August 12-13 marked the fourth installment of the Emerald Exchange—a high-class cannabis farmers market comprised of brands, groups and people who share a similar ethos: to counter the stigma with passion and elegance. But to simply label the event a “farmer’s market” doesn’t do it justice. It’s a sun-grown clean cannabis wellness festival, resembling a very mellow and (significantly less drugged-out) Lightning In a Bottle. Art installations, live cannabis plants and nooks to smoke in were spread throughout the private Moorpark estate. Speakers gave lectures on activism, politics and how to use cannabis to enhance health. A maze of vendors exhibiting herbal goods gave people a reason to get lost. Certified yoga teachers and Reiki professionals offered their healing gifts to attendees, while musicians and DJs played sets to groovy people.
Of those performing that weekend was Venice Beach’s Lizzy Jeff, a 31-year-old rapper who blends spirituality, cannabis culture and medicine woman swag over vibey hip-hop beats. She’s also the mastermind behind Zen and Kush, an LA-based cannabis event in which she got the inspiration from the Dogfather. “Instead of Snoop [Dogg’s] ‘Gin and Juice’ it’s Zen and Kush, focusing on all things zen and all things kush,” says Jeff. “I’ve been hosting events for years, whether it’s open mics, lounges or whatever. So I know how to throw a dope-ass party, but [for Zen and Kush] it became more about taking it to the next level while elevating consciousness.”
Jeff got a job working as a cannabis consultant at Venice Beach’s beloved Green Goddess Collective when her music career began a couple years ago. Listening to the cathartic experiences of patients, studying the benefits of the plant, and tapping into its spiritual and ancestral rituals laid the foundation for her music. “I realized that cannabis is a completely different world than how it’s portrayed in the mainstream,” she says. “I felt it was my responsibility to share the information and knowledge I’d gained in a way where I could still do dope parties, perform my music with my band, provide organic curated cannabis and show art. Zen and Kush is a platform for people to get the healing they need and also for people in the industry to provide their healing gifts.”
Rocking long, majestic emerald green braids—a color hardly anyone can pull off well— at the Emerald Exchange, Jeff hosted a Zen and Kush lounge on Saturday and Sunday night. Looking as if she’d just surfaced from a mermaid vacation, the plush Zen den did exactly as intended: It elevated the vibration. There was medicated herbal tea, medicated hand rubs, Green Goddess approved herbal blended joints, Reiki healing and crystals. Attendees lounged and basked in the energy of multiple healing modalities, while Jeff performed a bit of spoken word about speaking things into existence, calling on spirit guides for assistance and eating plant based food.
Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, Jeff’s Zen and Kush was a perfect fit for the Emerald Exchange. For Jeff, performing there went a lot deeper than just a way to gain exposure, though. Rather, it provided further proof that stepping into your divine power is the secret to manifesting anything into existence. “When I first heard about the Emerald Exchange last year I really wanted to go, but I couldn’t afford the tickets at the time,” Jeff says, reminiscing with a laugh. “I reached out to them on behalf of the dispensary I work for and asked if some of the girls and I could go to represent, but it didn’t happen.”
Shortly after that Jeff started hosting Zen and Kush, which has basically evolved into an instant success. With sponsors like Papa & Barkley, Canndescent, Flow Kana, hmbldt and BudBud—Venice Beach’s local flower group—industry folk have been quick to hop on and support Jeff’s vision of the art of self-healing. She reached out again about performing this year. After a window of time passed that seemed to imply she wouldn’t be participateing, Jeff received an email from the Emerald Exchange talent booker asking her to bring the Zen and Kush vibes to the party.
Experiencing success not only for pursuing her passion but also her beliefs is inspiring, especially as a young woman of color. Being locked in the grips of American racism, relatives throughout her lineage dealt with incomprehensible struggle and pain. She explains that her hustle is for them. “I feel so lucky and blessed to live in a time where I can express myself this freely because some of the experiences that my family members had to endure is horrible; it’s unbelievable,” says Jeff. “Being directly impacted by the war on drugs, as well as living with my great grandmother and listening to her stories about when her grandmother was a slave have motivated me to show up for my ancestors in every capacity possible.”
Her empowering lyrics open up the discussion about using cannabis as a means of healing, being your best self and releasing the things that no longer serve you. Men and women– both strangers and friends– reach out frequently, she says, about how her music has helped them evolve. “Vibrations,” for example, is about a relationship that ends ugly–like so many of them do. But instead of wishing ill on your ex, Jeff raps about freeing yourself from those negative emotions and instead thanking that person for the growth and strength they gave you. “A woman reached out and told me about her tough split with her husband,” says Jeff. “She had so much resentment towards him but told me that after she heard ‘Vibrations,’ about six months later she had the strength to communicate with him and tell him that she forgives him. She told me she’s no longer holding onto that draining energy anymore. The fact I can give that to people is so powerful. This is what I was born to do.”
Known as the “medicine woman” among her fans, Jeff is one of the first female hip-hop artists to rap about weed with integrity. For her it’s not about getting high– it’s about being a spiritual activist and preserving the sacredness of the plant. Although she’s received some pushback for her music being too cannabis focused, she’s taken it upon herself to stand up for the plant via her music and deepen her practice of understanding cannabis, healing and spirituality. “I really feel like I’m living my life’s purpose,” says Jeff. “Even though many people before me have fought for cannabis there’s still so much work to be done, and I’m on the front lines.”