In our last issue, Seattle Weekly spoke with local rapper Draze about his new song “Irony on 23rd,” which laments the lack of discretion that led to the city’s most popular pot shop, Uncle Ike’s, being built right next to a black church on a block where many African-Americans had been arrested for selling drugs prior to legalization. The latest entry in the emerging hip-hop critique of the lucrative dispensary and what it stands for is Seattle MC/producer Matt “Spekulation” Watson’s lead single, “Uncle Ike,” off his upcoming debut LP Nine to Fives &Afterlives.
“I don’t think Uncle Ike’s is the cause of the problem,” Watson notes, “but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a perfect metaphor.” While Draze’s song levels a critique more pointedly from a moral standpoint, Watson’s song addresses the injustices perpetuated by Washington’s flawed I-502 legalization system at large.
“The biggest flaw is that it does nothing to correct the damage done by the drug war,” Watson writes to Seattle Weekly via e-mail. “These laws aren’t retroactive, so marijuana-related convictions aren’t thrown out and can still be used against job applicants and defendants to encourage harsher sentencing. Washington’s legalization is an admission that we got it wrong, that much of the rhetoric and demonization aimed at marijuana users has been a lie for political purposes . . . I just think we’ve got a lot of nerve to admit how wrong we were in that particular regard, while refusing to correct all the other failings of the drug war.”
Like Draze, Watson also notes the ironic situation communities of color have found themselves in post-legalization, observing that most dispensary owners are white. “I haven’t seen any ways in which Washington’s legalization does anything to dismantle the systemic structures that oppress poor communities and communities of color,” he writes; “ from tax revenue being used to over-police neighborhoods to displacement through gentrification, we’ve just added another layer to our already-problematic system.”
The song’s chorus, “Ike’s trunk so heavy, ready to bottom out,” references one of the many branding-savvy acts of showmanship from the dispensary’s owner, Ian Eisenberg, which some in the community find unsavory—expensive-looking vintage cars bearing the Uncle Ike’s logo are often parked on the blocks surrounding 23rd Avenue and East Union Street.
“He’s on the throne right now,” Watson says, who is joining Draze at the Uncle Ike’s 4/20 community protest, “and as long as he’s making huge profits off a broken system and not doing anything to change that system, then I think it’s reasonable to hold Uncle Ike’s up as an example. They can take the criticism, and hopefully it will make them a better company.” E
Listen to “Uncle Ike” at spekulationmusic.com.