Do you remember the shift?
The year was 1992 and Dr. Dre, who formerly declared that he didn’t “smoke weed or sess,” came out with the critically acclaimed The Chronic album. All of a sudden, maybe he did smoke weed. Maybe he did puff sess.
If N.W.A.’s Straight Out of Compton introduced “gangsta rap” to the masses, this record The Chronic gave the world glimpses into the lifestyle associated with the music. The record also introduced us to a young West Coast rapper from Long Beach named Snoop and his favorite vices: cripping, women and smoking only the finest weed.
Snoop later would record his debut album Doggystyle with the same fanfare, adding fever to the shift.
Cultural critic Jon Pareles identifies this phenomenon in an article in The New York Times stating that The Chronic and Doggystyle “made the gangsta life sound like a party occasionally interrupted by gunplay.” Interwoven in both project was the notion, rap listeners can’t be smoking just any old kind of weed, and whatever is being huffed in LA was way better than that on the East Coast.
Everyone knows that California has that bud.
Fast Forward to 2004, when the cannabis industry started to blossom under the Senate Bill 420 a/k/a the Medical Marijuana Program Act. Leaping off the strides made before then with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop 215), this created space for Mario Guzman (first generation Mexican-Irish American) to tap into his version of The American dream. Using his gifting as a real estate businessman and his love for the flower, he became the power force behind the most named-checked cannabis strand in Hip-Hop history, Sherbinskis (Gelato and Sunset Sherbet).
Guzman, whose Mexican born and American naturalized pop was a sheriff, saw an opportunity to build something special for his community, and generations after him. He did this by combining the recreational love for puffing that was was threaded throughout Cali’s Hip-Hop scene, with the prophetic vision that one day the prohibition of cannabis would dissipate of the law books.
How did he do this? Well first he created a more superior product. Guzman was able to work on some cool strands by manipulating genetics. After a few trials and errors, he created flavors like “Gelato” and “Sunset Sherbert.” Currently, he has a whole ton of strands available: “Pink Panties,” “Gello,” “Mochi,” & “Açaí Berry.” How did he come up with the flavors? Read the names and take a munchies inspired guess.
He thought about flavors that would remind smokers of their childhood and things that made them happy and smile. Something that invoked a good feeling like ice cream. After getting a good tasting product, he went in full rap mogul mode and solicited high profile clientele. SUPREME CLIENTELE if you will.
“You know what I was able to do successfully early on? I connected the dots with like culture (like music and the cannabis) and presented it in a way where very specific artists were talking about it. [At that time] A lot of people weren’t doing that.” Guzman continues, “And then I was successful on the black market (people knew what Gelato was and Sherbert was) and so I was able to get it into the dispensaries early on. It created this nice and organic buzz.”
During the transition from the black market to the gray market to the green market, Guzman founded his company, Sherbinskis and adopted the moniker Mr. Sherbinski. The pseudonym was important, “Giving the business I was in, I didn’t want to use my real name.” He pulled out of the matrix that is his brain the name based off what he thought would be a really cool and successful sounding Jewish man -cleverly incorporating “herb” in the name. As an actual brand, he and his products have popped up in over 250 songs that you probably have heard on someone’s streaming platform.
Artists like Future, G-Eazy, Migos, Post Malone, E-40, Gunna, Mozzy, Dave East, Jay Critch, Lil Pump, Kodak Black and so many more keep his strands on their lips and in their songs. Mad rappers like Supreme Patty, Mally Bandz & RicoBaby, Tyler, The Creator, have simply named their songs “Gelato,” while Young Dolph took it a step further, naming his entire album after the strand. His other strand, Sunset Sherbet gets play too. Rich The Kid’s “Cookies and Sherbert” is a classic get high vibe. Brooklyn Vegan actually claims that Little Simz’ new album GREY Area will be the rap album of the year, and an album cut that probably will never get day radio play is the break up song “Sherbert Sunset” named after the colorful flower.
The music side is not the only place where Guzman aka Mr. Sherbinskis is popping.
He has really carved a space out for himself as a world acclaimed (though HE IS DOMESTICALLY GROWN AND SOLD) luxury adult-use brand. And while he has been trekking away in the industry for years, 2018 brought in another seismic shift in his business. Everyone started taking note. Imran Amed, editor-in-chief of Business of Fashion, called Sherbinskis “The Supreme of Weed.” Money mag Forbes called Sherbinskis The Louis Vuitton of Marijuana. Nike tapped Guzman to design a bespoke Air Force One sneaker and Barneys New York in Beverly Hills picked up Sherbinskis as the exclusive cultivator sold at The High End.
He seems to be is rolling now. Celebs are shouting him out every which way. The business is booming. But still there are a few clouds lingering over Guzman’s head.
This once altar boy (who wanted to be a priest) believes that his community remains under-represented in the industry. As a Mexican-Irish American man, he sees how poverty and the lack of access has affected his people. Before cannabis was legalized in California, think about all the people that looked like him that were criminalized. He was lucky. He was lucky that he was able to understand the law from a different perspective and work around the system. But had he not had a sheriff for a dad and a prosperous real estate mover for a granddaddy, he could have found himself in the same state as so many other brown men. Cannabis saved him.
Because he sees his salvation, he wants to use his success to give back.
Here is the deal: banks are not ready to touch the money made in the industry on a national level. This makes it difficult for him to invest in programs to educate and re-direct young people from following the trappings of streets and illicit drug culture. “Education is key” Guzman believes.
But the powers that be don’t see that some of his resources could be used to make a difference in these communities. Its not just the banking dilemma. It is also the stigma of the drug money that shadows Guzman. People don’t want weed money associated with the empowerment of children. Which makes no sense, since it has been proven (particularly in California that it is a medicine). Still you get it. It will take time since so many believe that unless you are chronically sick using cannabis to ease your pain, if you use it you are a druggy hippy with no morals if you work.
“There is a stigma with adult-use cannabis that is not associated with medical use” Guzman explains. “My goal is to take that stigma away and push for social equity for all people who use the plant. No one should have any less rights or look at differently because they use it recreationally.”
By removing the stigma attached to the industry, perhaps he can pour into the community with his time and talents (even if it is from canna-biz) like the late Nipsey Hussle.
Which leads to the other concern.
Hussle was murdered March 31, 2019. While giving back and serving the people that looked like him, the rapper was shot dead. Though the murder seems to have been gang related (no one knows yet), Guzman sees into it more deeply. He says, “It is scary.”
Noting that because the market is still gray, he contends that there is no protection for him by the authorities. Over the years he has been robbed and has dealt with some shady associates. Making the biz legal has wisked some of those folk away, but not all. And so he has to still move cautiously in this business.
Cautious movement has not affected is heart open. He seems to have an angel on his shoulder… and a glimmer of joy in his eyes. Guzman likes good people and good times. Listening to him talk is inspiring. He has that spark in his being similar to the one that Sean Combs gets when he is about to do something Diddiliously big. Guzman has that same glow.
Like Combs, he wants to use his success not just to be swanky and pop collars (though bro is fly). He actually is moving to be a thought and innovation leader using all parts of the plant to give access to the Hip-Hop community. The dream is that he is not the only brown face in the room. The dream is that his palm-leaf looking orange and green packaging elevates the notion of his business from rap’s favorite smoke to the actuality of all that Forbes and others have projected Sherbinskis to be in 2019.
Guzman has his own lane… it is not for himself only… and clearly as a mogul, cultural enthusiasts, son of immigrant, thought leader, designer, innovator and so many more titles… is not afraid to puff puff pass.