A guy like Berner was at one time invaluable on a hip-hop tour. The San Francisco native made his name procuring cannabis for the multitude of rappers who would eventually become his collaborators. (An early weed-centered meeting between Berner and a baby-faced Wiz Khalifa can be found on YouTube.) As of the release of El Chivo (chivo is Spanish for goat, also to be understood as “greatest of all time”), rap money is a distant second to the income he earns from numerous cannabis-related businesses, but it’s respect he’s after, and the album, concurrent with the Berner lifestyle, is powered by the good leaf.
“Why they call me El Chivo, ’cause I feed all my people/Been rich since ’96, before the weed went legal,” he raps on the title track. Its chorus comes from Las Vegas-hailing T3r Elemento, a band specializing in modern-day corridos, which are songs known for hailing legends of the Mexican drug trade. “El Chivo” is also peppered with references to countless strains, some of which Berner himself has had a hand in popularizing. Ganja-rap veteran B-Real (of Cypress Hill) pops up on “Russian Roulette,” with Berner declaring the pair “two of the best from out west with narcotic,” while Taylor Gang label boss and stoner-rap poster boy Wiz Khalifa features on “Wassup” and “Do What We Want.” Lest you think whole affair is one never-ending smokeout, the MC sobers up to talk about his life’s struggles on songs like “PTSD” and “Patient.”