Think BIG CJ Wallace Willie Mack Cannabis

Big­gie Thinking

The Notorious B.I.G.’s son is investing in a higher state of consciousness, one blunt at a time.

The Noto­ri­ous B.I.G. was not a man who was shy about his love of tak­ing tokes of the mar­i­jua­na smoke. Nei­ther is the late rapper’s son, CJ Wal­lace. That makes a move into the cannabis indus­try seem like a nat­ur­al step for the 22-year-old actor – but equal­ly, he knows he has to do right by the name of his father. 

I was think­ing: how do we do it, oth­er than just putting Big­gie on bongs and Big­gie on blunts?” he tells me. Oth­er than that, how do we real­ly do it?”

We’re gen­tly bak­ing in the sun out­side Wallace’s busi­ness part­ner Willie Mack’s home in the Los Feliz neigh­bour­hood of Los Ange­les. The pair met in May last year, after Wal­lace had wrapped shoot­ing the third sea­son of hor­ror spin­off series Scream. He was on the hunt for some­one who could help him use the Noto­ri­ous B.I.G. name for some­thing more than a cheap brand­ing exer­cise. Mack, with a long back­ground in cannabis mar­ket­ing, was the man for the job.

When I heard he didn’t want to do Big­gie blunts and bongs I was like: Thank God!’” says Mack with a laugh. I’ve worked in cannabis for a minute, and I’ve had to talk a lot of peo­ple off a lot of bad ideas.”

Wal­lace and Mack dis­cussed the oppor­tu­ni­ty they saw for a cannabis com­pa­ny that would be as con­cerned with pro­mot­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, health and social jus­tice as it would be with the worka­day busi­ness of sell­ing weed. The result is their new­ly-launched brand Think BIG, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cal­i­for­nia-based organ­ic cannabis farm Low­ell Herb Co, and their first THC prod­uct: a lim­it­ed-edi­tion pack of sev­en pre-rolls. Wal­lace got his wish, and Biggie’s name isn’t even on the pack­ag­ing. Instead, their hand-picked hybrid of Orange Sher­bet, Ban­jo and Rat­tlesnake Sour Diesel strains is called The Frank White Cre­ative Blend.

Think BIG CJ Wallace Willie Mack Cannabis

I remem­ber hear­ing my dad say Frank White’ and not under­stand­ing it as a kid,” says Wal­lace of the alter-ego that Big­gie adopt­ed from the 1990 Christo­pher Walken gang­ster film King of New York. 

Before I even knew it was a movie, it was just this ghost­ly fig­ure of Frank White’. For me, being a kid and hear­ing my dad’s lyrics I was always scared of him!” he says seri­ous­ly. Then as I got old­er, under­stand­ing who Frank White was gave me more pride in how my dad was able to cre­ate two egos and real­ly become the King of New York. It’s total­ly car­ried through time. Any Big­gie fan knows Frank White, and [even] the peo­ple you have to explain it to get it imme­di­ate­ly, like: Oh, shit, that’s dope!’”

Wal­lace was just five months old when his father was killed in a dri­ve-by shoot­ing in Los Ange­les in the ear­ly hours of 9th March 1997. He was 24. Biggie’s death came three years after his debut album Ready To Die, released 25 years ago next month, had become an instant clas­sic, spawn­ing hits like Juicy and Big Pop­pa. Along with Tupac Shakur, also killed in a dri­ve-by a year ear­li­er, he was con­sid­ered one of the defin­ing rap voic­es of his era.

The fol­low­ing year Wallace’s mum, R&B singer Faith Evans, mar­ried Todd Rus­saw (he’s still close to Wal­lace and is anoth­er co-founder of Think BIG). The fam­i­ly then moved to the Coun­try Club of the South”, sub­ur­ban Atlanta, where they lived in a gat­ed golf course com­mu­ni­ty along­side Whit­ney Hous­ton, Bob­by Brown, Ush­er and sev­er­al mem­bers of soul­ful boy band 112

Evans – who released the 1997 smash Big­gie trib­ute I’ll Be Miss­ing You with Puff Dad­dy and was signed to his Bad Boy label at the time – built a record­ing stu­dio in the base­ment. Read­ers per­haps won’t be sur­prised to learn that, from a young age Wal­lace, was accus­tomed to the scent of mar­i­jua­na smoke – and was well aware of the role it can play in the cre­ative process.

We lived there when I was between three and six,” recalls Wal­lace. I grew up with both my younger broth­ers and my old­er sis­ter. For us as sib­lings, we always want­ed to be in the stu­dio. We’d hear all the music from upstairs and be like: We got­ta go down there!’ 

I remem­ber sneak­ing into the room and they’d be smok­ing. They didn’t know we were in there so it wasn’t like they were blow­ing it in our faces, but we were always around it and smelling it and just being in that energy.”

Think BIG CJ Wallace Willie Mack Cannabis

Wal­lace start­ed smok­ing cannabis short­ly before he turned 16, the sum­mer after his first year of high school. It was with the close guy friends that I always hung out with. It was just around! I didn’t real­ly under­stand at the time, but I was also self-med­icat­ing. My par­ents had gone through a divorce, and being around that and see­ing how it took place def­i­nite­ly did some­thing to me. I mean, I still need to go to ther­a­py. But don’t we all?”

Along­side his own nascent tok­ing, Wal­lace began to see the drug in a whole new light when his youngest broth­er Ryder was diag­nosed with non­ver­bal autism. Hav­ing access to med­ical cannabis trans­formed his life. 

We start­ed using CBD and THC prod­ucts with him,” recalls Wal­lace. It was almost simul­ta­ne­ous that I start­ed using it and he start­ed using it. For me, it was for recre­ation as well as for med­ical use, and for him it was pure­ly for the health benefits.”

Thank­ful­ly we’d moved to LA by then. If we’d been some­where like Ari­zona or Texas he would have had to use opi­oids,” he points out, high­light­ing those states’ ongo­ing pro­hi­bi­tion of med­ical mar­i­jua­na cannabis. My mom was always against that. CBD and THC have always been the first choice for us.”

As much as cannabis con­nect­ed Wal­lace with his younger broth­er, he also felt it helped him com­mune with the mem­o­ry of his father. He learned that they’d both start­ed smok­ing at around the same age. Dad would go to Jamaica every sum­mer – he loved it out there. I’ve heard all the sto­ries. His favourite strain was Lamb’s Bread, which was also Bob Marley’s favourite strain. He real­ly used to smoke a lot, like Snoop,” he says with a know­ing smile. 

He would end stu­dio ses­sions if there wasn’t any more to smoke, and if his guys couldn’t come through for him, he’d fire them. Even his best friends! So he was very seri­ous about it. No non­sense at all. I think I’ve adapt­ed a few qual­i­ties of his!” he adds, laughing.

Like a vast­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of young black men, Big­gie Smalls was at one point arrest­ed for cannabis pos­ses­sion. This is where the social jus­tice ele­ment of Think BIG comes in. Wal­lace and Mack have both seen first-hand how cal­cu­lat­ed­ly racist drug laws tar­get black communities. 

It’s always been about race,” avers Mack. You had all this pro­pa­gan­da that became part of the cul­ture around cannabis being this real­ly harm­ful thing, and then you add to that the polic­ing of it and that removes peo­ple from com­mu­ni­ties. Then you destroy com­mu­ni­ties because fam­i­lies and fathers and kids are now in jail.” 

The pair hope that Think BIG can be a pos­i­tive force for change in America’s slow jour­ney to a less racist future. They’re giv­ing a pro­por­tion of the pro­ceeds from The Frank White Cre­ative Blend to The Cal­i­for­nia Prison Arts Project, and they’ve also been work­ing with lob­by­ing groups like the Mar­i­jua­na Pol­i­cy Project. 

We’re still fight­ing for fed­er­al legal­i­sa­tion,” points out Mack. And we’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to think big­ger around the prob­lem of not just peo­ple in jail, but what hap­pens to the peo­ple who are already out? This is a big­ger prob­lem than just peo­ple need­ing to get out of jail. It’s about crim­i­nal jus­tice, social jus­tice, eco­nom­ic jus­tice and polit­i­cal jus­tice. We’ve got to fix the prob­lem here and then help fix the prob­lem that we, as Amer­i­ca, helped cre­ate around the world.”

Need­less to say, address­ing this crit­i­cal issue of social jus­tice has not entire­ly been seen as a pri­or­i­ty by most of the oth­er cannabis start-ups who are right now scrab­bling to cap­i­talise on California’s green rush. 

It’s so easy to for­get how things start when it doesn’t con­cern you,” says Mack. So many peo­ple in the cannabis indus­try are peo­ple com­ing in new who have no con­nec­tion to the his­to­ry of it. They’ve nev­er known any­one go to jail. They’re like: Let’s start a cool brand and make a bunch of mon­ey!’ That’s great and all, but there are still peo­ple sit­ting in jail. Peo­ple are still deal­ing with this on a dai­ly basis. Not just black peo­ple, but peo­ple of every race and every cul­ture. That’s not OK.”

By com­bin­ing their love of smok­ing weed to enhance cre­ativ­i­ty with their under­stand­ing of the med­i­c­i­nal ben­e­fits and the need to work towards social jus­tice, Wal­lace and Mack seem to have found a way to use the Noto­ri­ous B.I.G. name for some­thing more worth­while than just flog­ging bongs and blunts. Next they plan to roll out a full Frank White line, avail­able online from the start of 2020. Wal­lace is pret­ty sure Big­gie would’ve got­ten a kick from see­ing the name Frank White on a pack­et of pre-rolls.

He’d def­i­nite­ly love it,” he says with pal­pa­ble pride. My mom loves it. She’s super sup­port­ive. So does my grand­ma and the whole fam­i­ly. Nobody real­ly expect­ed me to do this. They were like: Damn, we thought you were just get­ting high!’”

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