If you were anywhere near the corner of Massachusetts Ave and Brookline late last night, you could hear the faint sound of fire alarms echoing from a nearby building. The rings seeped under the closed doors of Middle East Upstairs, a well-known Cambridge music venue connected to the Middle East Restaurant and its sister venue, Middle East Downstairs. Behind the closed doors, plumes of smoke filled the intimate space as rapper Berner laid out lyrics onstage. The alarms screamed at the increasing smokiness, but Berner and the crowd couldn’t have seemed more pleased to let the show go on as they strongly chanted, “Let us smoke!”
Hours before Berner’s "Cookies or Better Tour" stop in Boston, the rapper spoke on his first headlining tour. “We feel like Cookies is some of the best weed out right now, and if you’re going to come to the show, bring Cookies or better, if you got something else, come smoke it up, come share it.”
The leafy green plant pokes its head into every aspect of the business that Berner is so successfully a part of. Instead of using weed as solely a drug to get high, Berner and his boys create a social bond and experience in order to connect to fans. Have weed? “Come share it.” This leads to Berner’s version of meet-and-greets; instead of solely taking a selfie and talking for a few minutes, Berner has offered a deal where fans can get high and hang out. He put simply, “If I was a little kid, and I could pay to go smoke with Snoop, I’d definitely do it. Not comparing myself to Snoop or nothin’, but there are people who just want to smoke.” The rapper connects with his fans on that personal level by taking time to embrace the common interest: getting high. “Just seeing how far music reaches,” Berner acknowledged, is the difference between a microphone in a studio and onstage.
As he mentioned Snoop, Berner has collaborated with many other iconic artists including Wiz Khalifa whose record label, Taylor Gang Entertainment, signed Berner years earlier. “If you’re in the room with a bunch of rappers, you’re going to want to rap dope… every time I’m in a room with all rappers, I come tighter than I usually do.” The nature of the small group at Taylor Gang Entertainment, including Juicy J who toured through the House of Blues Boston earlier this summer, seems to push Berner as an artist. In response to a possible next collaboration, Berner hopefully answered, “Ghostface Killah. That’d be tight.”
The rapper has dropped a new track recently that producer Scoop Deville played during the show. “Murda Murda” is a new collaboration with Paul Wall and Demrick that stemmed from a session in Houston. Berner explained, “We just met up with Paul Wall in Houston, poured some syrup, popped a Xanax, smoked some weed, and just made a song… it wasn’t a planned release or anything.” Berner’s career as a rapper stemmed from his extensive background with weed. It begged the question: does he have a favorite type? “Right now… Skittles… you know, you move around… I’ll go for Skittles or Lemon Tree.” Joint preferable.
The crowd was nothing short of ecstatic to see Berner and his boys lighting up onstage as he laid down hits such as “20 Joints.” “We wanna say thank you on this tour,” Berner noted, “for everyone who pushed the envelope, meaning in these cities where weed is not legal… where venues don’t let you smoke, they fire it up and risk their little freedom… so we appreciate it.” You heard the guy. Let them smoke.