Jay-Z isn’t exactly a rapper who’s synonymous with smoking weed. HOVA doesn’t name-check strains in every verse like Snoop, he’s never been the “lonely stoner” type like Kid Cudi, and these days he seems far more likely to pour a dram of impossibly expensive whiskey or his partially-owned D’ussé XO cognac in the booth than he is to rock a Phillies blunt. But while Shawn Carter isn’t a stoner legend, he is a savvy businessman (he’s a business, man) which means he’s well aware that the cannabis market is booming right now.
So it’s no shock that Jigga is leveraging his name and making a play in the weed game. In fact, we’re surprised it took this long.
Those with their eyes on the weed space saw this coming. Back in 2019, Jay took a position at Caliva (one of California’s largest cannabis conglomerates) to serve as the company’s new chief brand strategist. In that role, he developed the MONOGRAM label, took on an ownership stake, and initiated a $10 million fund to invest in Black-owned weed brands. With lots of money on the line, skeptics might write off MONOGRAM as a rushed white-label job — a repackaging of mid-shelf weed with a top-shelf name.
That is, thankfully, not the case.
If you buy all the brand speak, Jay spent 18 months putting together MONOGRAM, calling on the talents of cannabis industry veteran DeAndre “De” Watson, who helped curate and cultivate each of the five strains.
“Cannabis has been around for thousands of years, yet it is still an industry whose legacy of skilled craftsmanship is often overlooked,” Jay-Z said in a press release. “I created MONOGRAM to give cannabis the respect it deserves by showcasing the tremendous hard work, time, and care that goes into crafting a superior smoke.”
That is… very PR sounding. But for better and worse, MONOGRAM genuinely is unlike any other weed brand in the game. We smoked four of the brand’s five strains in all three form factors currently offered, got the full luxury experience, and have a lot of thoughts. Let’s dive in!
The Products & Presentation
One of the things that will strike you first about MONOGRAM is just how different the products look compared to many of the other weed brands out there. That’s a good thing — graphic design in the weed space can be a mess with busy labels, an over-use of psychedelic color palettes, horrible font choices, and sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing names (I bring this example up a lot but… “Chemical Cat Piss,” anyone?). MONOGRAM has none of that, presenting each of its products (pre-roll loosies, a hand-rolled joint, and flower jars) in sleek black containers with minimal labeling and no strain names at all.
Instead, the strains are numbered (seemingly arbitrarily) — No. 1, No. 3, No. 70, No. 88, No. 96 — and designated with a sensory descriptor of light, medium, or heavy. Whether each strain is an indica, sativa, or hybrid is not disclosed, along with any packaging dates, THC percentages, or CBD content. This is sure to annoy more selective stoners and we’re kind of right there with them on this one. While THC percentage certainly isn’t everything, those with a higher tolerance will want to have a clear idea of what type of high to expect, and MONOGRAM doesn’t make that easy.
(The information is available on the website — and in this article! — but we would’ve preferred it on the packaging. I mean, at least print it on a sticker on the bottom!)
MONOGRAM’s herb is offered in three form factors, a four-pack of mini-pre rolls (No. 88 and 96), two and four-gram flower jars (No. 1 and 3), and a large hand-rolled joint (No. 88 and 96). Altogether, the presentation is great, and aside from a few design decisions that mildly annoy us, we’re going to go ahead and conclude that Jay-Z nailed it on the presentation side of things.
But pretty packaging is just that — packaging. Here are our thoughts on what truly matters.
Least Essential: Strain No. 96 — Pre-Roll Loosies
We’ll start what feels like the least essential MONOGRAM product, the Pre-Roll Loosies. As we mentioned, the packing here is great — four individual mini pre-roll joints individually wrapped in their own plastic airtight vials in a sleek black flip top box. That fine attention to presentation translates to the joints themselves, which are tightly packed with finely ground weed to ensure a nice steady and slow burn, thereby saving you product in between drags.
Which is a good thing because these things are small!
Their slight size makes these Js seem specifically curated for the pandemic era we live in. The days of passing joints between friends might be done (even with a vaccine), but popping open a pack of mini loosies for a quick session in your friend’s backyard? These little joints seem made for that. Still, hardcore stoners won’t get what they’re looking for here, and neither will anyone who winces at the idea of sharing $40 pre-rolls this small.
Our loosies came in Strain No. 96, which MONOGRAM designates as “Heavy.” Does that mean it’s an indica? We’re not so sure. The high didn’t make me feel particularly heavy or weighed down. I didn’t feel an energy sap, experience munchies, or slip into the dreaded couch lock. It felt a lot more along the lines of a hybrid to me but I can’t say for sure.
Each drag was surprisingly smooth though, with a pleasing fruit flavor and a subtle fruity kiss lingering in the milky smoke. Alas, at $40 a pack I’m not sure when I’d reach for these again.
If you’re just looking for a head change or a light crossfade while you host your favorite brew and you like the look of them or need a conversation starter “This is Jay-Z’s label!” these make for an ideal accompaniment. Those seeking a more serious high should look elsewhere.
Soild Choice: Strain No. 1 — 2G/4G Flower Jar
Price: $40 for 2 gram jar/ $70 for 4 gram jar.
Before we gush, we need to go on a bit of a rant. We get that Jay-Z is trying to present weed in a different light, one that is more aligned with his modern-day Rockefeller vibe, and we can truly see Beyonce reaching into an expensive designer bag and pulling out a jar of MONOGRAM weed at the end of the night, but this two-gram/four-gram shit is not luxurious, it feels cheap — like my “luxury” weed is being pinched by a dealer who doesn’t have a scale and is “good at eyeballing it.”
We can’t figure out why Jay-Z cut corners here ditching the more traditional eighth (3.5 grams) and quarter (7 grams) weigh-outs. Even if that means bumping up the price by $10, if the product is good enough, people will pay!
Alright rant over, the weed here is, as with the loosies, very good. Designated “Medium,” which again, feels meaningless, strain No. 1 presented me with fluffy deep green buds flecked with orange hairs and a distinct fruity smell, making this weed a joy to break up by hand for a fresh bowl. Don’t do this weed the disservice of tossing it in a grinder.
Lighting this herb brings out a deep piney-meets-skunky aroma and while the smoke is nice and milky here, it does have a bit of a spicy finish that will mildly irritate the nose. The high knocked me out with a single bowl and when I resurfaced it was with the thought that I definitely prefer this form factor over the loosies.
The Bottom Line
Despite a major misstep in sizing, this is a solid choice and certainly makes the case for why a Jay-Z branded weed is a good idea.
Essential: Strain No. 3 2G/4G Flower Jar
Price: $40 for 2 gram jar/ $70 for 4 gram jar.
In my blind rage over sizing, I forgot to mention what I love about the MONOGRAM flower jars. They’re glass, which is a great touch, and they’re totally blacked out, protecting your herb from ultraviolet light. We can’t stress the importance of keeping your weed in a dark place and buying MONOGRAM once will give you a great weed jar for life.
Nice touch, Hov.
Strain No. 3 is easily MONOGRAM’s best sporting frosty, aromatic buds with shimmering crystals and hints of purple petals weaved with wiry orange hairs. Another “Medium” strain, we’re pretty confident this is a hybrid strain. No. 3 is sticky and dense, with cakey crystals — so you should break it up gently by hand. You want those crystals preserved until the moment the fire hits the plant.
No. 3’s true strength is in the flavor, which has hints of minty grape, with a sweet finish that leads to a powerful high. I don’t know that I can attribute this to Strain No. 3, but in the days I was working through the jar I was having some seriously vivid dreams. Whether there’s a correlation there or not, this is definitely an herb ideal for tripping out on your favorite music or going deep into your own thoughts.
The Bottom Line
MONOGRAM’s best tasting and looking strain with a powerful and vivid high. One of the best herbs we’ve smoked so far in 2021.
Best Experience: Strain No. 88 Hand-Roll
I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to like this one. I scoff at the idea of a $50 joint — I don’t care if this one was hand-rolled by Beyonce herself. But I ended up loving it.
De Watson — MONOGRAM’s aforementioned Culture and Cultivation Ambassador — is listed as the chief architect behind MONOGRAM’s OG Handroll. It was clearly his choice not to feature your typical fine grind of weed, and instead load this thing up with tiny nugs, weighing in at over 1.5 grams. That’s more than half an entire MONOGRAM flower jar.
Its gigantic size might lead you to believe this thing was made for sharing, but it wasn’t. It was designed to be able to save for later — just drop it back in its discreet plastic carrying case. (Counterpoint: don’t do that. No joint will ever taste as good and smoke as smoothly as the first time you light it.) Puffing this monster solo and to completion is where MONOGRAM’s promise of luxury comes to fruition.
That’s what I did, and let me tell you: It’s a decadent experience.
This is a special occasion smoke, something you save for celebratory moments. It burns slow and evenly, with sweet and spicy notes mingling in MONOGRAMs stinkiest strain, No. 88. I’d give some notes on what the high was like here, but I smoked the whole thing and my brain was absolutely blasted to another planet. Sorry, not sorry.
The Bottom Line
A $50 hand-rolled joint probably won’t make it into your regular weed purchasing rotation, but when a special occasion rolls around we definitely recommend reaching for this. The experience is unparalleled and the hand-rolled attention to details truly delivers on Jay-Z’s highbrow concept.