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Pot Sounds: The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

From Dylan and the Beatles to Afroman and Snoop – with a little bit of Willie sprinkled on top – the best songs for stoners of all stripes

From Louis Armstrong to Lady Gaga, countless musicians have gone on record about their love for weed. Smoking can help with creativity, aid in relaxation, even expand the mind. But some artists take the practice even further, going out of their way to write musical odes to the sticky green stuff, whether it’s coded as a love interest – see the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” or D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar – or right there in the name, like Afroman’s “Because I Got High.” No matter how you roll it, songs about pot keep the party going in any genre. Here are the 20 best weed-themed songs of all time.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Rick James, “Mary Jane” (1978)

Cocaine may indeed be a helluva drug, as Rick James memorably attested on Chappelle’s Show, but the man clearly had a prodigious appetite for the sticky green stuff, as well. “I have to buy marijuana,” James told Rolling Stone in 1982, at the height of his fame. “I don’t buy ounces, I buy pounds.” A Number Three R&B hit in the fall of 1978 – but only making it to Number 41 on the pop chart, probably because the song’s message was too blatant for many radio programmers – “Mary Jane” is sensimilla-infused soul of the highest order. James would often perform the song onstage flanked by two gigantic fake joints, and punctuate the lyrics by taking exaggerated hits off a real one. Coolio, who obviously understood where James was coming from, would sample the song on “(I’m in Love With) Mary Jane,” recorded for the soundtrack of the 1998 stoner comedy Half-Baked.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Bob Marley, “Kaya” (1978)

Marley followed up 1977’s landmark Exodus – an album focused on religion, politics and faith – with an album that was decidedly more laid-back in temperament. And nowhere was this more evident than on Kaya‘s title track, an ode to chasing away the rain (both literal and metaphorical) with a bit of the titular plant (“kaya,” Marley once explained, is Jamaican slang for “herb”). Over a lilting rhythm, Marley essentially wakes and bakes, and before long declares that he is “feeling irie” (Rastafari for “good”). Why? “Because I have some kaya now.”

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

The Mighty Diamonds, “Pass the Kouchie” (1981)

First recorded by Jamaican harmony trio the Mighty Diamonds, “Pass the Kouchie” is better known as “Pass the Dutchie,” by the British kiddie-reggae group Musical Youth, who rode their version to MTV success in 1982. In addition to the cleaned-up title – the judge in a later copyright case noted that “Kouchie” was slang for a “pot in which marijuana is kept,” while “Dutchie” was, in Jamaican patois, a “Dutch stewing pot” – the Musical Youth version also scrubbed any marijuana references from the verses, replacing the line “How does it feel when you got no herb?” with “How does it feel when you got no food?” The result? An international hit. Said Mighty Diamonds singer Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson, “Before [Musical Youth] put it out they called us [and said] that they’d made a re-version of ‘Pass the Kouchie.’ Because we never got justice and they said they were going to do justice – and they got the justice!”

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

The Toyes, “Smoke Two Joints” (1983)

Long before Sublime included a punky, sped-up cover version on their 1992 debut, this slice of tie-dyed American reggae percolated as a West Coast cult anthem. Progressive FM radio stations across California cued up the track at 4:20 p.m., just to let the kids know it was time to feel irie. “Hard work good, and hard work fine, but first take care of head,” sang lead singer Mawg as if he was serenading college youth ready to unwind after a long day of hitting the books. Formed in Hawaii (and now based in Oregon), the Toyes conceived the famous chorus for “Smoke Two Joints” during a nondescript party – the lyrics came later. Out of that modest. and probably stoned, inspiration came a weed clarion call for the ages.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Cypress Hill, “Hits From the Bong” (1993)

Cypress Hill may be more closely associated with the NORML lifestyle than any other rap group – they even launched a 4/20 music festival that lasted several years in the early 2000s. Yet amidst a welter of smoker’s classics like “Stoned Is the Way of the Walk” and “Dr. Greenthumb,” only “Hits from the Bong” captures that slightly dopey, somewhat enlightened buzz one gets when they take a big rip. “We always smoked a bong, being around rock & roll fools,” DJ Muggs, who weaved the bubbling sounds of bong water with a loop from Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” for the track, told Complex in 2013.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Snoop Dogg, “Gin and Juice” (1993)

“With so much drama in the LBC, it’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-Double-G,” begins the rapper formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg on this tale of a house party in the hood. Indeed, despite his Crip background and occasional penchant for lyrically busting shots, Snoop always seemed more comfortable with a spliff full of bubonic chronic, a pocket full of rubbers and a gang of Tanqueray. On his career-establishing solo hit, Snoop and producer Dr. Dre interpolate Slave’s “Watching You,” turning it into an ode to smoking indo and living the good life no matter how rough or impoverished your background may be. “There’s just all kinds of little ghetto stuff that’s easy for a young black man to get into,” he told Rolling Stone in 1993.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Tom Petty, “You Don’t Know How It Feels” (1994)

Listeners who
interpreted Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1993 single “Mary Jane’s Last
Dance” as Petty’s kiss-off to cannabis were thoroughly disabused of that
notion by “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” the lead single from Petty’s
1994 solo album Wildflowers: “Let
me get to the point,” sang Petty in no uncertain terms, “Let’s roll
another joint.” The sentiment made the folks at MTV uneasy; but rather
than ban the song’s video, they simply ran an edited version that played the
word “joint” backwards. “Imagine my surprise when this song
comes on television and they say, ‘Let’s roll another noojh,'” Petty told a VH1 Storytellers audience in 1997. “Which
sounded worse to me than ‘joint.’ Because, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a noojh, but that sounds really wicked.” 

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Redman and Method Man, “How High” (1995)

Six years before their 2001 stoner film of the same name, Method Man and Redman released this Erick Sermon–produced weed anthem, originally found on the soundtrack to hip-hop documentary The Show. Built around a vocal loop from 1970s German disco group Silver Convention’s “Fly Robin Fly,” the track found the duo teaming up for the first time and making their aspirations known right in the title. Both rappers have gotten much more literal with their weed references, but this is the song that still causes concert promoters to angrily fire up the ventilators.

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

D’Angelo, “Brown Sugar” (1995)

Much like its spiritual predecessor, Rick James’ “Mary Jane,” the groundbreaking title track from D’Angelo’s debut LP is about more than just a smoke-out session. Setting his soft yet husky voice over a crunchy Rhodes piano arrangement, he rhapsodizes about a girl named “Brown Sugar” with so much lovingly vivid detail that it sounds as if he’s falling in love, and making love. “I gets high on your love, I don’t know how to behave,” he lilts, occasionally shifting into an ecstatic falsetto. The effect is so intoxicating that it’s easy to lose sight of the neo-soul weed metaphor at the song’s core. “A lot of people are real busy tryin’ to get their point across. Not letting the listener use their imagination. You should be able to lay back and close your eyes and come up with your own vision,” he told Vibe in 1995.  

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Sleep, “Dopesmoker” (1999/2003)

There has never been
a musical ode to weed more truly epic than “Dopesmoker,” the
63-minute dirge recorded in 1996 by legendary stoner-rock trio Sleep. (The LP-long piece, deemed one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Metal Albums, was originally released in 1999 as Jerusalem but was rechristened Dopesmoker upon its 2003 reissue.) “Drop
out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land,”
counsels the song, more or less summing up the band’s spiritual and musical
philosophy at the time. “We were just a bunch of massive stoners trying to
do something that nobody else had done – which I think we accomplished,”
guitarist Matt Pike recounted in Decibel Magazine‘s book Precious Metal: The Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces. “We
were smoking a lot [at the time],” he explained. “Between us all, we
were probably smoking two ounces or more a day.” 

The 20 Greatest Weed-Themed Songs of All Time

Afroman, “Because I Got High” (2000)

This nursery rhyme–style sing-along reportedly took Joseph “Afroman” Foreman only two minutes to write, and subsequently launched a career that glorified the pothead slacker lifestyle. Though “Because I Got High” remains the West Coast MC’s only major hit, it’s arguably one of the best-loved weed songs of all time. After all, who hasn’t forgotten to clean their room, cheat on their final exam, pay their child support, etc., because they got high? “‘Because I Got High’ put me on the map – it’s what got me a record deal, a Grammy nomination and made me a household name,” Afroman told Rolling Stone in 2014, just as he released an update of his novelty classic for the legalization generation.