By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Smoker's Club first formed in March of 2010 as a SXSW showcase at The Firehouse Lounge, which hosted Devin the Dude and a supporting cast of emerging hip-hop artists who all had reefer in common, including Jayrock, Big K.R.I.T, Curren$y and Smoke DZA. It wasn't yet the club it would become over the next few years, but I imagine those lucky enough to catch that troupe before the blog buzz, mixtapes and individual headlining tours got high in more ways than one.
Later in 2010, The Smoker's Club launched their first tour with Curren$y as headliner and every must-have mixtape artist in tow. It seems like an understatement when Smoke DZA responds to my inquiry about how the tour has been progressing with a casual, "Oh, the tour? The tour has been awesome. Everyone is so great."
Smoke DZA, one of The Smoker's Club tour's founders, relays the story of its founding as though anyone could put such an impressive group of artists together. He also redeems SXSW a bit. Integrating artists of a common language so that they could go on to create sustainable tours and collectives is what a festival like SXSW is capable of at its most aspirational.
The Smoker's Club Tour with Smoke DZA, Juicy J, Chevy Woods, Joey Bada$$ and More
Thursday, August 9, at Trees
Smoke DZA and his cohorts on tour this year are arguably all of your favorite rapper's favorite rappers. When I ask DZA about that repute, he lists myriad artists he is listening to and gaining inspiration from.
"On the road we always have something on. Right now I am listening to Fat Trel, Joey Bada$$, but I always put on Jay-Z or Biggie. And we are all writing, working on our own stuff too."
Which explains a lot. With a studio on the bus and the obvious work ethic they possess, what they have built is a traveling hip-hop commune. Churning out mixtapes and side projects from the road, DZA is able to pull from a roster of rappers like Juicy Jay, or the quickly adored Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era crew when it's time for a guest verse. Likewise, they all have access to DZA's special strain of narrative pot talk on their respective works.
"When we started the first tour, all we really wanted to be able to do ... was a second tour," he says. "To expand, to play bigger venues. That  tour changed our lives; we all had projects about to come out, and we just wanted to keep going."
So far, The Smoker's Club has proven a place you see the transition from underground to overground rap star. I ask if the fraternity gets along, if they are each other's fans. "I mean, if you don't get along with me, you just aren't human," DZA says. "I am so open to so many people, and I have been blessed to be around so many incredible people. I just try to stay open."
We discuss how the brand has grown and formed, and I joke that I'd buy a ticket for a Smoker's Club festival. He stops me: "We have talked about that, actually."
Where would it take place?
"Oh, San Francisco. Beautiful people, beautiful weed."
DZA, and those in his club, are more then just weed rappers, though. In fact, his recent release, Rugby Thompson, is inspired by a character from Boardwalk Empire. His work is highly organized by theme and concept and he promises another mixtape before the tour ends, and a return to his mixtape character, George Kush.
"My first Kush release was about being slept on," he states. "It's time for the next evolution. Bigger concepts, bigger production. Something presidential."
Timed with the coming election, no less. We talk for just a while longer about politics. I inquire if he already has any notions about who he might vote for.
"No doubt," he laughs. "George Kush."