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A hazy night with Hot Rock Supa Joint, Arizona's premier stoner rap wizard, begins with a hazy idea. Let's smoke a joint from the Bob Marley bong. A joint bowl! It only works about halfway, so we give up and give my five-foot BuddyBong® a try, so named because it requires two people to manipulate.
Hot Rock pushes back his long, wavy locks and crouches down to torch the bowl. Then I return the favor. We're blazing saddles in my living room, and in true stoner fashion, we're almost late for Hot Rock's gig at Last Exit Live. Out the door we go.
Well over six feet tall, Supa Joint rocks black go-go boots, a thin goatee, lemon-tinted aviator glasses, and tight red jeans. His arms are sleeved in gaudy, Ed Hardy-style tattoos, and his shirt is flung open to reveal pot-leaf-shaped bling dangling in tufts of chest hair. And, of course, there's that incredible mane of hair, enough of it make even Weird Al green with envy.
On our drive to the downtown Phoenix venue, we talk old-school hip-hop. Hot Rock (who claims to be from Europe but is so stoned he doesn't remember where, exactly) recalls hearing the Beastie Boys when they broke through, and he tells me he likes to channel the mid-'80s energy of MCs like Digital Underground's Humpty Hump.
"Look at that time frame right there," Supa Joint says. "It was right before gangsta. It was when Tupac was still wearing a diaper and fucking a blowup doll on stage. Make it fun, take on a character, and blow that shit up."
Hot Rock tunes in a mainstream radio station. The man's gotta keep a pulse on what's hitting — and make sure he isn't doing anything remotely like it.
He starts talking messages, because good hip-hop brings a message to the masses.
Macklemore has his pro-gay songs, and Saul Williams spits rhymes about ditching rap's fake tough-guy act. And Supa Joint brings "Weed Weed Mothafucka," because "the world needs more weed songs, mang."
The idea is to get folks more comfortable with the idea of legalization — at least as comfortable as America has been with alcohol and cigarettes — while having a blast doing it. Hot Rock says it should be a 13-and-over kind of deal (keep in mind Supa Joint was practically born high and started smoking on the regular when he was just 9) but notes that we should let kids' "chemicals figure themselves out before you start throwing a bunch of other shit on top of it."
We pull up to the venue and start unloading his gear.
"I've done all the drugs, and that would be my message as the elder fucking dude, yo," he says. "Go ahead and do it like the tobacco thing. Go ahead and do it like the beer thing . . . Kids are fucking getting it anyway, so what's the fucking difference? I hope they got parents cool enough to at least just talk to them about it."
Inside, Supa Joint is the epitome of assertive, with seemingly no perception of personal space. Last Exit is still filled only with musicians at this point — folks doing soundchecks — and there isn't a single face in the venue that Supa Joint doesn't amble up to and introduce himself to in a sing-song voice: "Let's get high as fuck tonight! Woo! Pow!"
Some have no idea how to react. Behind his back, I hear people call the stoned rapper a creep with bad breath. But fuck those stooges. Most people seem to dig the shtick and are down to party just as hard as he is.
"I give the bad boy fucking image, but I am an illusion of reality," Supa Joint says, tossing up his bracelet-ringed hands. "The first question everybody asks me: 'Is it real?' Who gives a fuck? Reality is stupid. Because in reality, I can't walk around with a joint anywhere I fucking want to. That's reality and that's dumb."
So Supa Joint has sculpted his own world. Those who join the MC in his fantasy find bliss, a momentary lapse from stress, cops, and the world's slow but steady descent into madness. Those who don't ride Hot Rock's vibes? The rapper isn't concerned about them.
Once, while at a gig in West Phoenix, Supa Joint, dressed in shiny, neon pink leggings, approached a trio of bros in his typically extroverted manner. All three crossed their arms and refused to make eye contact. One kept muttering, "Just walk away, dude. Just walk away."
Supa Joint laughs. "Those are the negative reactions I get: 'I don't want to hit a dude in leggings.'"
Hot Rock opens the night's entertainment (his bassist Volkom couldn't make tonight's show) and emcees between sets, introducing locals Samuel L Cool J, Fly Moon Royalty (a kickass band from Seattle), and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Supa Joint prefers to slam his beats from the floor so he can get up in his audience's grill. At first, people in the crowd seem put off, alarmed by the tall, lanky dude dressed like a cross between The Simpsons' Disco Stu and James Franco in Spring Breakers. But soon enough, everyone is grooving along.