Hotboxed at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival

Kurupt performs on stage at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival on May 20.
Kurupt performs on stage at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival on May 20. Mike Madriaga
It seems more "cloud chasing" transpired at the Legends Event Center in north Phoenix 11 days ago than "clout chasing" — when many metro Phoenix residents shared a unique and intimate experience with famous musicians performing on stage.

Together, they all got high.

It was at the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival, a celebration of sorts, with good reason. The who's who of the metro Phoenix cannabis industry were awarded trophies and plaudits in 56 categories. The winners were chosen by 12,000 individual online voters.

The event started at about 4 p.m. on May 20.

Some of the 7,500 concertgoers (according to the event organizer) who pulled into the venue via West Camelback Road off Interstate 60 wondered if they were in the right venue.

An Audi R8 convertible and a BMW i8 with gull wing doors propped open were parked by the main entrance. People waiting in line got a sneak peek of the ballroom: marble floors, chandeliers hanging from the tall ceilings' ornate coffers, perfectly pleated hanging draperies, a white-colored grand piano, and a spread of flowers lit up by the bevy of fixtures emitting colorful mood lighting.

While the venue usually hosts weddings and quinceañeras, the cloud of smoke seeping outside the entranceway and into the north Phoenix airspace assured the attendees they were at the right spot.

One source of the exuding smoke came from musician, tattoo-and-cannabis model, and clothing line brand owner Angela Mazzanti as she lugged the Kush Cannon hotbox machine in the ballroom.

Generally, a hotbox is a super-airtight space, like a vehicle's confines or a dorm room where occupants would shut the windows, close the A/C vents and block the bottom of the door with a towel. The airtight atmosphere keeps the secondhand weed smoke and exhaled smoke within the hotbox for others to recycle.
click to enlarge The 7-pound Kush Cannon is a black- and neon green-colored smoke thrower that resembles a post-apocalyptic bazooka in an anime flick. - CRONIC KUSH KING
The 7-pound Kush Cannon is a black- and neon green-colored smoke thrower that resembles a post-apocalyptic bazooka in an anime flick.
Cronic Kush King

The Kush Cannon pumps out so much smoke it provides the attendees and musicians with a hotbox effect, despite the classy venue being airy and well-ventilated.

The 7-pound cannon is a black- and neon green-colored smoke thrower that resembles a post-apocalyptic bazooka in an anime flick. Toward the back end of the hotbox machine, on the top end of its butt, there's a pot chamber large enough to hold a pound of weed, "but we filled it with a half a pound of purple flower that we just harvested," said Jordan, aka Cronic Kush King.

Jordan, 26, trekked in from Las Vegas; he requested Phoenix New Times only to print his first name in the article.

"I used snowblower parts to make this," he continued. "And metal sheets then wrapped it with vinyl wrap used on cars.

"I've been following Angela Mazzanti for like four years online and to other cannabis events, and I was in awe when we first walked into the quinceañera hall. There's no way we were going to hotbox right here in this beautiful ballroom — but then I'm like, 'Hell yeah, we're going to smoke this place out.'"

Some of the attendees (limited to ages 21 and up) who just entered the venue — and bumped into Mazzanti and Jordan — realized when the smoke eventually cleared that they were also in a cannabis convention. About 100 vendors and booths were selling cannabis-related products and services, and giving out freebies.

When the cannon stopped blowing smoke, Jordan packed its bowl with more purple weed, then lit it up with a blowtorch lighter. Mazzanti pushed the button, and the smoke show continued.

"I use a 40-volt battery pack, and it gives you about 120 miles of air," Jordan explained. "And it usually lasts me 15 to 20 minutes."

Battery-operated snowblowers can throw snow particles about 18 inches in the air. And converted into a smoke blower, that's a lot of peer pressure. Nevertheless, some attendees loved the sensation of getting hotboxed so much that they went back for seconds and thirds.

"I have tried it before; it's really intense," said Marc "The Franchise" Ventura. "It's probably not the best weed since so much goes to waste, but it's more about the gimmick than actually getting high."

Ventura, a 34-year-old rapper, won the 2022 Phoenix Musician/Artist of the Year award. He prefers consuming via pre-rolled joints and blunts but occasionally grinds down flowers and packs bowls.

"If I smoke too much, my performances are less energetic, and I'm way more stationary."

That night, Ventura, from Anaheim, California, claimed his trophy on the main stage in the ballroom backlit by a montage of LCD screens. When the 56 award winners collected their trophies, their names and  categories were emblazoned onto the screens, and announced on the PA system by an awards presenter.

Ventura then performed "Hold Up," an homage to his beloved cannabis community, then transitioned into his newest song titled "All I Need." Finally, he wrapped up the set with "I Just Win," a "hard-hitting East Coast beat with my West Coast style."
click to enlarge Marc "The Franchise" Ventura: "If I smoke too much, my performances are less energetic, and I'm way more stationary." - MARC VENTURA
Marc "The Franchise" Ventura: "If I smoke too much, my performances are less energetic, and I'm way more stationary."
Marc Ventura

Like many attendees, Ventura capitalized on the various freebies passed out by the 100 or so vendors and spokesmodels who roamed the ballroom, the large outdoor patio with another stage, two additional halls (one with a music stage as well) and the VIP area in the back. "I had pre-rolls of whatever was being thrown out to the crowd or given away. I also saw a bong molded out of glass in the shape of a motorcycle helmet, and the dab bar was really interesting. I've never seen a bar set up just for dabs."

To dab or dabbing is a method of concentrate-consuming. The "dabber" utilizes a "rig," a vaporizing device that appears as a bong. But the rig is different from a bong because instead of a bowl to accommodate the weed, the dabber's rig has a nail made out of quartz, titanium, or similar material that'll sustain a lot of heat. So first, the dabber heats the nail with a blowtorch, then utilizes a tool to place the dab of concentrate on the nail. Next, the dabber inhales the smoke emitted from the dab as it reacts to the hot nail.

Jordan, the Kush Cannon creator, makes cannabis concentrate to dab. "I extract," he continued. "Cannabis extract is basically when you grab the cannabis, and you extract the oils and all the THC out of the cannabis into a liquid oil that you can dab. It is processed through a machine that makes all the different wax kinds at the dispensaries."

Jordan added that they have to use batches of 50 pounds of weed in his extraction process. The extras they have, he turns into edibles or saves them for the Kush Cannon. "We don't waste anything," he said.

"I took a couple of dabs at the dab bar, and I gave a bunch of dabs out. I even gave Mike Jones and Spice 1 sample packs," he said of the rap artists who later performed on the main stage.

Arizona Natural Concepts, Legal Lean, Tattoos and Smoke, Cannapages, Dabstars, Hair ADK, Arizona NORML, Kushstock Festival, and The Kush Kronicles were some of the 100 vendors present at the eight-hour event.

Kween Tina, 32, is a local brand ambassador for multiple companies at the event. "I got lucky to win the cannabis model award this year," she said. "I've been in the cannabis scene since 2013." She requested New Times to refer her by her Instagram and TikTok name. "Being a marijuana model is a little difficult for me because sex sells, and I'm not about showing so much. I want to make sure you're learning about the product, not just the woman behind the product."

Tina reps Mary Jane Smokewear, Nug Jewelz hemp jewelry, Hippie Chicks, 420 Edibles, and other local businesses. She was in the VIP area waiting to meet and greet with Mike Jones, the rapper who headlined the show. "Mike, who? Mike Jones!" she yelled the rapper's "Back Then" lyrics into the New Times microphone.

When asked how she felt about Arizona legalizing recreational use in 2020, Tina said, "I voted no, because I didn't like some of the rules that were coming along. I wish we waited for a better bill; some people got too excited but didn't read the bill correctly."

Tina has been legally medicating in Arizona since 2013, and said she has worked inside a few undisclosed local dispensaries.
click to enlarge Kween Tina (left), Mike Jones (center), and a friend pose for a photo in the VIP area at the Cannabis Awards Music Festival. - MIKE MADRIAGA
Kween Tina (left), Mike Jones (center), and a friend pose for a photo in the VIP area at the Cannabis Awards Music Festival.
Mike Madriaga
"Newbies don't want to listen to us," she continued. "So when they go into a dispensary, all you hear is, 'Give me the highest THC.' But I say, 'Let's talk about terpenes, let's talk about other stuff, not just THC. Let's see: Why do you want to get high?' But sometimes they block us off, but like, we're the workers, and we're trying to educate you.

"And once you get your medication, it should go in the trunk of your car; it should be treated just like alcohol. There are rules that people don't follow that we need to be more educated on. Some people try to smoke inside a dispensary, and you know doing that is gonna get the dispensary in trouble, not you."

Even on the ticket sales page of the event, where attendees paid between $25 to $250, it stated, "There is no cannabis consumption allowed at the event."

But nobody followed the rules from the get-go at 4 p.m.

Rapper Kurupt, one half of Tha Dogg Pound rap duo, told New Times he recalled smoking in Arizona while touring with the rest of his fellow Death Row Record artists in the 1990s. "We felt like criminals [because] it was illegal," he said. "We still did it; we didn't give a fuck. But, you know what I'm saying — that was a part of the excitement, too. So we know now that it is legal. What a great thing, right?"

Kurupt rocked the mic solo this night. His first song was the "Ain't No Fun" joint by Snoop Dogg. As Kurupt reached the part of the song that went, "If Kurupt gave a fuck about a bitch, I'd always be broke," — the DJ abruptly decreased the volume on the mixer and loudspeakers. The crowd continued and "a cappella-ed" the rest of the song. "I'd never have no motherfuckin' indo to smoke / I gets loc-ed and looney ..." The crowd cheered, rhyming the remainder of the 1993 song, originally released on the Doggystyle album.

Below the stage, people were handing their joints to Kurupt; but he declined, as he was already on a good trip.

Many of the crowd in the 21-and-up event weren't even born when Kurupt and Daz Dillinger formed Tha Dogg Pound. And along with Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and many other artists, they signed with Death Row Records in the early to mid-'90s.

But that just showed the younger Phoenix concertgoers' affinity for the G-funk era bars, which were heavily influenced by what was called "dank, bud, and chronic" back in the day.

When asked: "Regarding your Dogg Food album in 1995, was anything in that entire album influenced by marijuana/weed?" Kurupt quipped, "The entire album. Hells yeah, we were high as fuck enjoying ourselves having a ball [and] smoking nothing but the bomb. Right? [With] Zig-Zags though — all Zig-Zag."
click to enlarge Legends Event Center. - MIKE MADRIAGA
Legends Event Center.
Mike Madriaga
Kurupt, 49, who also goes by the Young Gotti moniker, wore a black baseball cap with an embroidered graphic of a pair of lips holding a Cheech-and-Chong-style joint. In addition, he rocked a pair of black jeans, white kicks, headphones around his neck, and a Death Row Records jacket.

Death Row Records was a record label founded in 1992 by Dr. Dre, Suge Knight, The D.O.C., and Dick Griffey. The brand became a hot record company, releasing multiplatinum hip-hop albums by Tha Dogg Pound, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and others during the 1990s.

After Shakur was shot and later died in Las Vegas in 1996, the record company went downhill, going bankrupt in 2006. Earlier in the year, Snoop Dogg purchased Death Row Records.

Kurupt continued, "So Dogg hit us (including Daz Dillinger) and said, 'Come on board.' And we did."

Back on stage, Kurupt performed "Let's Get High" by Dr. Dre featuring Kurupt. And just like the first song he performed, the crowd knew the lyrics verbatim and rapped his famous lines in the 1999 song.

Earlier in the evening, companies and individuals handed out pre-rolls to the musicians. Dime Industries gifted kits to the musicians with two full gram carts, two disposables, and a battery for the cartridges with the musicians' names on the display box.

A local weed grower, who requested to go by his nickname, Cannabis Carlos, took it to a different level. He provided some of his flowers to a buddy he called "Weed Perfect," who "rolls custom blunts for the artists that fly into Phoenix." Carlos explained: "It's a hand-rolled custom art piece. He rolled a big old blunt for Luniz and Kurupt with their custom logos designed on the blunts."

At about 10 p.m., Yukmouth and Numskull, the duo known as Luniz, pulled up on the main stage. Condom Man, the Oakland duo's mascot and backup dancer, followed the lead.

"Roll it up; light it up; smoke it," Yukmouth repeated on the microphone as his partner held a flashlight-sized joint. By now, there was a crowd on stage, and the ballroom below the stage filled up.

A fan busted out a torch lighter and lit up Numskull's blunt. He took a drag, then coughed profusely as he simultaneously exhaled. The crowd below went bananas.

"Who got five on that big motherfucker right there, big boy?" Yukmouth yelled into the mic. "Pass that shit to the crowd [and] let everyone get a hit on that motherfucker."

Numskull broke out in a sweat, and his partner chuckled, saying, "If it makes the face sweat — it's some gaaaass."

The instrumentals to the "I Got 5 On It" song started playing on the loudspeakers, then a petite woman in the crowd below grabbed the giant joint from the rap star. She puffed on it a few times and didn't cough.

Luniz then performed their "I Got 5 On It" song, recorded in 1993 with Michael Marshall and released in 1995. It's a weed anthem sampled on Club Nouveau's "Why You Treat Me So Bad" song — about a couple of friends who scrounged up $5 to purchase a "phat sack" of weed. Almost 30 years later, the music is still being spun at dance clubs and radio stations.

Mike Jones went on stage next, then Spice 1 and Lil Xan.

Lil Xan, who also goes by just "Diego," is a 25-year-old rapper from southern California who represents the younger sect of concertgoers with his signature mumble rap and emo rap — both subgenres of the hip-hop music form.

"He performed 'Betrayed' and 'Deceived,'" said Sheldon Cooper, the 33-year-old founder of All Access Phoenix and the Phoenix Cannabis Awards Music Festival. "It's one of the best performances we have seen. I'm so proud of Lil Xan."
click to enlarge Lil Xan (left) and Sheldon Cooper. - SHELDON COOPER
Lil Xan (left) and Sheldon Cooper.
Sheldon Cooper

Cooper added that their May 20 event was a sold-out concert accompanying sold-out vendor spots. In addition, he said they "made history" with the "most trophies presented by a cannabis ceremony in Phoenix with 56 winners."

For the next Cannabis Awards Music Festival in Phoenix, Cooper said the event would be on June 3, 2023, with rapper 2 Chainz headlining.

Jordan confirmed his return with two Kush Cannons to hotbox the 2023 festival, saying, "We're coming back twice as strong."
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