In Three Words: Clarity, Nuanced, Angering
Weed, reefer, dank, chronic, marijuana. These are just some of the words to describe a drug that has been essential to American culture. You could say, that it's THE most essential thing to affect American culture. And that may sound like hyperbole but amongst some other feelings that I came out with once finishing watching this Netflix documentary, (I'll be sure to expand on them later in this review) I was amazed how much ground was covered in this.
"Grass Is Greener" is the new Netflix Documentary directed by Hip-Hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, all about Cannabis and it's relationship with America. Straight off the bat, I loved the opening credits. The classic feel was a perfect tone setter. Veteran Producer Salaam Remi did the music & it shines throughout. I actually noticed that one of the producers for this show was Vikram Gandhi, who was the director of "Trigger Warning W/Killer Mike", it's always worth noting producers because the shows/films they produce says a lot about them. So big up Vikram.
Don't get it twisted though. This is a Fab 5 Freddy joint. I feel like he's been wanting to do this for a while. There is a lot of love and passion put into this project and you will definitely feel that. Not just through Freddy, but in the list of people interviewed for this.
But before I get into the people interviewed, I want to detail how... Well... Detailed! And broad scoping this is whilst also having a great flow throughout, primarily through the music used and the lyrics coming onto the screen partnered with it. This doc goes all the way to the beginning of weed in the US. But what's great about this documentary was that it combines three things. Cannabis, (obviously) Music & the criminalising of Cannabis.
I'm an extremely amateur fan of Jazz. So amateur in fact that the first third of the documentary that covered Jazz' influence on weed was absolutely fascinating to me. Especially learning how loud Louis Armstrong was in advocating weed. To the point where he was trying to get a permit to have possession! Think about that for a second. All this crap in the US about guns and Louis freaking Armstrong couldn't get a permit for bunning weed!
Hip-Hop takes a lot from Jazz, the obvious being the sound and sampling, but looking deeper, Hip-Hop has done a lot for Cannabis culture, just how Jazz did back in the early half of the 20th Century. Jazz, Reggae & Hip-Hop are the three genres & lifestyles highlighted in this documentary and it was made that much more great with the people interviewed. From Snoop Dogg, B-Real of Cypress Hill, to aforementioned Killer Mike, to Damian Marley and Jah9. But honestly, they weren't the stars of this for me.
The final third, criminalising of Cannabis, was covered in a way that reminded me a lot of Ava DuVernay's "13th". Not in tone, "13th" was serious from start to finish, but in pure educational weight. Shout out to Asha Bandele & Kassandra Frederique. They really shined in this. And also Larry "Ratso" Sloman who carried the first 20 minutes of the doc.
Regardless if you smoke up or not, this documentary does a lot of teaching into how politicised weed got. To the point of the Government calling it "Marijuana" just so people would clock how Mexican it sounded and immediately add negative connotation to not just weed, but a whole demographic.
Another emotion I got after watching this was anger. From 1933, when Cab Calloway dropped "Reefer Man" to now. Weed has been such an over-hyped topic. There were two instances where government funded research into Cannabis concluded that it's not as harmful as the politicians say it is, BUT THEY WENT ALONG WITH THE FALSE INFORMATION ANYWAY.
I know this isn't breaking news to most, frankly, it isn't to me. I wasn't surprised once I saw that part of the doc. But when you're watching this, and you see that, then you see a minute long still of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Philando Castile & Botham Jean, (set to "Strange Fruits") who were all besmirched in their cases because they had THC in their systems when they died. AND THEN you get to now where recreational use of weed is now a Billion Dollar business WHILST black, Hispanic & Latin Americans are rotting in jail for possessing weed. The absurdly long duration of injustice and now hypocritical attitude genuinely makes me apoplectic.
The documentary did end on a reasonably good note however, a man by the name of Bernard Noble who was jailed for 14 years for possessing two joint's worth of weed, got out in 2018 and the doc taped his reunion with his sisters & mother who were telling his story earlier in the doc. That was a good moment.
Overall, this is a very insightful documentary on Cannabis, it's relationship with Jazz, Reggae & Hip-Hop, how the drug and the people that take it have been dragged through the mud and lost lives because of it...
This is highly educational, I recommend you watch this because the angle this takes to look at American culture, society and especially politics is fascinating to me. Big up the legend Fab 5 Freddy. You did good on this one sir.