I was working at a gas station, my shift was of the graveyard variety and every night was unlike the last. Located right between the Hooters and a sex shop, you could get hot wings, dildos and $10 on pump two without driving a mile. At 19-years-old I learned that bartenders are sweethearts, police officers are pricks (one tried to get me fired for carding him for cigarettes), and you don’t know dirty money until a stripper fills her tank up with only dollar bills. I remember guys inquiring if we had single condoms, I could see them contemplating their entire future once they heard no. Characters all of them, no one roaming the streets after midnight has a dull soul.
The job didn’t last long due to management difficulties. I had two managers with two vastly different personalities. One had the spirit of an intense drill sergeant, overly serious, painfully strict, the kind of boss that has wet dreams about promotions and whose favorite rapper is Rick Ross. The other was more slacken, light hearted, a stoner, the kind of boss that will leave you on your third day of training to smoke a joint by the dumpster and whose favorite rapper is Wiz Khalifa. This actually happened, he was kind enough to offer me a puff, which I declined. He came back after 15 minutes, baked and played Kush & Orange Juice from his phone for the rest of our shift. We worked together every other day. Even when he wasn’t stoned "Mezmorized" could be heard faintly coming from his corner. The sun would be rising, the store would be empty and "Up" would be filling our ears. I knew of the Pittsburgh Prince, Wiz was fairly known at that point, but it wasn’t until these little work sessions that I became a fan.
I was diagnosed with asthma when I was still on the nipple, my childhood was full of breathing treatments, inhaler pumps and hospital visits. The doctors promised I would eventually grow out of the condition and even though the attacks eventually grew far less severe, I stayed away from smoking all throughout high school. I could barely play a pickup game in the pollen without wheezing, the paranoia was enough to keep me away from cigarettes and weed. Ironically, I enjoyed Wiz’s music without the influence of Mary Jane. Kush & OrangeJuice gives me the feeling of reclining in a La-Z-Boy, disregarding all responsibilities. Wiz didn’t have any issues, problems didn’t exist, each song was dedicated to women, weed and Wells Fargo withdrawals. Perfectly mellow production, lifestyle lyrics – the best kind of easy listening. His music made working bearable, hours floated when Wiz was playing. There was no rush, our pace was slow and easy, much different than working with the Drill Sergeant. The clock moved slower in his presence, I dreaded every minute under his over-enthused thumb. When I eventually quit, my new found appreciation for Wiz was all I took with me.
The Kush & OJ era was huge, Wiz was everywhere. In the dorm rooms during intense games of Golden Eye. He was in the car, hotbox or not. If there was lounging and intense procrastination, Wiz was there. At every smoke out, there was only one logical soundtrack. Camo shorts, chucks and snapbacks, there was an influx of tatted teens due to his influence. I knew stoners and squares that were inhaling his music like it was wrapped in a White Owl. It wasn’t about lyricism but atmosphere. He was making Hakuna Matata music for a generation of kids that wanted to be rid of their problems. Instead of stressing about college exams and horrible bosses Wiz offered an escape. Fill that bong, roll that joint, and even if you don’t smoke, play this album and drift away. He delivered an ephemeral experience.
Wiz’s celebrity has risen, his fan-base has grown immensely and his music has changed a bit. No matter where his career goes though I’ll always remember him for making the hours of 11pm to 7am bearable. "Good Dank" while doing inventory, "In The Cut" while cleaning the coffee machine, his music was essential for a good shift. It’s the fifth year anniversary of Kush & OJ, which means next month will be five years since I quit my gas station position. That's reason enough to partake in an edible and see if Wiz actually is better when high. Happy early 4/20.
* Art by DNMNY
[By Yoh, aka Y.G.O.D, aka @Yoh31]