In addition to his illustrious career as a hip hop artist, Jay-Z has asserted himself as a “business, man.” From his record label – Roc Nation, to his agency – Roc Nation Sports, to his streaming platform – Tidal, to his cognac brand – D’USSÉ, Jay becomes a leader in any industry he chooses. Most recently, he is bringing his golden touch to cannabis with a line called Monogram.
In late October, I attended the opening of Josephine & Billie’s, a new LA dispensary geared toward women of color, with the specific and alluring intention of trying out Monogram for the first time. When I arrived at the venue on MLK Blvd, a DJ was spinning old school hip hop just outside the doors, and I felt an immediate connection to the store and experience. Once inside, my instincts were further confirmed. Josephine & Billie’s was everything I’ve always wanted in a dispensary: display tables and shelving fixtures brimming with product I could pick up and examine, a key the owners created to indicate the strength of each item, and a wall filled with graphic explanations of terpenes to create further understanding of our own pot preferences. Accustomed to interacting with a budtender to purchase edibles and flower sealed behind glass counters, I was a kid in a candy store, bouncing to various displays to read product descriptions as I turned the packaging over in my hands. The lively crowd seemed as charmed as I, fluttering about and filling up shopping baskets with hundreds of dollars in cannabis merchandise. My own basket was brimming – I like to enjoy my weed in a multitude of forms, from nugs to cocktails and everything in between – when I made my way to the back part of the dispensary seeking Monogram.
If you’ve read Decoded, Jay-Z’s memoir, you know he didn’t come up as much of a smoker, instead saving his samplings for vacations or special occasions – like on a video set with Notorious B.I.G. So, to match the quality everyone expects from a Shawn Carter company, he enlisted DeAndre “De” Watson as his Culture & Cultivation Ambassador, lending a long history of expertise to the new line. What I couldn’t anticipate as I strolled into the backroom of Josephine & Billie’s, was to engage with De in what swiftly became my all-time favorite marijuana exchange.
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One of the main things that makes Monogram unique, is that they don’t name their strains, rather they identify them by numbers, each of which are significant to Jay’s own life. De had already accumulated an audience when I joined the small circle surrounding him, and he matched each person to their best-suited Monogram number based on their smoking preferences. I listened along, waiting patiently for my turn. The rest of the crowd had cleared when he finally made eye contact.
“You don’t roll, do you?” he asked, scanning my long blond hair, the torn denim shorts I wore with boots, the leather jacket I donned over a fitted a tank. “I think you’d be an No.08,” he finished, referring to Monogram’s newly released ‘light’ strain.
“Oh I roll,” I said. “I’m a pothead. I smoke joints and like to keep it old school and roll Zig Zags. I’m a Sativa smoker. . . I don’t know enough about terpenes to be more specific, I just like to be uplifted. I smoke to go out and do things, but I like to be high, not just casually buzzed. . . you know.”
A smile overwhelmed De’s face and he reached out to slap-shake my hand. I responded in a less-than-cool-white-girl way, but joined his laughter which seemed to seal our mutual respect.
“Okay, you’re a No.03,” he said.
I asked what that meant, what the strain was like. De explained that No.03 was for active, all-day smokers who want to actually be high.
“The No.08 is for people who want to pass blunts endlessly just to keep smoking. Like, in a music studio while working. You want to just keep smoking to create the vibe, but you can’t be too high that you can’t work. I smoke No.03 all day,” he said. “You can hit a J a couple times, go about your day, come back to it when you need some more. I smoke it in the morning before I go to the gym. Just don’t try to smoke this and then go to sleep. That’s not what this one’s for.”
I felt like I’d just won a badge of honor; I was officially being matched with the for-potheads strain by an actual OG in the industry. Fuckin’ right!
I then sat next to De on the couch with a handful of other people, where he demonstrated how to roll a joint – I had admitted that I struggle with Raw Rolling Papers, specifically. While he rolled, he explained other aspects which differentiate Monogram, including the fact that he specifically tests every single batch himself to control for quality and that each joint in their Loosies Preroll Pack is hand rolled by their team. Regaling us with tales of his younger days and sharing his love of and expertise in cannabis, he was a star, a master of stage, a ringleader. We laughed on cue, nodded enthusiastically, and waited on the edges of our seats for the next can’t-miss anecdote. At the conclusion, he handed me the most beautiful hand rolled joint I’ve ever seen in my life and said, “This is for you.”
So, I obviously had to run home to smoke it. Pretty as it was, this joint was made for smoking. Plus, I was aching to test out the green. Now, typically I like to eat an edible and then smoke on top of that. With Lost Farms Lemon Haze gummies, I can sometimes match the effects of both by ingesting the same cultivar. But, more commonly, I know which things I like to mix. That does, however, blur the impacts. So, for this diagnosis, I skipped the edible and sparked my preroll.
Okay, I need to be super blunt (pun intended) here when I say – while I did know I would be writing a review, I genuinely did not expect to type the following words: Monogram No.03 is officially my favorite flower. No seriously, I had a feeling it would be good, but I didn’t see this coming. I felt fully high, body and mind. However, I had absolutely no cotton mouth or dry eyes – both of which I’m particularly prone to – nor did I have the munchies. Before sparking, I ordered a Truffle Burger from Umami (because clearly I was going to have to see how No.03 complimented a cheat meal – by the way, five stars), but I never went to scour my pantry for snacks and chocolate – unheard of. I felt very focused when I was online shopping on my phone and watching Netflix; utterly zoned in. I took a solid six hits of the preroll on my first go, and that lasted roughly two hours before I wanted to go back for more, all the while I felt no desire to sleep or ‘rest my eyes.’ Going two hours without a second serving is a long time for me. Within this period, I also managed to get into an argument on the phone – oh joy – but I was able to articulate my points with sharp perfection. With most other varieties, I am certain to be Amy Schumer’s character in Trainwreck yelping, “I’m so high right now, can we just please talk about this tomorrow. I’m too fucked up.” And, when I’d sufficiently ‘won,’ I wound right back down into my place of bliss and crime show binging. Though this perhaps needs no disclaimer, I tend to test new cannabis products at home, just to be sure I can function. But I plan on taking Monogram’s No.03 out on the town as soon as possible; I’ll be applying De’s rolling lesson to my pre-party preparation in the near future.
So, Jay Z does it again. I mean, even the branding on his packages is exquisite – matte black with monochrome writing. This is high-end, luxury cannabis. For all my friends of flower, I HIGHly recommend you run out to grab some Monogram products. And stock up; you won’t be disappointed.