High Times is putting out a special issue of their magazine in celebration of their 500th issue and the celebrities that adorned their covers over the years. The magazine is well known for its perseverance during a dark time for marijuana that was met with many closed minds and was a top focus of the violent drug war.
During my 20-year stint with High Times—I held numerous titles, including co-editor and music editor—I coordinated more than three-dozen photo shoots with celebrities, mostly musicians. Many are featured in the 500th issue of High Times.
It all started with Cypress Hill in late 1991. Columbia Records had just signed the Los Angeles-based hip-hop band, which had also hooked up with NORML to promote the organization. They arrived in New York for a concert at the Apollo Theatre (they were fifth on the bill). The next day we had scheduled a shoot with photographer Andrew Brusso.
Managing editor Judy McGuire wrote about the shoot in the March 1992 issue that featured B-Real, Sen Dog and DJ Muggs on the cover: “The band rolled in around 10:30 am and we were ready to go. Cypress Hill were the best. Extremely polite and nice, they showed nary a trace of rock-god obnoxiousness.”
In addition to the cover, we shot B-Real rolling a blunt, which appeared in the centerfold. It was a first for High Times.
Several months later, it was the Black Crowes’ turn. If Cypress Hill were the leading weed-smoking rappers, Georgia’s Black Crowes had established themselves as the No. 1 pot rockers by performing at that year’s Atlanta Pot Festival, which I attended. For the cover story, I was invited to interview lead singer Chris Robinson at his house in Atlanta. We spent the day (keyboardist Eddie Harsch was also there) getting high and listening to music.
However, we weren’t able to organize a photo shoot, so instead we used a distorted image of the band (provided by their publicist at Robinson’s suggestion) by Mark Seliger with Robinson hitting a joint on the July 1993 cover. It’s the kind of image that would never pass for a cover today at High Times.
With these two covers, the floodgates had opened. Suddenly, bands were lining up to appear on the cover. For the next few years we repeated the formula, with hip-hop covers in March and rock covers in July. For the March 1993 cover we set our sights on Redman and Brand Nubian, who were instructed to go to Michael Benabib’s studio. Brand Nubian—Grand Puba, Lord Jamar, Sadat X and DJ Sincere—showed up first, and photos were taken. Then Redman came walking up the stairs with a boom box blasting on his shoulder. Reggie Noble’s charismatic personality translated into a cover with him lighting a blunt. Brand Nubian’s publicist and the band weren’t too happy that the cover went to Redman, but that’s sometimes how shoots go. Redman’s photo was simply more compelling. It was the first of many cover stories written by Greg Casseus.
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