Reggie Noble (a.k.a. Redman) emerged from Newark, NJ, as a member of Def Squad, famously appearing on EPMD’s Business as Usual with a unique voice and impeccable rhyme delivery. His subsequent solo records, Whut? Thee Album, Dare Iz a Darkside and Muddy Waters, firmly cemented him as a ’90s-era hip-hop superstar. But it’s what he’s been able to accomplish since then that is most remarkable.
Redman dominates the mix-tape scene with his Ill at Will series. His collaborations with Def Jam labelmate Method Man morphed into the motion picture How High as well as the TV sitcom Method and Red. They continue to travel the world together performing for smoked-out crowds everywhere. His more recent albums, such as Red Gone Wild and Blackout 2!, show that his reputation as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” remains intact.
Redman wears his stoner badge proudly and openly, including on hits like “How High,” “How to Roll a Blunt,” and many others.
His relationship with all things marijuana – including HIGH TIMES – is an especially long one. Twenty years ago, he graced the cover of our March 1993 issue. Since then, he’s co-hosted the Stony Awards and appeared numerous times as a performer at HT events in the US and abroad.
In fact, this most recent interview with Redman took place at the HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino this past February. He judged the indica category – even though he’s a devout “sativa guy” – and still had plenty of energy to sit down and discuss his longevity in the ever-changing music and film industries.
Interview by Dan Skye and Danny Danko
You were on our cover two decades ago! How are things different since then?
Of course, the bud got stronger, and the media part of bud has improved. I think the knowledge of this plant has been broadened, too. For example, Oaksterdam University is teaching about the properties of weed – how to help patients and stuff. People know that it’s not just for getting high.
You’ve been out there for 20 years – 20 years of activism. Your career is linked with pot.
Like I tell fans all the time with Meth: We’re known for smoking. And we don’t hide it when the media’s around or when that important person’s around. We let ’em know this is what we do.
You even did a centerfold that showed how to roll a blunt. That was pretty influential.
Yeah, y’all was right there at the beginning of my career, man. I used to always see your magazines when I was young, but when I got in the game, when I first seen the Cypress Hill cover [March ’92], that’s what turned me on. We were still smokin’ kind of brownish weed or whatever. It was the first time I’d seen some really bright green weed that was up on y’all’s cover. I was like: “There’s weed out there that look like this? I gotta be a part of it!
You also told us a funny story about dealing weed a while back – somebody drove away on you or something?
[Laughing] Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right. It was a late night. I was selling, and I was down to like maybe my last 15 bags or whatever. I was thinkin’ I can stand out there and just sell to each car, but I was greedy and wanted to sell all of it to this one car, so I could be through.
It was late and there was hardly nobody out there. So I’m lettin’ this dude check the weed. Then that nigga snatched my bag. Vroom! He took off with my 15 bags! I was cheated – I was fucking cheated! But that’s what you gotta go through, man, dealing that way.
Obviously, you’re very outspoken about your consumption. Does it play a role in your creative process?
Absolutely. Marijuana’s more like a way of life for me now. I’m more of a sativa guy, ’cause I work a lot. What kind of sparks what I’m working on is Blue Dream – any of them sharp-tastin’, sharp- smellin’ sativas. Indica makes me sleep. I don’t wanna sleep and be tired; I like good energy, a good vibe. I’m definitely a sativa guy.
How do you perceive the progress of marijuana legalization?
The growth of it and the laws are better, especially in Colorado. Big up to Colorado and Washington for being the first states to pass it. They’re not afraid. I think Colorado gets the picture of what’s really goin’ on. The bud gang was serious there. I think that it’s a well-governed state – big up to ’em. Jersey is the 16th state passed they little law, but we ain’t legalized it yet.
When did you first experience marijuana?
With my uncles when I was down south in Alabama. We were shooting, hunting – I was maybe like 12 or 13, and they let me hit the joint. I hit the joint for the first time and a rabbit rolled right past me. Instead of shootin’ it, I tried pokin’ with the rifle. And my uncles, they like: “No, nigga! Shoot the damn rabbit!”
I used to always wonder what my uncles were smokin’. I was young, but so eager to know: “That’s not a cigarette; that’s not what my pops usually smokes. It smells almost like poultry or something like that.” But once they let me hit it, it was on from there.
Back at the 2009 Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, you were the headliner. Any memories you can share?
It was fuckin’ fabulous. It was the first Cup where I really judged; I was in the house with the fuckin’ jars and the hash everywhere. It was kind of a festival in the house. We rolled out a big layer of hash, then we put weed on top of it and rolled the hash and smoked a big hash blunt with weed in it. It was incredible!
You were a bit late for your performance at the Melkweg. What happened that night?
I think I was just so mellow. Sometimes I get anxiety attacks and I have to slow down.
More like happy anxiety. Like there’s so many things going on, like [pretends to hyperventilate] and I can’t stop. It was overwhelming. I got caught in the coffeeshop just tryin’ to mellow and all, man. But I got there, you know?
What have you been up to lately?
As far as the music, I’m doing the Muddy Waters II album, which will be an album dedicated to the ’90s, with that ’90s feel. I got shit up in the air; there’s some offers.
Who impresses you in the new generation of rap artists?
The new MCs I’m bumping are the ones puttin’ in work and respectin’ the craft – J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar. I think Gunplay is definitely kind of different, man. He offers something to the game. I heard a couple of A$AP Rocky. I think he cool, holdin’ down uptown, yo. I like what 2 Chainz is offering to the game, even though he’s an OG – not an OG because he’s young, but he’s damned near from our era, you know what I’m saying?
How about outside of hip-hop?
I’m still into the old shit, man. Like, I couldn’t even tell you new R&B dudes. I’m listening to so many styles of music, and it’s just all old. I’m still listening to Kenny Loggins and the Doobie Brothers; I’m still in that phase, man. The Manhattan Transfer – yeah, I’m serious! I’m an enigma. It takes a lot for me to get into certain kinds of new music nowadays. It gotta groove; it gotta have melody, yeah. But my stereo and my car bumps nothing but my iPod.
A lot of stars have gotten into the digital thing and are cutting out the middleman and going directly to their fans.
That’s the move I wanna deal with, too, man. I’m gettin’ that straight. Red and Meth is workin’ on another album as well – after our solo albums, we’re gonna put out another Blackout III. And we wanna do another movie – that’s definitely!
We just free agents. The movie game is sort of like the music game now: If you find somebody with a little cash, you can shoot some hard, independent films with the kind of cameras they got now. You can get something done. We got a couple of things on the table, but the music is the love first. So we’re going to get some music out this summer.
You’re known for comedy as well as rap. When did you first realize you could make people laugh?
We learned that shit mainly from school. But our moms – when you can make your mother laugh, you know you do good. You know you got a little thing goin’ on. I can make my mother laugh. Even still to this day, we talk about things, we joke around, we laugh our ass off!
What makes you and Meth so good together?
The chemistry between me and Meth is unexplainable. The beauty of it is that we two guys that don’t have an ego. We understand the situation. Listen, dude: We have a chance to come together to make money and still have our separate careers – and still make money! I mean, you don’t turn that down and be stupid to an offer like that in life. You know, it ain’t gonna tamper and taint what you’re doin’ over here. Usually, when two guys try to do business and come together, they tamper and taint their business over here.
Any regrets about being so closely associated with pot?
We might have made some faulty career moves – maybe Coca-Cola wanted us to do a commercial or something, but they just wouldn’t let us because Red and Meth promote marijuana. So, yes, we’ve been deterred from some deals throughout our career because of what we promote, man. But, hey, we just say “Fuck it!” and keep pushing – and we still here. And our benefit from it was a movie – How High – so it works out both ways.
Will you ever make a sequel?
We wanted to ... then Universal got the rights for the characters in the movie, and they wouldn’t let us go to another company with the name and the characters. But we want to do something new. I got a super-crazy movie in mind. The first Red and Meth movie was kind of my idea – I wanted to do a movie on campus, sort of like Animal House. I got the next one about what’s going on right now, and I’m piecing it together. Maybe HIGH TIMES can shoot it. That’s right – a HIGH TIMES film. We need that. Why not?
Are you comfortable as a celebrity, or does it get tiresome?
There are some celebrities that know how to work with the people, and those who don’t know how to work with the people. I’m the kind of guy that was always on the good side. I’m a people’s man – I’m one of those blue-collar MCs for the people. Usually, when I meet fans, I’m so nice or whatever. Fans are tellin’ me about another celebrity that they met that was an asshole. I think, “Well, maybe he had a bad day.”
Still, you must have had some difficult moments.
That’s when being nice, bein’ real comes into play. For instance, if I’m out with my kids, I don’t sign autographs unless it’s another family with kids. Then I say, “Okay, I’ll sign because of the kids.” But when I’m with my kids, that’s their time.
But when I’m not with my kids, I’m always a nice guy: “Yeah, come over, we take a picture.” I like people to leave sayin’, “I like him – he’s so nice.” I get a thrill off of that. But sometimes I’m that nice guy and I get an asshole that just keep punchin’ and keep on tryin’ to pull the plug, pull the plug. And it get to a point where I know that I’m nice, and everybody around me see that I’m nice, and he making himself look like an asshole. So you go into a quick check mode, like: “Yo, listen, bro, I told you that I’m busy. You see I’m busy right here now. Now, you’re being disrespectful.”
I get into a tone that’s kind of loud, tellin’ him to chill, I’m dealin’ with somebody else first: “If you wanna wait, I will get right to you. If not, you gonna have to go about your business.” And I leave it at that. Once I say that, in my tone, he see that I’m a nice guy; I’m not an asshole. He usually calms down after that.
Many artists flash and burn quickly; they’re here and they’re gone. What’s sustained your career?
Versatility – how you portray yourself in your career, how you introduce yourself. You gotta understand, these guys that come out: “I’m this hard guy, I’m this thug guy,” whatever – don’t nobody want to be around no thug, hard motherfucker all the fuckin’ time that don’t know how to have fun and all that bullshit. Get the fuck out of here! That ain’t the way. That shit is old-school shit, you know what I mean?
I tell people I’m a nerd. Even though I’m from the hood or whatever, I’m a nerd. Sometimes I might fuck up somethin’ and you’d be like: “Damn, you’re a nerd!” I know I’m a nerd, shit, and a guy like me is not afraid to say it. I don’t have nothin’ to hide.