Beyonce 4 Beyonce 4

Five Years Of '4': Creatives Reflect On Their Time With Beyonce At Her Boldest

Symbolyc One and Luam open up about sharing the same creative space as Beyonce during the age of '4'.

Beyonce's 4, her straightforwardly-titled fourth studio album, was unleashed for the world to hear on June 24, 2011. As her first solo album independent from her former manager and father Matthew, Beyonce experimented with more intimate themes and eclectic sound stylings, setting the album apart from her first three LP’s. 4 seemingly serves as the catalyst for her musical journey of deeper, more personal themes displayed in her self-titled fifth album and her recent sixth opus, Lemonade.

However, we know a ship needs a strong crew behind it to keep it afloat. Beyonce meticulously chooses to work with a select team of creatives who she believes will give her work that certain je ne sais quoi, and develops professional relationships with those who focus on the art as a whole. We thought it would be interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the album from some of the people who were immersed in its development. Read on to see what it was like to work with Bey both in the booth and in the dance studio from colleagues who aided in the sonic and visual success of this project.

Symbolyc One (S1) was a co-producer on “Best Thing I Never Had.” A Very GOOD Beats signee, S1 has produced for Kanye West (“Power”), Eminem (“Bad Guy” from the Marshall Mathers LP 2”) and The Throne (“Murder To Excellence”).

VIBE: Before you worked on 4, have you ever worked with Beyonce before? And if not, how did she initially get a hold of you?
S1: So, this was actually my first time working with Beyonce, on the 4 album. The way I began a working relationship with her was that I worked with Kanye [West] on the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, and I had the honor of going to London and Australia to work with him and Jay Z on Watch The Throne. So, while we working on the Watch The Throne album, Beyonce was out there of course, so that's when I really started to build a relationship with her. On our second trip—we went to London first—so on our second trip to Australia, we really started to build a working relationship. We were in this mansion together that they built that had these three studios, and they built a studio for Beyonce on the third floor. She invited me up to her floor to listen to some songs that she was working on for 4, so I went up, listened to some songs and gave my critique on some of them.

There was one particular song that I thought the drums could be better on, and she gave me the section and was like "go re-do the drums." I took the session downstairs, re-worked the drums and she loved it. She was like, "At the top of the year, I wanna bring you out to New York to help me work on 4." January 2nd, I got that call, "Yo, Beyonce wants you in New York tomorrow. Can you come out for a week?" I wound up going out there and I bought one of my production dudes, Caleb McCampbell [Caleb Sean], and Beyonce played us seven records that she loved, but she didn't like the production on them. We picked out five records, "Best Thing I Never Had" being one of them, and we re-worked those records the whole week while we were out there with her. That was my first introduction to actually working with her, in New York.

Was she someone who you've always had an interest in working with?
Oh, absolutely! What's crazy is, me and my partner who I took out there to work with me on the album, Caleb Sean... this was 2010, so I'd say maybe two or three years prior, we did her "Single Ladies" track. We wanted to do our version of it, so we took the a cappella and re-worked it. We started getting really good buzz because we put it up on YouTube, and people started loving this remix! It ended up on a mixtape, and I actually got to play it for her [Beyonce] when we first met. She loved it, she was like "Man, I think I wanna use the track for another song!" [Laughs] We were really big fans prior to actually working with her, so just being able to work with her, being in the studio with her, was just a dream come true. Truly a blessing.

Was there a specific style that she was going for when you were coming up with the song at first?
No, actually it wasn't. There was never a case where she was like, "I want this to sound like this." It was just, "Take these songs and make the best possible production that you guys can do with it." We got in our room and it was like, what's the best possible way that we can showcase these songs...? We kind of just did what we felt. She would just come in the room and listen and be like "Yo, I like this," or "Change this part, I think this could be better," or "I really really like this section." It kind of just built into what it is today.

When you're watching her in her "zone," when she comes in and she's kind of feeling out the music, what is she like? Is she vocal? Hands-on?
Very. Oh, she's incredible. Like, I've never seen anything like it. And she's so precise! Seeing her in the booth? It's crazy, because she nails stuff to where you can tell she's practiced and prepared up until that point to where it's automatic for her, and she doesn't have to think about it. She's just knockin' it out, knockin' it out, and knockin' all her vocals out, and then it's done. And it sounds so good! Like… flawless! [Laughs] You can tell she's worked for that up until this point, so when she's in that moment, she's not thinking about it, it's automatic, first instinct.

What were some of the tools that you used to create the sounds and the beats for the song?
It was just a matter of how I do all my production. I go through sounds, and if there's a certain sound that triggers or inspires me, I'll pull it up and I'll start building around that sound. It was the same thing for "Best Thing I Never Had." The tone was amazing, the vocals were amazing. How can we make sure the production compliments what's already great? It was a matter of going through sounds, and Caleb Sean is an incredible musician. He started playing certain chords around it, and I was like okay, this is it. The intro of the song was the very first thing that he started playing, so once we locked that it, it was like, "Yo, this is it right here!" and we started building around that. We got the song to a certain point, and my dude Shea Taylor came in and he put the finishing touches on the song, and "Best Thing I Never Had" was birthed.

It's beautiful work. And I know Shea Taylor had a hand in a lot of the stuff on 4.
Shea is incredible, that's one of my brothers. He's just an incredible dude and an incredible producer. He came in and put his touch on all the songs to make it what it is today.

How do you think that Lemonade differs from her other projects from a production standpoint?
With every album, I think her approach is she always follows the space that she's in. She's always true to that. Lemonade is basically a representation of where she is now. When we were working on 4, that was a representation of where she was at, at that point. She's always able to capture where she's at, and present where she's at to the world through her albums.

In what ways have you seen Beyonce grow as an artist and a performer?
Man, she's a constant growth, a constant evolution. I would say that in all aspects, in artistry and as a business mogul, period. She's top-tier of what she does in all aspects, and I think that's her being able to... it's her practice. She's constantly trying to push the envelope and better herself as a songwriter, as an artist, as a performer, as a businesswoman. I think she'll continue to get better and better in everything she does. She's very driven and she just has it. She doesn't have to think about it. It's a part of her DNA now, so she'll continue to grow and evolve. She's really amazing, and being around her, her energy, she is everything. Literally the first day in the studio with her, I felt like I had been knowing her for, like, ten years. It was just like that. I'm from Waco [Texas] and live in Dallas, so I'm Texas-born too, and it was just an instant connection, like "Oh, you definitely Texas!" [Laughs]

Luam is an NYC-based choreographer who worked as a co-choreographer for the music video for “Run The World.” You may have seen her choreography for Janelle Monae’s Pepsi commercial before this year’s Super Bowl Halftime show.

How were you approached to work on the video for "Run The World"? Because from what I understand, there were several choreographers involved.
Luam: Yes, there were several amazing creatives a part of this. Jeffrey Page and Sheryl Murakami contributed a great deal in particular, and there were choreography contributions by really great folks to complete the full story. Frank Gatson, who was the director of her choreography, pulled us in. He pulled me in while we were working on Beyonce's "Move Your Body” campaign, the Michelle Obama exercise & dance initiative for kids. We were in rehearsing for that and he said, "Hey, we've been workshopping this song in L.A. and other places, and she's looking for some fresh movement for this." I had an opportunity during the those campaign rehearsals to sit down with her and really understand what she was looking for. She wanted more than just dancing she told me, she wanted something special. She said, "I don’t want just steps. I want them to feel something, to get up and want to do the dance with me.” I really felt that she cared about her fans, her audience, wanted to make sure it was accessible. That it's not about just impressing folks, but including them, and saying, hey, the little girl in Houston who's eight years old is gonna see this and want to try it out, or that 36-year-old professional in the office of her building is going to go into the bathroom and see if she can do the moves in the mirror. [Laughs] That's the type of inspiration I think she likes to engender in anybody listening and watching the music. For me, I just wanted to give her something special, something that wasn't just a step, but that meant something to me as well. If it's important to me, then it's going to resonate with her. She always has a great team behind her, and for this, the folks contributing were giving her movements [she] kept her in mind. They could still be genuine in their style but knew how to make her look great. Seeing the whole process come about, it was beautiful to see each person presenting movement that was true to themselves, that came together through her. Really powerful. At the end of the day, you don't get a lot of female anthems like that, but she made it cool. It was a definitely tapestry of movement, of power and... it was just cool!

What did you do to draw inspiration for your choreography in the video?
We heard the actual song just a few times, since it was unreleased, but in choreographing I took the rhythm that it referenced and used that as a template for what I could create. I wanted to tap into what was personal, so I went into my culture. I'm Eritrean, born in Asmara, and I just love how our women are so powerful and so feminine at the same time. The movement that they do is beyond intricate. It's beyond story-telling, it's masterful. This isolation of shoulders, these hits, ticks, the popping that they do—there's a style and technique to it that is difficult to learn for any dancer. I did a lot of research and I showed her [Beyonce] these different ways that we swing our hair, that we pop our necks, our chins, that we sway, that we shake and isolate our shoulders, because to me, it conveys feminine power and mystique so very royal and strong. It was also hard! Very technical and intuitive at the same time. I found a way to keep the essence of the style and also fuse it into a sequence that could feel good to her. Working for Beyonce, you want to give her as much as you can, to take the opportunity to have her perform as much of your choreography as possible, but to me, I resolved to give her that one moment. Just the opening sequence. What she asked for, something special and singular, that moment of just "Wow, let me try that." And on the backend, it conveyed the power, the mystery and the strength of this culture of women. There's nothing more personal and more meaningful for me than that. I kind of took off my choreographer's hat for a second and said, "Let me be a fan for a second. What would I want to see?"

What was it like to see Beyonce in action processing the moves and practicing the choreography?
She does not stop working, she owns her vision. To me, owning your vision is not what time rehearsals start and stop; it’s saying, "Do we have it?" You have a horde of amazing female dancers in the room, and the guys she brought over from Tofo Tofo to do their dance [while in L.A.]. They were workshopping that dance for a while. It was difficult to get complete essence of their [Tofo Tofo] dance and not everyone had it, me included! It's simple yet extremely specific in a very controlled way that you don't really realize. And Beyonce was relentless. While people were sitting down on break, she's in the corner practicing. She's such a hard worker, and it was inspiring to see, to witness. That's what happens when you have creative and executive control of your artistry. She's got a mentality of, like, of course, yes, why wouldn’t I keep going until it’s right? Watching her practice the shoulders over and over, I totally got it. She’s done the research, understands exactly what she wants it to look like, and gets it there. She will just continue to practice, making all the elements are perfect and intuitive as they can be. I'm curious to see where she goes next. I feel like there's more, and there's always going to be more.

How was choreographing for this video different from other videos and shows that you've worked on?
Every project is very different, you know? It's really top-down in the sense that it starts with the artist and their choices, and it comes down also through their team. Beyonce’s work ethic and search for the right moment resonates throughout her process. It pulls the best out of everyone, to be at their top game. Also this job was different in the sense that I had no idea how it was gonna come out. We started in a small room in a dance studio in New York, they had been workshopping in L.A, there were different creatives coming together and contributing from coast to coast under Frank’s direction and collaboration with Bey. I was curious to see the finished product. Also this one was very personal for me. It was allowing not the dance or choreography part of me to come through, but the little Eritrean girl who grew up speaking another language at home and living a dual culture. It was the first time in my life that they my two identities had come together. It was the first time ever where I could be all of me in one moment. I was whole. I could be East African, and I could also be American creative. I could bring my history to the commercial world, to this industry as a choreographer, and do it through the biggest artist on the planet. For myself, it was an epiphany. You don't have to leave parts of yourself at the door in your craft, in your art. You can bring all of who you are in what you do.

That's what I think she [Beyonce] does, and that's why she evolves. For me, the last three albums have been so different because she's discovering things about herself and exploring that. I got it. I get it, and also understand it within myself! This is a new place for me that I've never been before, and I can't wait to see what more there is to discover as a woman, as an artist. Without knowing, I think she does the same thing. She's constantly evolving because that's what we do! As artists and women, there are so many different dimensions to discover. Being a woman—a black woman—whatever it is, there is so much to discover later. When you're older, that's when the meat of you comes out, and when you're an artist, that's your canvas. That's where you unleash your exploration.

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Music Sermon: The Divinity Of Luther Vandross

“There are voices in this world and once they sing, it’s a stamp on everybody.” Bravo producer and personality Andy Cohen was asking Patti Labelle about her dear friend Luther Vandross on talk show Watch What Happens Live. “Luther’s done that.”

Luther Ronzoni Vandross, Jr. was the preeminent urban pop singer; the essence of ‘80s quiet storm R&B. He was called “the velvet voice” and “the Black Pavarotti,” but there’s not really a male predecessor he compares to because he didn’t pattern himself after the soul men like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, or Teddy Pendergrass. He studied the divas. Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Patti Labelle were the voices that fascinated and inspired a young Luther. Seeing Dionne Warwick live at the Brooklyn Fox Theater made him realize he wanted to sing. “She came on stage and just killed me; the music was more serious, the song value was more serious. 'Anyone Who Has a Heart' was a masterpiece,” he told The Washington Post. “I decided at that point that I wanted to do something in music."

The difference informs the distinction between him and most other men of R&B. Luther sang from a softer space, topically and tonally. He usually sang from a gentle, easy place. Not urgent. Not aggressive. Never suggestive. His first greatest hits compilation was titled The Best of Luther, The Best of Love because his entire catalog was love. Romantic and devoted love, not sex or lust. Adoration. And while his voice is appreciated–he’s featured on every greatest vocalist list of note–the full range and depth of Luther’s vocal craftsmanship are not. He was a writer, producer, and one of the greatest vocal manipulators in the game, as well-known and sought-after from early in his career for his vocal arrangements as his singing. The New York Times once described Luther as having an “obsession with the human voice, bordering on clinical.” Some people’s gifts are leagues beyond the old talent-plus-preparation-equals-opportunity equation. Some are truly called, anointed even. Luther was divinely appointed.

The world was officially introduced to Luther in 1981, but he was already an established singer’s singer on the professional circuit. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, teenaged Luther was part of youth performing arts group sponsored by the Apollo Theater called Listen My Brother. Their music was largely social commentary, and they performed in and around New York, including on the very first episode of Sesame Street.

In 1974, Luther accidentally landed a gig as a background singer and arranger for David Bowie. He visiting a friend in Bowie’s band at the studio, and talking about an idea to improve the hook for “Young Americans,” unaware that the singer was standing within earshot. Bowie loved the idea, hired Luther, and quickly became a champion for the young singer’s budding career. Luther handled vocal arrangements for the entire Young Americans album, and additionally wrote the album cut “Infatuation.” He also performed a 45-minute opening set of his own material each night on tour, at Bowie’s insistence.

Luther’s singing here on the far left.

Bowie then introduced the crooner to Bette Midler, who took him on tour, and Luther’s career as an in-demand background singer and arranger was underway. His study of great female vocalists helped him develop an ear that set him apart. “One of the contexts you have to understand was that the background singing has always been a female-dominated area,” Luther explained in an early interview. “I was bringing stuff on my own to the sessions that was kind of unique in terms of how to do background vocals. And later I learned never to give away anything you can sell, so I started charging for this extra bit of approach, which was fine, because by this time everyone wanted it so bad that they were willing to pay for it.”

Over the years, Luther sang with Carley Simon, Chic (“Everybody Dance”), Average White Band, Chaka Khan, and Roberta Flack, who chided him for getting too comfortable as a background singer and encouraged him to finally put a demo together. Due to his own intimate relationship with excellence in backing vocals, Luther was famously known to always use the top talent in the business for his albums. A read through the personnel of his catalogue will reveal names including Cissy Houston, James Ingram, Darlene Love, Tawatha Agee (lead singer of Mtume), premiere professional backing vocalists like Fonzi Thornton, and Lisa Fischer, who Luther pushed to get out of her comfort zone and record as Flack did with him.

During a recording session for Quincy Jones, Luther was introduced to a commercial producer, who then helped him break into the jingle-writing business. He’s always been credited with his ability to write an infectious hook–that talent was honed with jingles.

Before Luther took the solo leap, he tried the group route. He briefly had a deal as part of a group called, appropriately, Luther. They recorded two albums, but neither made any noise. Then, he joined disco group Change as their frontman and had two hits, including one of my favorite mood-boosting, make everything right anthems.

Luther had a little money in his pocket from commercials and background singing, and from writing and producing a song for the Broadway musical-turned-major motion picture The Wiz.

Oh, you didn’t know Luther wrote “A Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice)”?

He had the means to record and produce his demo himself, and assembled what became his career dream team. While in the group Listen My Brother, Luther met pianist Nat Adderly, Jr., son of jazz trumpeter Nat Adderley and nephew of saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. As a session singer, he met bassist Marcus Miller and recommended him to Gladys Knight, and the two bonded while on tour. He recruited them both to put together the songs that eventually became Never Too Much, and they were key contributing architects to Luther’s signature sound.

Miller is responsible for those slappin’ basslines that were prevalent in Luther’s early work, and for most of Luther’s uptempo cuts. “I never had any official responsibilities with Luther because we used to just work,“ Marcus shared in an interview, “but I felt like one of my (unspoken) responsibilities was to make sure Luther had tracks on his album that could be played on the radio during the day time.”

Adderley’s genius came through in Luther’s trademark covers. In Luther’s case, “remake” is a more apt description than “cover,” because he and Nat would take the original songs apart, stretch them out, invert them, slow parts down, add sections, reverse some sh*t… it was a whole different composition when they were done. The lush string and woodwind arrangements in Luther ballads are Nat’s handiwork. Incredible piano flourishes and solos, also Nat.

When both Miller and Adderley worked on the track, magic ensued, starting with Luther’s forever-a-bop solo debut “Never Too Much.” Coming out of the funk band driven ‘70s landscape, labels were doubtful of Luther’s smooth solo style. Epic finally took a chance, and it hit just as popular urban music went through its next evolution, which happened to be right in Luther’s sonic pocket.

“Luther, Marcus Miller and I had a real musical connection,” Nat has said. “We saw stuff the same way. We thought of things in the same way. When we came together, we really learned about each other and fed off of each other.”

Luther knew who he was as a singer and an artist. He wrote and produced the majority of his early material, and continued to co-write and co-produce through most of his career. He was clear on what worked for him both vocally and formulaically. Marcus Miller shared, “One of the things I used to hear him say was ‘I don’t need to compete with any other singers. Other singers sing hard, high, and with a lot of riffs. That’s not me. That’s not my thing. I’m just going to style these people to death.’” And he styled us to death, honey. Luther was the king of melisma and dramatic effect, but without oversinging. Where most vocalists would build towards a climax in the song, Luther’s structure was often reversed. He’d start easy, build during the middle, and come back to a soft, light, but emotional close.

This careful, deliberate singing was part of his genius. There’s a reason Black folks yell “Take your time,” to soloists when they’re in their bag–mastery isn’t rushed.

As I mentioned before, Luther was also a transformative cover artist. Would straight Deebo your song – that was his song, now. And artists didn’t even mind, because he elevated it so incredibly. Some of Luther’s biggest hits are covers: “Superstar/Until You Come Back to Me” (The Carpenters and Aretha Franklin), “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (Dionne Warwick), “Since I Lost My Baby” (The Temptations), “Bad Boy/Having a Party” (an interpolation of Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party”), “If Only for One Night” (Brenda Russell), “Creepin’” (Stevie Wonder). He was a repeat offender with Dionne Warwick’s material from Burt Bacharach and Hal David, jacking not just “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” the song that blew him away at a young age, but also “A House is Not a Home”–on the same album. And she didn’t even care, look at her.

Luther’s capabilities as Mr. Steal-Your-Song also translated to his strength as a duet partner. He knew how to blend voices so perfectly, he was outstanding when paired with another strong vocalist. Luther produced Cheryl Lynn’s 1982 album Instant Love, and took the opportunity to use a Tammi and Marvin classic to showcase the singer’s strength beyond uptempo dance hits.

One of my favorite Luther duets and covers is an album cut with the tragically uncelebrated Martha Wash. Their version of the torch song standard “I Who Have Nothing,” is a little heavy on production in some places, especially the early ‘90s R&B sax, but their voices are perfect together. And the breakdown at the end? Whew. All the feels. All of them.

But Luther could also do very sweet and simple arrangements, like his duet with Gregory Hines. This song always makes me wish Gregory had done more professional singing after he left musical theater.

Don’t get it twisted, though, Luther specialized in controlled vocals, but he could act a fool when he wanted to. Especially when playing off the energy of another singer, like his dear friend and my favorite Auntie, queen of extra just because she can, Patti Labelle.

Jenifer Holliday and Luther messed around and pushed poor Paul Simon out of his own damn song.

Luther was a balladeer of elite caliber, but he’ll also get an uptempo jumpin’, literally. When Aretha’s career was in a lengthy lull and facing the challenges of a new musical era, Clive Davis called Luther to write and produce for her. Luther, who once called himself an "Arethacologist," was thrilled to work with one of his biggest idols and inspirations. But Luther was a very exacting producer; he would tell vocalists specifically what and how to sing. Auntie Re wasn’t playing that at first, and even stormed out of the studio at one point, but the end result was her biggest hit in seven years.

Luther himself has several cookout and red cup party classics. Tunes that me, you, your mama and your cousin can dance to. That’s part of the beauty in Luther’s music; there’s no content too mature–or too immature–for anyone. While recalling Luther, Marcus Miller remarked, “There is no greater feeling in the world than walking down the street in New York City and hearing a Luther song blasting in the street.” I can personally confirm, as someone who’s heard Luther blasting while in these New York City streets.

What I don’t believe is acknowledged enough is Luther’s longevity. A 20-year career is a rare feat for any artist, but especially for a core R&B singer who started in the ‘80s. Luther did have pop hits–“Here and Now” was one of the biggest wedding songs of the ‘90s–but he was always a core R&B artist, and always stayed on brand and on topic. He was somewhat inactive in the latter ‘90s after ending his contract with Epic Records; he released one album with Virgin records in 1996, but it’s not usually included in his definitive material. Whispers and speculation about his health began, as he’d spent much of the ‘90s going up and down dramatically with his weight. But he made a fierce return in the early aughts. His final two albums, with Clive Davis’ J. Records, were two of the biggest in his career, with material that was relevant and contemporary without sounding contrived.

This song makes me want to put on some white linen and go on somebody’s boat ride.

As secure as Luther had always been in his artistry, he still felt overlooked as a writer and producer and longed for critical recognition beyond R&B. Out of 33 career Grammy nominations with eight wins, only two were in the Pop category. It wasn’t until his final album, 2003’s Dance With my Father, that Luther earned the elusive Song of the Year nomination and subsequent win he’d been longing for, for the album’s title track. But he also suffered a debilitating stroke in April 2003, before the project’s release. Since he was unable to shoot a video, artists who loved him stepped in with their children or parents as a tribute. Warning: this video may cause severe allergy flareups.

I have no doubt that barring health issues, Luther would at minimum still be touring. He was one of the most thorough live performers I’ve ever seen, with production simple enough to keep the vocals as the centerpiece, but extra enough so you were visually entertained as well (lots of sequins). Luther was touring in 2003 until his stroke (do yourself a favor and listen to his Live at Radio City Music Hall album, his last live appearance), and was scheduled to perform at Essence Festival that year. Can you imagine Luther at Essence Fest?

When news of Luther’s death broke, my mother and I–both huge fans–were driving to a family reunion, and we played and sang along to his music for about four states. I still play Luther when I need a boost, or when I want to burrow deep down into my feelings. When I want to go into chill mode, or when I want to dance around the house. Luther is all-purpose. He is all-emotion. He is everything. He was a gift.

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#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

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Issa Vibe: The Best Songs To Fit Your Different 4/20 Sessions

April 20th isn’t a national holiday, but it might as well be.

Although recreational marijuana use is only legal in 10 states, the U.S. is home to approximately 35 million regular users of cannabis, according to a survey done by Yahoo News and Marist University. That's 10.6 percent of the American population and while that may seem minuscule, the numbers are growing daily and it's understandable.

Weed has now become a staple of American culture; it's become a legitimate business in the states where it's legal, it's now part of the way people socialize, and better yet it's a theme in some of the hottest music out today. "Kush" has been included in some of the hardest verses that millennials and generation-z kids have heard in their lifetime.

Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, amazing emcees in their own right, are also widely known for their love of the green plant. Wiz's biggest album, Rolling Papers is clearly influenced by weed and along with the Snoop Dogg-assisted "Young, Wild & Free" is all about that green positivity.

There's an endless list of hits about rolling up a joint, hitting it and passing it, but what about moods? Whether it's a bowl, a blunt or an edible weed, can leave people feeling a variety of ways and that all can be traced to a certain strand of weed someone's inhaling, or the mood they're already.

Regardless, it's important to be prepared and have music ready to match whatever feelings marijuana concocts; and that's why VIBE compiled an adequate list of songs for each of the main pot moods.

So on this 4/20, sit back, relax, smoke and find the songs that suit the vibe.

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The "Let Me Chill Out" Mood 

Sometimes the best way to come down from an over the top high is to play some tunes with a soft beat and a light voice. The best artists in the game right now, like Jhené Aiko for instance, have created that sound that's perfect for when relaxation is needed, so of course, she made the list.  These are the top four songs that can help anyone kick back and relax if a pull from a joint just isn't hitting the right way.

"Blue Dream" by Jhené Aiko "Muse" by Afro Nostalgia "Summer Games" by Drake "LOVE." by Kendrick Lamar (feat. Zacari) The Bad B*tch Hours or "Top Two and I'm Not Two" Mood 

You look around the room and realize: you're top two and you're not two in it. All it took was one or a couple of puffs and then a pass to make you feel pretty good about yourself. One of the main upsides to smoking that's constantly mentioned in the media is that it can help alleviate chronic pain, well, another positive to it is that it can leave you feeling sexy, sensual and everything in between.

This is that high that can make you feel that you're significant other is lucky to have you, and subsequently makes you hit them up, that tells you: you're single and ready to mingle. It's a smoking session that lets you know: if you shoot your shot now, you'll score and it's a session that you want music playing that only affirms how sultry and seductive you feel. If this is how 4/20 leaves you feeling, putting on some RiRi or even Young Thug can effectively get you 'in your bag.'

"Same Ol' Mistakes" by Rihanna "Tyrant" by Kali Uchis (feat. Jorja Smith) "Worth It" by Young Thug "Smoke Break" by Chance the Rapper (feat. Future) The "Head in the Clouds" Mood 

More often than not, edibles have the power of leaving people spaced out and speaking slowly, after consuming them. Sometimes smoking weed, or hotboxing with friends is a silent event. Either everyone's consumed by their phones, or every other person has been looking at a nonexistent spot on the wall for the past 15 minutes.

Regardless this isn't the high where people want to hear "Act Up" by City Girls, no matter how much they love them. No, this is the high where people need music that takes them on a journey. Songs where the production is out of this world and it seems like the artist specifically made the song for a smoke session like no other. Travis Scott's ASTROWORLD is full of tracks with that vibe, and Lil' Wayne, a weed connoisseur of his own, has songs that fulfill that need too. Smoke a bit and let the weed do its thing.

"ASTROTHUNDER" by Travis Scott "I Feel Like Dying" by Lil' Wayne "Hyyer" by Kid Cudi "St. Tropez" by J. Cole The "Got the Giggles" Mood 

This is when the blunt hits perfectly and there's nothing wrong in the world or when the bowl did its' job and leaves everyone feeling silly. A "feel good high" is the best way to describe and the best way to live through that kind of smoke session is to listen to some "feel good music." These are the songs that can have people swaying unknowingly to its' beat, or the tracks that leave people smiling from ear to ear. This is the session that lets people know that "this is it chief," and here are the best songs to go along with it.

"Pass the Vibes" by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment "Dreamcatcher" by Metro Boomin' (feat. Swae Lee & Travis Scott) "It's a Vibe" by 2 Chainz (feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Trey Songz & Jhené Aiko) "Binz" by Solange
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4/20: A VIBE-Era Timeline Of Hip-Hop's Relationship With Cigars And Rolling Papers

Hip-hop's relationship with Mary Jane has always been a beloved one. From song from artists like Styles P, Curren$y and Snoop Dogg, laying back and enjoying nature's herbs is a coveted pastime in the game.

But we wouldn't be able to enjoy it all without the inclusion of cigars and rolling papers. Sure, we have vapes and other creative ways to reach aerial heights, but the OG accessories bring a different element to the table. The herb holiday might be a perfect time for enthusiasts to light one in the air, but VIBE was inspired to pay homage to hip-hop's love for the preroll.

Only keeping the VIBE-era in mind (starting from 1992), we analyzed companies like Swisher Sweets, Phillies and more, along with its ambassadors throughout the game like Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill and Wiz Khalifa.

Enjoy the brief timeline of Hip-Hop's relationship with cigars and rolling papers below.

Made with Visme Infographic Maker

___ 1. Zig Zag

 

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A post shared by Zig-Zag World (@zigzagworld) on Apr 15, 2019 at 1:06pm PDT

Established Since 1855

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1992-1996 / 2009-2013

Most Popular in California

Top Ambassadors: Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, Juicy J

In 1988, N.W.A. founder Eazy-E established Zig Zag as the official rolling paper for west-coasters after referencing the brand on a song from his solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It. In subsequent years, Zig Zag would appear on songs from legends like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, and B-Real, resulting in the brand becoming synonymous with the west coast.

The decline in west coast rap's popularity during the latter half of the '90s would result in a decreased amount of nods to Zig Zag within hip-hop, as other brands continued to dominate the conversation. In 2009, Zig Zag's standing among rap fans would receive a jolt when Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y teamed up for their collaborative mixtape How Fly, which included numerous references to the brand. However, as other brands of rolling papers began to dominate the market, Zig Zag's approval rating faltered slightly, but continues to transcend generations and will forever be remembered as the O.G. smokers utensil.

2. E-Z Wider

Established Since 1972

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1992-1996 / 2008-2011

Most Popular in New York

Top Ambassadors: Wiz Khalifa, Chris Webby

The east coast's affinity for blunts is well-documented, but for a brief period during the '90s, EZ-Wider became the alternative for a select group of rappers out of New York City. Introduced into to hip-hop lexicon by A Tribe Called Quest member Phife Dawg on "Scenario (Demo 2)," EZ-Wider enjoyed a short run among smokers in the hip-hop community before losing its luster by the mid-'90s.

After more than a decade of sporadic mentions in rap songs, EZ-Wider made a comeback. This was largely on the strength of rappers like Wiz Khalifa, who brought the brand back to prominence in the late aughts during his transition from rolling cigars to smoking using paper. Over the past decade, EZ-Wider's popularity has been eclipsed by competing brands in the market, but its place within hip-hop history is secure.

3. Phillies Cigars (Known as Phillie Blunts)

 

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A post shared by Phillies Cigars & Tobacco Fans (@philliescigars) on Oct 7, 2018 at 1:19pm PDT

Established Since 1910

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1992-1999

Most Popular in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta

Top Ambassadors: Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., Redman, Big Pun, Big Boi, N.O.R.E., Big L

The first cigar to truly reign supreme in hip-hop is the Phillie blunt with a history that runs deep. Referenced as early as 1989, the Phillie came to prominence during the early '90s, with rappers like Redman, Nas, and The Notorious B.I.G. becoming unofficial ambassadors of the brand.

Found in some of the most memorable rap songs of all-time, the Phillie blunt was the cigar of choice on the east coast but began to spread to regions like the south and midwest, with artists like Big Boi of Outkast, and Twista singing its praises. By the end of the '90s, the popularity of the Phillie blunt began to wane, and while it still receives the occasional mention for nostalgic purposes, has never regained its stature as the go-to cigar in hip-hop.

4. Swisher Sweets

Established Since 1959

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1993-Present

Most Popular in California, Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana

Top Ambassadors: Three 6 Mafia, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, Scarface, Kid Ink, Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs, Gucci Mane, Wiz Khalifa, The Game, Lil Durk, Fat Trel, Ab-Soul, YG, Danny Brown, Fredo Santana, Machine Gun Kelly, Wale, Mac Miller, G-Eazy, G Herbo, Kevin Gates, Jeezy, 21 Savage

During the early '90s, Swisher Sweets emerged as the cigar brand of choice among marijuana enthusiasts in the south and western regions of the country. Since as early as 1993, when rap group Souls of Mischief helped put the brand on the map, Swisher Sweets cigars have become a staple in hip-hop, maintaining their popularity for the better part of a quarter century.

Over the years, Swisher Sweets has been name-dropped in songs by rappers from all corners of the country, but rap legends UGK and Three 6 Mafia were among the brand's most fervent supporters. Today, artists like Gucci Mane and Lil Yachty continue to keep Swisher Sweet in the public consciousness and recognized as one of the legacy smoking utensils in hip-hop culture

5. White Owl Cigarillos

 

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A post shared by Gotham Cigars (@gothamcigars) on Sep 9, 2014 at 8:29am PDT

Established Since 1887

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1993-1997

Most Popular in New York

Top Ambassadors: Wu-Tang Clan

One cigar that caught traction among marijuana aficionados during the early-mid '90s was the White Owl, which became one of the leading brands on the east coast at its peak. Initially popping up on the rap radar via a mention by Gang Starr member Guru in 1992, White Owl would be championed by a number of rap artists out of New York. One act that helped solidify White Owl's standing within hip-hop culture was the Wu-Tang Clan, as numerous members of the Staten Island-based collective paid homage to the brand until its sudden decrease in popularity during the latter half of the decade.

6. Optimo

 

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A post shared by | Cigars (@optimocigars) on Feb 24, 2019 at 5:02pm PST

Established Since 1898

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1997-2001

Most Popular in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee

Top Ambassador: Juicy J

The Notorious B.I.G. may have immortalized the brand after referencing their cigars on his hit single "Big Poppa," but Optimo's lineage in hip-hop can be actually traced back to the southern region of the country. As rap acts out of the south began to reach a national audience during the latter half of the '90s, Optimo's approval rating skyrocketed as well, quickly becoming the cigar of choice for many of the region's star talent.

This particularly proved true in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, where Optimo was considered king among blunt smokers and mentioned at a seemingly constant clip. Optimo cigars are not as prominent in rap lyrics as they once were, but remain a legacy brand in the south and have earned their rightful place in the annals of hip-hop history.

7. Garcia Y Vega

 

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GO GET #1882 BACKWOODS AT YOUR NEAREST SMOKE SHOP!!! #1882s

A post shared by Garcia Y Vega 1882 Cigars (@1882_backwoods) on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:57am PDT

Established Since 1882

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop):1995-2001

Most Popular in New York, California

Top Ambassador: JT tha Bigga Figga

One cigar brand that had a brief, but noteworthy run within hip-hop was Garcia Y Vega, which was touted by various rap artists on the east coast in beyond. Finding its way into a rap song as early as 1994, the popularity of the Garcia Y Vega cigar was largely relegated to the east coast during its peak years in the latter half of the '90s.

The brand's popularity reached all the way to California, where rappers like JT the Bigga Figga helped give Garcia Y Vega its cultural clout. Today, a Garcia Y Vega cigar is largely considered a relic, but its recognition within the hip-hop community as one of the defining brands for blunt-gut spillers is well-deserved.

8. Dutch Masters Cigars

 

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#DutchMastersCigars

A post shared by Russian Cream (@dutchmasterscigars) on Apr 15, 2019 at 5:31pm PDT

Established Since 1911

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1996-2008

Most Popular in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia

Top Ambassadors: Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, The Lox

In terms of sheer dominance of the market, Dutch Masters was once at the top of the list of cigars among marijuana smokers. Introduced by members of the Wu-Tang Clan during the group's rise to power, Dutch Masters would quickly catch on with fellow New Yorkers, including like-minded rap acts Mobb Deep and The LOX.

By the time the smoke from the cigar wars of the '90s cleared, Dutch Masters was the clear victor, as the brand extended its dominance into the next decade. While Dutch Masters' stronghold on the lungs of rap artists and fans alike began to dissipate by the end of the aughts, the brand still receives nods til this day and remains the go-to cigar within the hip-hop community.

9. Backwoods Smokes

 

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Rate these 1-10 and why? #exoticbackwoods

A post shared by Backwoods Cigars (@backwoods_cigars) on Mar 26, 2019 at 3:41pm PDT

Established Since 1973

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 1998-2005, 2013-Present

Most Popular in New York, Philadelphia, California, Texas, Atlanta

Top Ambassadors: Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Mac Dre, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty,

One cigar that has transcended regions and managed to sustain its standing among marijuana smokers is the Backwood, which has a history that is as rich as any brand in hip-hop. Referenced in a rap lyric as far back as 1994, by the turn of the century, Backwoods saw a spike in popularity, with rappers from the east coast and west coasts singing its praises.

After finding equal footing with the competing cigar brands at the time, Backwoods' visibility within rap dipped during the latter half of the aughts, before returning to prominence the next decade. This was due in large part to the influx of a new generation of rap stars gravitating to the brand, resulting in it regaining its reputation as the unofficial cigar of hip-hop as of 2019 and moving forward.

10. RAW Rolling Papers

 

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A few cones a day.. : @ganjawitness #rawlife #natural #rollingpapers #alcoyspain #rawpapersovereverything

A post shared by RAW Rolling Papers (@rawlife247) on Feb 10, 2019 at 5:10pm PST

Established Since 2005

Peak Years of Popularity (In Hip Hop): 2012-Present

Most Popular in North America

Top Ambassadors: Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, 2 Chainz, Mick Jenkins, Chris Webby, Z-Ro, Futuristic

As the new kid on the block, RAW Rolling Papers may lack the rich history of other brands in the market, however, its place as the current smoking utensil of choice in hip-hop cannot be denied.

Establishing itself right in time for the cultural gravitation to rolling papers during the late aughts, RAW Rolling Papers capitalized on early cosigns from marijuana mavens like Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y to infiltrate the culture. With about a decade since its first mention in a rap song, RAW Papers have become a cultural institution in their own right, partnering with various rap artists and connecting the dots between hip-hop, culture, and marijuana.

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