When it comes to high quality cannabis and elite cannabis genetics, Top Dawg Seeds is the first to come to mind. Founder of the ever so popular “Star Dawg,” this seed bank has everything I look for when it comes to the highest quality genetics, with something for just about every grower out there to enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you like Haze, Chem, Sour Diesel, OG, Girl Scout Cookies, Bubba or Cheese, Top Dawg has something that will pique your interest. Prepare yourself and your grow for some primo bud!
I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to interview one of the best breeders in the cannabis world right now, and was incredibly humbled to do so as the cannabis community has renowned his name for the past 20 years. I had to pick his brain to see what this cannabis mastermind has to say. We talked about some of the breeding he has done, New York City’s cannabis scene ‘back in the day’ and the impact he has left on our culture. Prepare yourself for this epic interview with one of the biggest names in cannabis right now, Top Dawg Seeds.
HIGH TIMES: When did you get into cannabis? When did you start growing?
Top Dawg Seeds: I first started growing in 1999. That was in New York City at the time. One of the very first strains I grew was a Jack Herer cut that my friend gave me; there was some other Amsterdam strains that were also given to me.
HT: When did you have access to the Chem Dog strain?
TDS: I was always in the loop since around ’92. I was getting the flower since 1992, but I didn’t start growing it until I got the Chem D cut from Chem Dog himself. I got the Sour Diesel sometime in around 2000-2001 then traded it to Chem Dog for the Chem D.
HT: Were you on the forums back in the day?
TDS: Yes. I started on Overgrow. After that, I went to IC Mag then THC Farmer.
HT: Do you still keep in contact with people on the forums?
TDS: Most of those people moved over into the industry, and most of the people are on IG now, or Facebook, everyone has slowly moved away from the forums now it seems.
HT: When did you do the Nigerian Haze?
TDS: The Nigerian Silk cut was passed to me sometime in early 200’s in New York City. Right around that time, I moved upstate, and I had another project in the city quite some time later on though. I was upstate for most of my breeding. When the Nigerian Silk got passed to me, I just got the NL# 5 x Haze off of seed credit from IC Mag. When I first started selling some of my seeds, I put them up on IC Mag. Instead of cash, they gave you seed credit back then. I had about $1000-$1500 in seed credit, so I wound up getting a bunch of different Hazes. The NL5/Haze was one of the ones I got from Sensi Seeds. I thought that would be a good match to go into the Nigerian Silk. I then back crossed it, and selected a pheno I liked and the one I have now that’s floating around is known as ‘JJ’s Nigerian Haze.’ It was the one I originally found from the backcross. There were other phenotypes before the backcross that other people, like Swamp Boys, use.
HT: How do you feel about other companies using a Star Dawg male to breed with?
TDS: I don’t mind if they outcross to different strains. I think that is a good thing. It makes the strain more popular, but when people try to copy me and try and profit off of it, that’s what I don’t like; anything to do with the Chem stuff really because Star Dawg is a Chem Dog. It’s a Chem 4 x Tres Dawg cross. And Tres Dawg is Afghan X Chem D. Its basically two different Chems crossed to Chem 4. It’s a staple strain, very easy for anyone to throw it into a Chem Dog strain, and for them to claim it as theirs. I don’t mind people crossing it to Lemon G, Girl Scout Cookies or anything like that. When you try to copy the strain, and cross it back into the family that it came from, it is basically copying and ripping me off, and trying to undercut me on pricing too.
HT: Where did Tre Dawg come from?
TDS: That was me. I had originally got the Chem D, then I got the Afghan #1 from Sensi Seeds. I also had Hindu Kush. I was going to cross one of those two strains into the Chem. After growing out the Hindu Kush and the Afghan #1 side-by-side, I decided to go with the Afghan because it was not as leafy and it had a thicker stem. I just thought it was a better overall plant than the Kush to throw into the Chem. I then backcrossed it twice it to make the Tres Dawg.
HT: What’s your relation to Money Mike?
TDS: We originally met on the forums. He came up to NYC and invited me to a party. We started trading clones and genetics, he had sourced the Malawi Gold, the Chem ’91, and a few other cuttings that were hard to get. This was probably late 2000’s maybe.
HT: How much was your weed selling in the city for at the time?
TDS: Most of the time, ounces went from $450-$600 in the 2000’s, maybe even a little bit farther back, but leading up into 2010. Pretty much the demise of the New York City black market was the rise of the California legal scene. Before that, it was the Canadian market. The Canadian market got knocked out by the California medical marijuana scene, and the California market started to grow and grow, you could no longer get $600 an ounce. $450-$500 is the most you can get now. Back in the day, some even went up to $800 an ounce. Some of AJ’s Sour Diesel went for $800-$1000 an ounce back in the mid 90’s to the early 2000’s. There weren’t as many growers back then. You gotta remember back in the mid ’90s when we really were making our mark, there weren’t many growers back then. To find a grower, and then to find a grower who had super-dank shit, it was a rare find. That’s where we capitalized and dominated in the New York City market for such a long time until people started to catch up. Once some clones started getting passed around, and other people started growing, the forums popped up, anyone could get on the forum and learn how to grow, and more hydro stores were opening up. Back then, it used to be just Staten Island you could go to if you needed grow equipment in the city. Now, there are more places opening up around the city.
HT: Do you prefer back in the day when the prices, profits and risk were higher, or today’s market with its prices, profits and lower risks?
TDS: It depends on who you are I guess; I adapted. It went from one market to another. I’m going fine with seeds right now, but if you ask other people, they might tell you something different.
HT: What are some of your highest in-demand seeds?
TDS: Mostly anything to do with Chem Dog; anything to do with the ’91, Chem D, Star Dawg, Sour Diesel, some OG crosses… breeds from that family of Chem/Sour/OG is just a no-brainer.
HT: How would you market and recommend some of your Hazes to people who usually go after the Chem/Sour/OG stuff?
It really depends on your own personal preference. Everyone has his or her own preferences of highs. When you go from a heavy indica Chem, to a high-flying sativa, some people don’t get it, or can’t handle the speediness of the sativa high. It depends on your intellectual level of being a connoisseur.
HT: What is your favorite haze? What’s your opinion on the Piff?
TDS: I love the Piff! Shit was crazy! I really prefer the Neville’s, A5, Cat Pissy Colombian, NYC Piff kind of Haze. I had a reputation. People had claimed of it being sprayed, or laced, or somehow contaminated with some other kind of drug. I had one guy who claimed he smoked some and took a piss test and tested positive for opiates. Most of the time it was wet, it was not flushed, it was really chemical-like in smell and taste, so the highs on it would be a little crazy sometimes. Then on top of that, the high from the strain itself made it more complex.”
HT: For those who might not know what “Piff” is, could you describe the look, smell, taste and effect for the world?
TDS: It was more of a cat piss, frankincense, church kind of smell. There were different types. The green Haze and the yellow/brown Haze is what we called it. The brown was always more chunky. It always had more of that cat piss aroma to it; compared to the green, it was more stringy. I believe the green is the black Haze. I had a cut of that. It has similarities to the cat piss Haze, but not as strong as the brown/yellow one. That was the one you wanted. It was stronger. I have not seen that in years, that yellow Haze. The green was pretty common.
HT: How many different popular versions of Star Dawg are out there now? You hear of any ‘keeper’ phenotypes from others out there who grow your crosses?
TDS: Guava, Illuminati, Corey Haim and Kate Upton. There have been four different versions of Star Dawg by four different males. One of the last being from what we call the “Purple Tres Dawg Male;” everything that Tres Dawg was crossed to threw out purple phenotypes. I just recently acquired a new Tres Dawg male and released Star Dawg 4.0. A different Tres Dawg male crossed them the three separate kinds; this shows the consistency of the Tres Dawg line. It has been consistent with not throwing any hermaphrodites. It has been a stable strain. Lots of people say that Chems are unstable.
Kate Upton was from the 3rd release, the purple release. Green Dot Labs in Colorado found her. They have had good luck with my strains. They picked up lots of seeds during my third release of Star Dawg and have been successful with mostly everything. They have a Tres OG which is Tahoe OG (clone only) x Tres Dawg that gives them 31.5 percent returns on BHO from Whole Plant Extractions. That was the record for resin production for the company. That also turned purple. He also had a Sour Dawg from the same release with purple hints in it. All those strains he purchased off of me in 2013 at the Denver Cannabis Cup. He started a successful company with the seeds he got from me.
HT: What’s your opinion on Gorilla Glue #4?
TDS: It’s nice. It’s a good commercial crop. For personal head stash, for me, it falls a little short. I see the appeal of it. It has good bag appeal, it smokes decent, but it’s not a super ‘headbanger.’ It has the Chem terps in it, but it’s not the Chem I like. It’s not my preference. Even the Sour Diesel to me falls short. I mostly smoke Chem D, Star Dawg, Nigerian Haze—stuff like that.
HT: Do you prefer the Chem 4 or Chem D dominance in Star Dawg?
TDS: Each one is unique. The Guava has a really good taste to it. It’s not super strong, but like Gorilla Glue, it yields well, commercially it does well. The Corey cut is stronger. I prefer that cut for my head stash. I recent have a new purple pheno. It’s Chem 4 dominant in smell and taste. The purple one has a more different tip to it. It’s almost a sweeter Chem.
HT: Which release of Star Dawg do you like the most? 1st? 2nd? 3rd? 4th?
TDS: First release was 2011. That’s when the Guava came out. The third release was the Purple release. That seems to have gone over well. That’s the stuff that Green Point Seeds is using. Most people are using that third release to breed with. There are some other people as well using it. Garden Of Dreams Seeds is using the original release. There are some people who have the original release, first edition beans, and most people have the later releases. In the beginning, it wasn’t really done on a large, commercial scale. It wasn’t really meant to be. It was just something I did just to see what would happen. No make was kept from the first editions. Just that batch of seeds was made, and the male was killed. After having success with that, another male was popped, more seeds were made and sold, to create the second editions; and then that male was killed. In the beginning there was really no intentions to become a commercial breeder. It was more for my self-preservation for personal use. The extras were sold for seed credit.
HT: What do you look for in males when you breed?
TDS: I usually look for something that’s short, later flowering, has a good smell when you rub the stems, and look at the leaves and stems under a loupe to see if there is any resin production.
HT: Any more remakes of strains you haven’t done in a while?
TDS: I’m trying to get back to that. Right now, I’m just trying to find the right environment or situation in which to do everything. Currently I don’t have enough space to do what I want. Eventually I’ll get back to everything that I was successful with in the past. It’s a matter of getting the clones back. After I left upstate New York, I had to close down. I was not able to keep any mothers; I lost my whole mother stock. When I moved out to Denver, I had to start over again. Most of that stuff I haven’t got back yet. I have so many things that I work with that my plate is always full of different things.
HT: Are you still looking for any hard-to-get strains?
TDS: Maybe the Mass Super Skunk, but I don’t know. A lot of strains just can’t hold up over time. Last that we had it, it was crapping out. The Roadkill Skunks. If you could ever find them again, that is one strain everyone is looking for. There is a lot of talk from people who claim to have it. Bodhi, Riot, but I haven’t seen the real deal yet. I really think that those genetics lie in landrace Afghan genetics. The later back you go, the more of a chance you might get on being able to find something that is close to Roadkill out there. That is where the original Roadkill came from. An old, Afghan seed. Original Skunk #1 has Afghan in it. The Super Skunk was a back cross of the (Afghan x Skunk) x Afghan.
HT: What was the purpose of doing ONYCD?
TDS: I felt that Soma ripped us off. He ripped the name off us. NYCD or “New York City Diesel” in his genetics didn’t properly represent the original New York City Diesel, which was Chem ’91. When we were selling the Chem ’91 back in the day, and people would ask you what is this, and you would say Chem Dog, some people got turned off by the name because it has something to do with chemicals. When you would smell it, it would have almost this chemical-like scent to it. Some people thought it was treated, or sprayed, so we had to change the name to “Diesel.” AJ started calling it Diesel as a reference name. It then became a nickname that stuck. Once you smelled it, and smoked it, it was definitely Diesel.
HT: Where were some of your favorite places to smoke in the city back in the day?
We all used to meet up at Wetlands in Lower Manhattan. On Tuesday night, they had “Grateful Dead Night” where they used to play Grateful Dead music, and downstairs they used to have a drum circle. You used to be able to bring drums, or guitars, or any instrument you wanted. Everyone sat in a big circle and jammed out. Back in the day we used to have access to these side rooms. We used to be able to go in there and smoke. That’s where I met AJ at actually, down at Wetlands. I used to meet “The Weasel” down there. When we used to break out the Chem Dog; AJ sniffed us out. When you crack a jar of that, people are turning their heads. If you were a real weed hound, your nose follows you to the source. AJ knew I had something good on me. We all became friends, and he kind of worked there as an intern, so he would let us in the back room to smoke, break everything out and let it rip.