Vic Mensa sounds slightly disappointed when he gets on the phone. He’s at a random gas station somewhere in the middle of Florida, and all he wants is a decent cup of coffee and some healthy food. But that’s not going to happen. The Chicago rapper, who’s currently on tour in support of his Roc Nation debut The Autobiography, has one option—fast food.

The small sacrifices are worth it, though, and it’s safe to assume the intelligent, politically outspoken artist knows these are temporary first-world problems. The biracial 24-year-old grew up on the South Side of Chicago in one the most racially diverse and affluent (yet unpredictable) neighborhoods in the city—Hyde Park. Mensa’s experienced the complexities of the urban trenches, where crime, violence and poverty run rampant.

Throughout his musical catalog, which begins with 2010’s Straight Up EP, Mensa tackles topics that tend to fall into the dark abyss of tragedy, mental illness and drug abuse, something he explores further on The Autobiography.

On one of the album’s singles, “Rollin’ Like a Stoner,” Mensa raps, “Rollin’ like a stoner, I don’t care about everything / Out of control, I forgot to take my medicine / If I take this pill, will that be death of me? / I am a disaster, I don’t need a recipe / Tried to be sober, that didn’t work for me”—a glimpse into the inner struggles Mensa wrestles with on a consistent basis.

Like a lot of creative souls, Mensa has found that music always provides momentary periods of respite from the mental challenges that often accompany being an artist. High Times got to chop it up with Mensa about his fickle and complex relationship with drugs and why therapy in the hood is important.

The High Times Interview: Vic Mensa

Jake Osmun

Hi, Vic. How are you doing?

I’m good. I’m on the road right now. I just jumped out of the bed—just now—and I’m about to get some iced coffee at Wendy’s. And I don’t even fuck with none of that type of shit. I’m not one of these guys, but I don’t have too many options, so…

I saw your recent interview with The Breakfast Club, and you had a Starbucks cup—

Yeah, I definitely fuck with coffee, but not like the fucking canned Starbucks shit out the gas station.

No, you need the real stuff.

I mean, there’s not options over here. This is what it is, though. I’m literally at a gas station connected to a Wendy’s.

I was curious about your relationship to drugs and alcohol right now. There’s a line in “Rollin’ Like a Stoner” where you say, “Tried to be sober, that didn’t work for me.” Is this something that you’ve been wrestling with for a long time?

Yeah, you know, I think that I kind of phase in and out. I really was writing that song about a point in time in my life, for the most part. I was fucking with a lot of drugs. I went sober and then I’d do hard drugs some time ago. But I still bounce back sometimes. It’s always something that I lean on—whether it’s weed or tobacco or alcohol or anything like that, so I took some pills and, you know, some harder drugs. I find that, very often, I could associate heavily with some type of external substance, but I’m working on that.

Do you think that more artists should speak honestly about drugs and alcohol rather than glamorizing it?

I think that’d be a good idea. I mean, considering how the nation is really grappling with this whole opioid situation. I do think that shedding some honest light on drug use is important. I also wanna say that in the media, we see manipulation is a powerful machine. I want to point out how much of a double standard it is that this opioid crisis is considered epidemic—when crack was wiping out black people in poor communities, there was a war on drugs.

Right, yeah.

Now it’s a medical crisis because it’s killing more white people. I just wanted to point that out, but I just think that regardless of the Ed Hammond race constructions, Americans, regardless of ethnic backgrounds, are dealing with addiction in a major way and having to adjust… And I wanted to address that honestly and candidly on my album. Because it’s a part of my life.

That’s essentially why you titled your new album The Autobiography, right? Because it’s very personal. In a recent interview you did, you were talking about how people don’t just wake up and go, “Everything’s great, let me take some Percocet and drink some lean” or whatever.

Right. Like there’s this sense of escapism.

So what do you think people are trying to escape from all the time?

Let me take a minute. I got to think about that right quick while I order these chicken tenders. [Laughs] I am thinking, though. Well, I would say that black people in Missouri and inner-city communities, their trauma is endless, and there’s a generational conflict. Black people carry the trauma of being ripped from Africa as slaves, and scientifically those anxieties are passed down through generations. I mean, you got a lot of people dealing with PTSD. Like I remember recently, Fredo Santana from Chicago opened up about his drug abuse, and he’s been having seizures and been hospitalized a lot recently. He had kidney failure or liver failure—one of those—from drinking so much lean and so much backwoods [blunts] all the time, and he was like, “Yo, I’m like trying to forget about all the things that I did and the things that happened to me in the streets.” He’s like, “I have PTSD.” A lot of people I know, virtually every one of my close friends, the vast majority of them, they all watched one of our friends be stabbed to death in front of them.

Wow.

A lot of people—I won’t say most—but a lot of people, a lot of youngins growing up in the hood, they witness death and despair firsthand. People’s mothers are strung out on crack, you know? Or people’s best friends. And we’re losing people to gun violence. We’ve all lost people—a lot of people—and we’re trying to deal with that trauma often through external substances. In addition to the fact that you got the pain of being made to feel less than by society. Black kids are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s astronomically higher than those of any other race in schools. You’re told from a young age that you’re bad and that you’re an issue. I mean, we’re watching people in the streets get shot down by police on a daily basis.

It seems like it’s totally out of control.

Okay, think about the need to kind of campaign what’s happening online right now with victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Like with Harvey Weinstein? It’s crazy.

Women everywhere are being triggered by that, you know? I’ve spoken to a lot of women and people close to me that kind of have been pushed into the face of mental unwellness. They’re really being really triggered by this, just, wave of people coming forward about sexual assault. Imagine being—well, I don’t know what imagery you want, but imagine being a black person and watching Philando Castile bleed to death in that car next to his baby momma and a child, or watching Tamir Rice be shot.

Right.

Or watching Laquan McDonald be shot. These things are traumatic. Not only for the person being killed and the immediate families, but everybody that realizes that this could be me or this could’ve been someone I loved or maybe this has been someone I love, you know? The trauma is endless is what I’m trying to get at. Especially in the black community, addressing mental health is very taboo for a number of reasons.

One of the primary reasons being that there’s a classic archetype of a crazy black man or crazy black woman that has been used to divide and destroy black people. If you read Malcolm X’s autobiography, he tells the story of how after his father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, the social workers ripped apart his family and stripped the children from his mother by labeling her as being crazy. She didn’t want them to… or she didn’t have them eat pork, so even though they were poor, they were rejecting pork, which the social workers jumped on to say, “She’s crazy.” And one by one, they stripped the kids from her and she ended up in a mental asylum.

Right. So, because she was struggling financially and refused free food, they thought she was nuts.

Exactly. So we have these classic categorizations that have been used to demean and dehumanize you, like it’s understandable that black people stay away from addressing mental health because nobody wants to be in that box.

It’s starting to change, though. I think that stigma is starting to lift, and I’ve been really encouraged by that too.

I think so too, yeah.

You’ve addressed depression and things like that in some of your interviews, and it’s so important. A lot of fans out there routinely elevate these artists to the status of superhuman, and so when you come down to this vulnerable level, it really helps. It spreads awareness and gets the message out there that it’s okay to admit you have a problem.

Yeah, I 100 percent think that the stigma is lessening, but it still needs to be introduced in a major way. You know what I’m saying? We doing Wall Street, and everybody and their family of CEOs sees a therapist. Everybody down to the dog, you know? But I don’t know one—not a family, not an individual—not one lady from the hood that sees a therapist.

Damn. I think I see one every week.

I talk to my therapist all the time. But I think this is something that people need to understand. This shit’s not free right there. It’s not in school. There aren’t therapists in public high schools in the inner city of Chicago. I mean, there’s not even music teachers.

That’s crazy.

There’s not even a traveling therapist in a school once a week. It’s like there’s not one person in the hood that’s seeing that. It’s not an affordable thing. So I think that addressing mental health should be something that should be subsidized and a part of health care. I think all that shit should be free for Americans, especially when they’re seeing how people are escaping through these drugs and destroying their lives.

The High Times Interview: Vic Mensa

Jake Osmun

I also wanted to get your comments on fellow rapper Meek Mill and his recent two-to-four-year prison sentence. The sentence that he got is so insane, and I wanted to get your thoughts on why you think the judge decided to give him such a stiff punishment for probation violations.

The powers that be want Meek Mill to be a slave of the state. Point blank, period. Let’s not forget that a fat cat in a tall building gets paid off of every inmate in many situations. There are still privatized prisons all over this country. There is prison labor being used to produce everything from Starbucks cups to pens and pencils, you know what I mean? It’s slave labor, you know what I’m saying? And they want Meek Mill as a ward of the state, and what’s even more convoluted about it is that the judge is a black woman. But it’s not new. That’s a common function of neocolonialism. The colonized and the oppressed will begin to identify with the oppressors. That’s just classic Stockholm-syndrome-type shit, but it is twisted.

They should appeal the conviction and reconsider because it doesn’t make any sense.

Yeah, they’ll definitely appeal.

I wanted to just touch on your taste in music. You started listening to, like, Prince and Nirvana and rock early on, and then kind of got into hip-hop later?

Yeah, exactly.

And then you got to fill in for Del the Funky Homosapien when performing with Gorillaz. What was that moment like, stepping into that role?

Oh, with the Gorillaz? Yeah, I love the Gorillaz. I think the Gorillaz are one of the best examples of the hip-hop genre bending pop, going major. That was amazing. Damon [Albarn] is a genius.

Was it intimidating working with him at all?

No, he’s really cool. After getting to know him, he’s interesting.

He’s really welcoming of the younger generations. I think it’s really awesome that he’s kind of open to working with all types of different MCs and stuff.

Yeah, me too. That’s cool.

This feature has been published in High Times’ magazine, subscribe right here.

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1. What is CBD? What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring constituent of industrial hemp/cannabis. Its formula is C21H30O2 and it has a molecular mass of 314.4636. It is the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and is being scientifically investigated for various reasons.

CBD oil is a cannabis oil (whether derived from marijuana or industrial hemp, as the word cannabis is the latin genus name for both) that has significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) contained within it. Our CBD products and extracts are derived from industrial hemp, so they could be considered CBD-rich hemp oil, hemp derived CBD oil, CBD-rich cannabis oil, or plainly “hemp extracts” since they typically contain much more than just CBD. Again, cannabis doesn’t mean marijuana, but is the genus name, and general umbrella term which all forms of marijuana and hemp fall under. The form of cannabis we use for our CBD and hemp extracts is industrial hemp; we do not sell marijuana.

2. If a hemp extract is 40% cannabinoids, what’s the other 60%? What’s in your hemp extracts besides the naturally occurring cannabinoids?

Our Kentucky hemp extracts contain over 80 different phyto-cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), CBC, CBG, CBN, etc.. In addition to the cannabinoids naturally present in our agricultural hemp extracts, there are also many other types of natural molecules and phyto-chemical compounds such as amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins (including B1, B2, B6, D), fatty acids (including omega 3 & 6), trace minerals (including iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavanoids, ketones, nitrogenous compounds, alkanes, glycosides, pigments, water, and terpenes. The most common terpenes in our hemp extracts are Myrcene, Beta-caryophyllene, Terpinolene, Linalool, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Nerolidol og Phytol, trans-alpha-Bergamotene, Limonene/ beta-Phellandrene (Co-elution), and alpha-Humulene.

3. What’s the difference between Hemp and Marijuana?

Scientifically, industrial Hemp and Marijuana are the same plant, with a genus and species name of Cannabis Sativa. They have a drastically different genetic profile though. Industrial Hemp is always a strain of Cannabis sativa, while marijuana can be Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis ruderalis. The major difference is how industrial hemp has been bred compared to a marijuana form of Cannabis sativa. organic hemp seedsTypically speaking, industrial hemp is very fibrous, with long strong stalks, and barely has any flowering buds, while a marijuana strain of Cannabis sativa will be smaller, bushier, and full of flowering buds. However, newer industrial hemp varieties in the USA are being bred to have more flowers and higher yields of cannabinoids and terpenes, such as our Kentucky hemp we’re now using!

99% of the time marijuana has a high amount of THC and only a very low amount of CBD. Hemp, on the other hand, naturally has a very high amount of CBD in most instances, and only a trace amount of THC. Fortunately, the cannabinoid profile of hemp is ideal for people looking for benefits from cannabis without the ‘high.’ Hemp is used for making herbal supplements, food, fiber, rope, paper, bricks, oil, natural plastic, and so much more, whereas marijuana is usually used just recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally. The term cannabis oil can refer to either a marijuana or hemp derived oil, since marijuana and hemp are two different forms of cannabis.

In the USA the legal definition of “industrial hemp,” per Section 7606 of the Agricultural Appropriations Act of 2014, is “INDUSTRIAL HEMP — The term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

4. Are hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD as good as CBD from marijuana?

The short answer is yes. CBD is CBD, whether from marijuana or hemp. Most marijuana has a very low non-psychoactive cannabinoid profile (like CBD, CBC, CBG), so most of the time hemp would be much more preferable for anything besides THC. Marijuana is usually very high in THC (gives people the high) but usually very low in other non-psychoactive cannabinoids.

Nowadays in the USA, many farmers are growing industrial hemp flowers that are just as beautiful, odor-producing, and terpene rich as the best marijuana strains, such as our partnered farmers in Kentucky.

5. Why don’t you source your Hemp and CBD from within Colorado?

colorado growing operationWe feel that the hemp program in Kentucky is more well suited for our company in regards to growing hemp, and that because it’s 100% compliant with Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill (and the 2016 Agricultural Appropriations Act), procuring it from there is perfectly legal at the federal level. Kentucky’s ecology is perfect for hemp just as it is for tobacco. The growing season is longer than in Colorado, and the soil is richer, so the quality of the hemp and the yields are better.

6. What’s the percentage of cannabinoids and CBD in your product?

Our raw extracts have varying percentages of cannabinoid and cannabidiol (CBD) content, the range being 10%-99%. Each product has a unique formulation and uses varying ratios of our extract types. Our CBD Isolate is over 99% pure CBD.

7. What is the best method of use?

For our dietary supplements we can only recommend them for internal consumption. Our CBD isolate is for research purposes only. If you don’t like the flavor of the oil supplements, you can mix with something sweet like apple sauce or honey to cut through the flavor.

8. What’s the ideal serving size for me, and how often should I take it?

There is no easy answer to this. Our starting recommended serving size is 15 drops but we generally recommend experimenting to see what feels best to you. Some prefer 5 drops, some prefer over 50 drops per day.

9. What is the safety of your hemp extracts? Are there negative side effects?

Hemp is considered by many to be generally safe. We’ve never seen or heard of any significant or negative CBD Oil Extractside effects in our years in the industry. That said, we can’t rule them out. Please consult with your physician before using any dietary supplement including Hemp extract supplements.

10. Which of your CBD and hemp products should I get?

As a company who sells various dietary and food supplements, we can’t suggest any of our products for the prevention, treatment or cure of any disease or ailment.

When considering our different dietary hemp products, know that they all come in two strengths. Our Original Hemp blends (Classic Hemp Blend, Hemp Complete, Brainpower oil, & Signature Blend) all have 250+mg of cannabinoids per fluid ounce, and our concentrated blends have 1,500+mg per fluid ounce, six times the potency of our traditional oils. We’ve found that sometimes less is more, but nevertheless, some people like to take very large serving sizes of our hemp extracts.

The main difference between the four Original Blends is the additional herbal ingredients besides hemp. We suggest you research the separate components of each blend to determine which product may be most appealing to add to your dietary regimen. If you know it’s solely the hemp extract that you are looking for, with no additional ingredients, then Classic Hemp Blend or Classic Hemp 6x is what you’re looking for.

For dabbing and vaporizing or for research you can try our CBD Isolate.

THOSE WHO SUSPECT THEY MAY HAVE A DISEASE OR ARE SEEKING HELP FOR A DISEASE SHOULD CONSULT A QUALIFIED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL.

11. Why do people use Hemp Extracts and CBD? What are the benefits and uses of CBD?

In accordance with federal regulations we cannot make health claims regarding our dietary supplement products. We can only recommend our products for general wellness.

12. Is a standard hemp seed oil the same as a high-CBD hemp extract?

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Absolutely not. Standard hemp oil, which can be found very cheaply at a grocery store, is a much different product than our CO2 hemp extracts (not from seed). Standard hemp oil is produced by cold pressing the seeds, whereas our hemp extract is a supercritical CO2 extraction of the hemp plant itself, not the seeds. Hemp seed oil is considered to be a great nutritive food, but it doesn’t have the naturally occurring terpenes, cannabinoids and other components that our extracts do have.

13. Do I need to move to Colorado to get your Hemp Extracts and CBD? Where do you ship?

No. We actually source our hemp from Kentucky, as it’s legal to ship across state lines. Many people are under the impression that the only way to acquire hemp extracts and CBD for themselves or a loved one is to move to Colorado or another cannabis-friendly state. Many major news outlets are misinformed and are unfortunately spreading the idea that you can only get CBD oil in the states where medical marijuana has been legalized. This is simply not the case though. Because our extracts comes from hemp instead of marijuana, we can and do ship to all fifty states, and no medical marijuana card is needed. There are some exceptions, like with Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota we can’t sell our concentrated products due to state legislation.

We also ship to Japan, Australia, the EU, Switzerland, and Brazil. For all EU orders contact our exclusive distributor thereCannawell.

14. Is your Hemp Extract Oil similar to Rick Simpson Hemp Oil?

Not quite. Ours are from hemp and RSHO is usually using marijuana, a different form of cannabis than industrial hemp. Our industrial hemp extracts are more standardized and will usually have a much higher content of non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD than one produced through the Rick Simpson method. And oils produced through his method will usually have a much higher THC content, as it’s typically marijuana that is used for RSHO.†

Generally speaking, most marijuana producers and sellers (especially on the black market) don’t test for contaminants (metals, pesticides, bacteria, etc.). Rick Simpson Hemp Oil is actually more a method of extraction than it is a specific product. People use the Rick Simpson method with hundreds of different strains of marijuana, so the THC, CBD and other cannabinoid content of the final oil is always varying greatly, depending on the cannabis the consumers are acquiring. Usually what’s used for Rick Simpson oil is a strain with an inferior CBD content (and high THC), because that’s what the vast amount of marijuana is nowadays.

15. Where do you source your hemp and CBD from?

We have partners in Kentucky who grew a dedicated plot for us this year (2016) which is being used in our products now. mjna message boardWe also currently source from Europe but we’ll be changing that soon.

16. What kind of testing/analysis is performed on your products?

We have an industry leading quality control system, and we have third party laboratories analyze all of our hemp extracts and our final products for cannabinoid potency, heavy metals, bacterial and microbial life, mycotoxins (fungus), and pesticides.

17. What is CO2 extraction? What’s the difference between subcritical and supercritical CO2 extractions?

CO2 extraction is an extraction process that uses pressurized carbon dioxide to extract phyto-chemicals (such as CBD, CBG, or terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) from a plant. CO2 at certain temperatures and pressures acts like a solvent, without the dangers of actually being one. It is the most expensive extraction method, and is widely considered the most effective and safest plant extraction method in the world.

Many hemp and CBD companies boast about their supercritical CO2 extractions, but that’s actually only one (and perhaps an inferior) method of using a CO2 extraction machine. There are also subcritical CO2 extractions, and ‘mid-critical’, a general range between subcritical and supercritical. Subcritical (low temp, low pressure) CO2 extractions take more time and produce smaller yields than super-critical, but they retain the essential oils, terpenes, and other sensitive chemicals within the plant. Supercritical, on the other hand, is a high pressure and high temperature process that damages most terpenes and heat sensitive chemicals, but can extract much larger molecules such as lipids (omega 3 and 6), chlorophyll, and waxes. A truly full-spectrum CO2 extract includes first performing a subcritical extraction, separating the extracted oil, and then extracting the same plant material using supercritical pressure, and then homogenizing both oil extracts into one. In the essential oil industry, an extract made using this specific process is referred to as a CO2 Total.

18. What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)?

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the mammalian brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems, consisting of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors.” Wikipedia

There are two main types of receptors in the ECS, CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system and brains of mammals, and CB2 are generally found in the peripheral nervous system. There are two main cannabinoids mammals produce- 2AG and Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit term “ananda” which translates to “peace”).

For hundreds of millions of years every vertebrate on Earth has been equipped with this ECS, a crucial system in the body, and it has been known about in the scientific and medical communities since the 1980’s. However, it’s still not taught about in most medical schools.

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