Before the rapper and weed magnate known as Berner had dispensaries in four states, a hemp seed-infused sports drink, novelty candy that looks exactly like ready-to-smoke herb, multiple clothing companies and accessory endorsements, an ambassadorship to his own cannabis-specific social media platform and 16 full-length albums, he was just an unknown Bay Area budtender moonlighting as an MC.
He quickly learned that a little bit of Cookies—the internationally renowned cross of Durban Poison and OG Kush that he was sourcing direct from the strain’s creator—goes a long way.
A decade later, the former Gilbert Milam Jr. is an unlikely crossover celebrity in the worlds of hip-hop and cannabis. In 2012, he signed with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang, entwining his stardom as a Northern California weed personality with that of an artist inducted into rap’s mainstream.
According to a 2016 SF Weekly profile, Berner’s dual career paths as rapper and cannabis entrepreneur are two sides of the same dollar. He graduated from small-time, black-market hustler to budtender at San Francisco med-era dispensary Hemp Center, representing exclusive growers and making inroads with established Bay Area rappers one fistful of pot at a time.
A few buds in the right hands gained Berner access to Bay Area hip-hop’s inner circles, which is where he met the Jacka—the first established MC to take the young weed slinger with a penchant for words under his wing and into the studio. Berner and the Jacka authored a three-album suite, Drought Season 1-3, the third of which received a formidable 7.3 on Pitchfork in the wake of Jacka’s untimely death in 2015.