Loud Pack is a testament to the vision and creative focus of Imp and DS, a process they admit took time and constant effort.
“The biggest thing for me in collaboration is being open and willing to let things go, which is hard ‘cause I’m a bit of a control freak. But if everyone is willing to serve the song rather than your own taste, it shouldn’t be an issue,” says Saylor. “Also having someone like Imp on your team, who will lovingly yell at you to finish things, helps,” he adds.
As an entire body of work, Loud Pack is an artfully assembled batch of beats and an entertaining ode to the world of cannabis. It’s a laid back declaration of cool, advocating marijuana as an enhancer of the human experience and as an iconic vehicle self-expression.
Riffs & Rhymes Editor Roberto Johnson recently caught up with Imp and DS to talk about their new project, their favorite weed strains, plans for future projects and more. Check out their conversation below.
When and how did you guys first link up? When did you decide you wanted to collaborate on a record?
Imp: We met on an internet forum years ago, probably around 2010. In 2017, DS messaged me with the suggestion of doing the tape, which I agreed to despite my diffidence.
DS: We’ve done some loose collaborations before. Imp asked me to produce on a project they were doing in like 2014, but I don’t think that ever saw the light of day.
What sparked the idea for a concept album, specifically about weed and the vibes associated with it?
DS: I messaged Imp saying we should do a tape, ‘cause I thought our styles would blend well together. I thought Loud Pack would be sort of a funny title, so we based it around that first.
Imp: I think the title in particular just stemmed from us punning. Beats sold in bulk are sometimes called “packs,” sound is loud, “loud packs” are ounces of weed, etc. Once I have a bad pun, I like to run with it as much as I can, so there was no way we couldn’t make an entire record about cannabis once we had the title.
Where does weed fit into the creative process for you? Do you like to smoke while you record? Is it strictly recreational?
Imp: For me, cannabis is mostly recreational and social. In the event I am stoned creating, I’m usually making a bunch of “sketches,” so to speak, to revisit later and figure out what’s worth keeping or throwing out. I say ‘No’ to my ideas less and ask ‘Could I?’ more instead.
DS: I don’t really use it for any type of creative aid. I always say weed helps you get in the zone of making music faster rather than doing anything to your ability to make music. What usually happens for me is I might start a song while stoned, but I’ll sober up as I’m writing it cause I’m too wrapped up in the music to take a hit.
Currently, what are some of your favorite strains? Do you have a preferred method of smoking?
DS: Generally, I like sativas and hybrids more. Sour Diesel is great, White Widow is a favorite, Blue Dream is another one. I smoked a strain recently called Gorilla Cookies that was some crazy shit. I usually smoke out of a pipe or a bong, but I also like joints as well. Fuck blunts though, joints all the way (laughs).
Imp: Indicas are preferred for me. Snoop’s Dream and Granddaddy Purp are among my favorites. I’m a huge fan of smoking spliffs more than anything. Bongs and bowls tend to make me cough really hard and at times, make me feel nauseous. I’d be way more into edibles if they didn’t affect me inconsistently.
There are endless great weed anthems, in hip-hop and across all genres. What’s one “weed song” you’ve been into lately that you’d recommend to someone?
DS: Not necessarily a weed song, but “A Long Walk” by Jill Scott is definitely one you can smoke to. Actually there’s a track that samples it called “Roll a Tree” by DJ Rashad and DJ Manny, so maybe that one.
Imp: “Dopesmoker” by the band Sleep. It’s a one-track album dedicated entirely to smoking.
There is an entertaining mix of samples layered into the new album. How were you able to fit so many different soundbites cohesively to align with your vision for the music?
Imp: Cannabis has permeated mainstream culture so heavily, it’s kinda difficult to go anywhere on the internet without seeing a weed reference. Finding samples was easy in that regard.
DS: Part of it for me is just digging the sounds of older hip-hop records. Public Enemy and N.W.A. were using five to ten samples per song and that definitely had an impact. Then you have records like Madvillainy which have a lot of samples from random movies or TV shows, so that’s another inspiration.
Each of you have musical backgrounds that span different sounds and genres. How did you find common ground on Loud Pack? Sonically speaking, how does the final product compare to what you guys had first envisioned?
Imp: DS and I are both big jazz and hip-hop heads, so even though we execute our music differently, our inspirations have a ton of overlap. When you’ve been friends and collaborators as long as we have, finding similarities and common ground gets a lot easier.
DS: When I started doing electronic music, I really started with hip-hop beats. And we’ve cameoed on each others projects before so it wasn’t a complete alien thing, you know? The only thing that’s different in terms of the final product is we have two separate versions of the album. The streaming version has all the tracks separated, but the cassette version is what we really envisioned it to be, with each side being a seamless piece of music connected with even more samples.
Are there plans to collaborate again in the future on another project like this? If so, are there other concepts you’ve talked about exploring?
DS: We’re definitely doing a sequel to Loud Pack, it probably won’t be ‘til 2020 though. Since we already did ‘Sativa’ and ‘Indica,’ the sequel will be the ‘Hybrid’ tape, but aside from a few samples picked out we haven’t done anything yet. We’re both working on solo albums and doing stuff for our crew.
Imp: If we ever do a full project together (aside from Loud Pack 2), it’ll probably be a collaborative take with the other members of our collective, Sober Addicts. No telling if or when either of those will come about though.
Q: Ultimately, what do you hope people get out of Loud Pack?
DS: To quote Danny Brown, I want them to “rewind this and just smoke to it.”
Imp: Outside of getting high to it, I’m definitely a proponent for it being used in regard to protest. DS and I both live in states where anti-cannabis propaganda and legislature has been used to incriminate individuals. I want Loud Pack to be an aspect of art used to destigmatize cannabis in areas where it’s still illegal.
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Photos provided by Imp and Daniel Saylor. For more info on Imp and DS and to stay up to date on tour and new music, follow them on social media. Stream ‘Loud Pack’ below and support their music on Bandcamp.