Pairing food and wine with weed is becoming commonplace, but pairing cultivars to making music is something Rapper Ricky Hil has fine-tuned. His newly-launched album, Same Shit, Different Day, was recorded partaking on a variety of favorite cultivars from his stash that he says both inspire and heal.
“I tend to lean Indica heavy, no Sativa hybrids, because the Indica helps me calm down and focus on the music,” he shared from his home in Los Angeles. “I don’t write anything down before I go into the recording studio. I’ll have an idea in my head, then smoke a specific strain first, then just let it happen.”
But the son of American fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger, didn’t get to this place of calmness and creativity without a struggle. Aside from the stigma of being the son of a high profile person (shortening his last name to go for some semblance of independence), he also had to beat the stigma of being a cannabis partaker, and an eventual persecuted patient.
As a young teen, Hil identified with being Straight Edge. He never did drugs—didn’t want to—and never drank alcohol. But he said he became restless easily, and mischievous out of boredom.
Later diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), in 1997 he was prescribed Ritalin and Concerta for acting out. Shortly thereafter, by the time he was 13, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
The Straight Edge movement began after the hardcore punk band, Minor Threat’s, 1981 song of the same name. It gained speed within the Evangelical Christian base, with kids pledging not to do drugs or alcohol in youth groups across the country during the 1990s in America. Today the movement includes advocacy for vegetarianism, animal rights, and the environment; it’s still associated with punk and hardcore music.
Fragrance, the Pied Piper of Pot
He was told he shouldn’t smoke cannabis, but the plant was all around him, causing much confusion in his young mind. Was it good or bad when adults around him partook? How could it be bad when he loved the smell of it so much?
“I used to pretend I was rolling up a joint with my school note paper and act like I was smoking it,” he laughed. “When I was 15, I finally tried it when a friend offered, but I didn’t do enough to get high. I was a good kid. The first time I actually got high my cheeks hurt from smiling, and I thought to myself, I’ll never be bored again.”
Eventually, he said he ditched the Ritalin, then the Concerta, with only cannabis to level out his moods and help him focus. Needless to say, his creativity went through the proverbial roof.
Loving the smell of cannabis isn’t just a fondness for the fragrance. Noted in a paper published by the U.S. National Institute of Medicine (PubMed), “The influence of fragrances on the psychophysiological activities of humans has been known for a long time.” With no less than 300 active olfactory receptor genes, devoted to detecting thousands of fragrances.
The paper goes on to state that beneficial herbs have a distinct fragrance that draws us to them for a reason, because our biological systems need the healing compounds to function properly.
According to ScienceDirect.com, humans have a symbiotic relationship to plants. A paper published in the Harvard Gazette (Feb. 2020) further explains that the limbic system processes fragrance in the brain in relation to emotion and memory.
Hil was drawn to cannabis at a young age by the fragrance, but he continued to partake because it worked for him on a spiritual, emotional, and physical level.
Weed + Assumptions = Persecution, Booze, and Pills
Like many dealing with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, Hil self-medicated with cannabis, albeit unknowingly, to calm his racing thoughts and unpredictable moods, ward off the dark days, and help him focus.
Search for any positive effects of cannabis for emotional disorders and you’ll find psychiatric publications and institutions citing studies warning of psychosis and worse. Dig deeper into the studies and you’ll find limited plant compounds used (some administering a high THC formulation only), one-person observations, and all with the implication that cannabis triggers or causes psychosis and neurosis.
The common question asked is, what came first, the partaking or the disorder? Was the disorder already there and too much, or a non-therapeutic dose of, THC triggered a negative outcome?
Too much THC can definitely trigger anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia. Finding your personal therapeutic dose is key. The majority of cannabis patients this writer has interviewed have had success—as Hil has—in treating the many highs and lows of the most common mental and emotional disorders, including depression, as cannabis lifts endorphins as quickly as a morning jog.
In 2010, at 19 years old, Hil was living in California and had been using cannabis purposefully and medicinally as a legal cannabis patient. The plant had also become muse for his music, and as stated, part of his recording process. One night, while leaving a recording studio on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, he was detained and then arrested for possessing three ounces of weed.
He had his medical cannabis card with him, but because the ounces were separated by cultivars in three different bags, it was assumed he was a dealer with the intent to sell.
With a federal mandatory five-year sentence for cannabis offences in the balance, assuming anything seems a bit radical. But I digress. For the record, Hil emphatically states that he never had the need to deal, he was just fortunate enough to have three ounces of three types of flower to medicate with.
Call it white privilege or not, Hil’s court date landed him in a Utah rehab facility for two months, in lieu of prison time. While in rehab Hil said he learned about alcohol and pills from his peers. Cannabis is considered habitual, but non-addictive, so the irony was not lost on him.
“When rehab ended they put me on probation for one year, with a pee-test three times a week,” he explained. “That’s when I began self-medicating with alcohol and pills—when I had never drank alcohol or done drugs before. I’d wake up in the morning and have a beer to calm down, and I wasn’t even 21 yet—but, I couldn’t use a plant that never hurt anyone. It made no sense at all.”
We could have lost the young artist, as he quelled his racing thoughts and mood swings with booze and calming benzodiazepines and opioids, including Xanax, OxyContin, and Fentanyl.
“I started taking Ecstasy in an attempt to feel better without the weed, but coming down is awful, so I started taking the pills to compensate,” he said, of the common dilemma.
This dark period played out in public, as he was written up in tabloids for getting thrown out of a recording studio for peeing in a cup.
Hil defended the phase, stating, “It was a dark time without weed. I picked up a lot of bad habits in rehab. Besides the drinking and the pills, I started smoking cigarettes.”
When probation ended, Hil immediately began medicating with cannabis and left the alcohol and pills behind. The tobacco remained, but only in the occasional spliff, mixed with weed.
For Hil, his use of cannabis adds to his creative process, but it’s also a spiritual practice—with a mantra quelling his negative alter ego.
“Sometimes when people, or the voice in my head, tells me I’m doing wrong—it’s not paranoia, it’s everyday life frustrations—then a clear voice comes through,” he waxed poetic. “It’s a divine energy to connect through the plant, telling me I’m enough and everything is going to be ok. Or I’ll be called to create. It’s all good.”
Aside from the physiological lift he gets from the plant, his music is dark, full of the perils of modern-day youth—like drugs, sex, and violence. But, for Hil, it’s all release and therapy, not just for him, but for his audience.
“My music is dark for a reason,” the baby-faced, well-spoken young man explained. “I believe I’ve got to get that stuff out. It’s not just dark, though, it’s me being vulnerable. That’s what weed does for you. I realized that when I reach further down and bare my soul in that way—with all the darkness, it helps other people, too. Then I know I’m doing the right work, and I feel lighter after getting it all out.”
A Green Stash
During our Zoom interview, Hil had a fatty rolled and ready, drawing on it as we chatted. Nearby was a tall glass of green drink, with a nod to his healthy lifestyle.
Hil rattled off the novela of goodness in the drink, “It has greens, apples, celery, cucumber, kale, dandelion, and parsley.”
While recording, Hil said he prefers tasty cultivars, like Sunset Sherbet and Gelato.
Sherbert is a direct descendant of Girl Scout Cookies, bred by Mr. Sherbinski. Ancestors include the classic and enduring OG Kush—another favorite of Hil’s—Cherry Pie and Durban Poison, a sativa cultivar hailing from the South African port city of Durban.
Sherbert is said to give a boost of cerebral energy—perfect for creating and making music.
Another favorite in his stash is Russian Assassin. Aside from the daunting name, this one to one Sativa/Indica cultivar has a noticeable piney aroma, from the terpene pinene.
According to terpene research-writer, Curt Robbins, as noted in the Cannabis Aficionado.com, pinene has the highly recognizable aroma of a pine forest. Found in basil, orange peel, and rosemary, pinene is especially good for mental focus and improving energy levels.
“I like mixing up the strains,” he said. “One time I only smoked OG Kush—way too much, for one month straight, and ended up sitting most of the day, with my mind racing.”
Kush cultivars are typically Indica leaning, causing couch-lock, hence his sedative experience, and why switching up cultivars for effect is never a bad idea.
“Wedding Cake is another favorite,” he continued. “Two years ago a friend’s mother plant died. It was consistently good for years, and it was a real loss when she went out. I recorded several of the tracks on my new album with that strain.”
Wedding Cake is a high THC cultivar created by crossing Cherry Pie with Girl Scout Cookies. Not unlike his other favorite, Sherbert, it gives a relaxing and euphoric effect, said to calm the body and mind. Those with a low THC tolerance would need to titrate up to this heady high, that’s often a go-to for pain patients for this reason.
Pairing tracks to specific cultivars is part of his creative process, but it’s also part of his stash.
“The plant is the backbone to my music,” he said, taking another drag off his magnificently large joint. “The time before bed is a thinking time—it’s in my hand, I watch it burn, it’s meditative—that’s all part of the magic. There’s no music without the plant, for me. It’s part of my process—it’s my personal prescription to make the music and stay level.”
Find Ricky Hil’s music on Soundcloud, Genius, and Spotify; follow him on Twitter @RickyHil and Instagram @rickyhil