“In the city, city of Compton … ” Go ahead, let your brain sing the rest of the song. 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s Grammy-Award-winning track “California Love” topped the charts in the mid-90s, adding to Death Row Records’ acclaim as a hit-making label.
The West Coast franchise launched in 1992 under the leadership of Marion “Suge” Knight and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. A year later the label signed Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus, Jr. and released his first album, Doggystyle, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Skip past the conflicts and tragedy that defined Death Row in the late 90s and flash forward to 2022. Snoop Dogg, who premiered with the label before ultimately parting ways, took control of the company last year and acquired rights to its trademarks.
The label had endured decades of controversy and multiple owners, but Dogg’s leadership is giving the brand a new foundation from which to build.
Part of his approach to making the label relevant for today’s audience includes a segment devoted to cannabis. Death Row Cannabis, launched in Dec. 2022, is focused on offering unique cultivars and quality products at an affordable price.
Cannabis & Tech Today spoke via phone with Death Row’s legacy cultivator AK, and Dogg’s sound engineer and self-described “weed confidant,” Shaggy. They discuss cultivation, technology, and what sets Death Row Cannabis apart from the competition.
Cannabis & Tech Today: AK, you’re responsible for selecting the growers for the brand. What do you look for in a cultivator?
AK: I think our biggest thing is you can tell when a group is doing it strictly for money or doing it out of passion and having money just be a byproduct of chasing their passion. Other than that, it’s cleanliness, consistency, and the overall hygiene of their grow.
C&T Today: How have you seen cannabis culture change since legalization?
AK: There are a lot of things. I mean, we both come from an era where it wasn’t cool to grow weed and if you did it, you were one of the crazy guys that were risking it all and trying to make it happen.
It’s been interesting over the last 15 years to see it go from black market to the gray market with the medical system, and then rolling into the rec. market.
Culturally, the biggest thing, and probably my favorite thing that I’ve seen is just its general acceptance overall … The struggle we had to go through early on just to get the most basic equipment and the most basic things you would need to run or operate a business, you couldn’t get it.
Now, it’s a different story. Now, you have all kinds of tech companies, all kinds of lab equipment companies. The doors have kicked open.
The ability to explore and push the envelope with cannabis and get it caught up to all these other industries is probably my favorite thing that I’ve seen since legalization. It’s
just a lot more freedom and the ability to hone in on our craft and make things better. That’s been really nice.
C&T Today: Growers are using a lot more automation now, from sensors to cryofreezing buds after the harvest. How do you feel about the increase in technology in the grow process?
AK: I absolutely love it … It’s created a situation where I can run tens of thousands of square feet from literally anywhere. You want to go to the old school joke, where it’s like, “I’d love to just do my work from the beach.”
That’s a reality for me. If I want to, I can go sit on the beach and pull my phone out or pull my laptop up and make sure that everything’s going the way it’s supposed to be going.
But again, it ties back to people being more open. I’m able to get accounts with big AG corporations, guys that have been helping the agricultural industry for 100 years.
Now I have the same access to the technology those guys are using. It’s made my life exponentially easier and it’s given me the ability to spread my wings and get a lot more done.
C&T Today: How is the brand planning to incorporate blockchain and virtual reality?
Shaggy: Snoop and his son Cordell are doing so much in the Metaverse right now and with crypto in the blockchain. With that industry being what it is, it’s kind of a limitless thing.
It’s as far as our imagination will let us go with it. There’s some cool stuff we’re working on and we’re definitely going to be at the forefront of tying all those things together. The music and the cannabis go together already.
I think it’s really important for us, and Dogg made it very clear to us, “Yo, this thing’s not about me. This thing’s about Death Row, and we’re building this brand for Death Row.” Using the Metaverse and tying the weed and the music together, via the Metaverse, will really push that.
C&T Today: What sets the brand apart in California’s marketplace?
Shaggy: One thing we’re focusing on a lot is terpenes and how those play a role in your endocannabinoid system and the actual delivery of the THC. Also what makes an indica high versus a sativa high, and how some sativas have indica terpenes so you get different effects. That’s more beneficial for you on the medical side as well.
We all use this recreationally, but there’s a huge medical side to this that we all believe in. The terpene profiles are going to be important in how you steer what strain to what patient, based on what they need.
It’s not all about having a high THC content. AK has said before that he would rather smoke some weed, and I would too, that was 18% THC but had 4% terpenes, than some 32% THC with 1% terpenes. I get a better, more enjoyable high out of that.
That was one thing we focused on with all of our products, the terps. We even put the terp percentages on our testing on the back of our flower. Our infused pre-rolls are infused with terpenes as well, and that’s not just for flavor.
That’s also because it helps with the delivery of the Liquid Diamonds and gets you the best experience. If you’re going to buy something infused, you want to get the most out of it. [Terpenes] are naturally there, and [they] play a big role in what your experience with that plant is going to be.
This article first appeared in Volume 5 Issue 1 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here. Images courtesy of Death Row Cannabis.