A Very Stoned Conference Call With 3 L.A. Hip-Hop Wunderkinds
In today’s crowded world of compulsory collaborations, it’s easy to forget that some collaborators are, in fact, friends. Good friends, the kind who smoke together in shopping carts and talk about their dreams. Leven Kali, Buddy, and Na-Kel Smith — three LA-bred musicians on the come-up — are those kinds of artists. For his track “Too High,” Kali — a singer, songwriter, and producer who’s been featured on albums by Drake and Playboi Carti — summoned his smoking buddies of choice, rappers Buddy and Na-Kel Smith. Both well-versed in the world of high-profile collabs, Buddy was an early mentee of Pharrell Williams, and Na-Kel, a Supreme skater with guest verses on tracks by Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, made his recent acting debut as the leader of the skate pack in Jonah Hill’s Mid90s.
For the debut of the “Too High” video, a psychedelic cartoon color trip animated by Chris Yee, the three artists hopped on a (very blunted) conference call to talk about their love of weed, lucid dreaming, and this hibachi truck on Hollywood—but mostly weed.
SARAH NECHAMKIN: You guys really love weed.
NA-KEL SMITH: We’re from LA.
LEVEN KALI: We made this song a little bit ago. It just came together naturally. We smoked together and became homies, and we were like, “Damn, this is so fun we gotta make a song about this.”
NA-KEL: On top of that we all have a drive and work ethic. It’s like, “Alright, we gotta actually do some productive shit too.”
BUDDY: I met Leven at Coachella, we was watching Lil Uzi Vert. This nigga had the crazy hat on, we became friends instantly. We pulled up to this nigga house, his mama was there chewing us out about smoking, and we was doing it anyway. And Na-Kel, where did we meet?
NA-KEL: Buddy and I, we’d just be in the same places and shit. There was that time we was getting faded in New York—I threw up all over one of my favorite Prince shirts and I had to throw that shit away.
BUDDY: That was a crazy night.
NA-KEL: Shit just clicked. I met Lev through the homie Tucker. I just pulled up to Leven’s house one day, we were smoking in this little shopping cart.
LEVEN: They literally pulled up to my mom’s crib in a shopping cart.
BUDDY: That sound fire.
LEVEN: This one time Buddy came through, I was playing him a song, and he was chilling on the couch. I was like, “Damn, he must not fuck with it.” He just fell asleep. And then, like 30 minutes later, he pops up out of his sleep and he was like, “Alright cool, I got the verse. Is the mic on?”
BUDDY: I do this shit in my sleep. It’s regular!
LEVEN: He be doing that shit in his sleep—literally.
BUDDY: Nah, I just remember getting high, and I really needed to rest my eyes. But I could hear the beat and I was thinking of raps, so when I woke up I already had a couple bars. Then I kinda just wrote it as I went, freestyle. When he sent it back with Na-Kel on it, I didn’t even recognize Na-Kel’s voice. I’m like, “Who is this rapping?” It was fire.
NECHAMKIN: Do you guys often have these kinds of dream visions? Does that happen?
NA-KEL: Hell yeah. I be having the craziest dreams.
LEVEN: The crazy lucid dreams.
NA-KEL: I had a dream that I feel like was me in my past life, or maybe it might not have been a dream but, like, a dimension switch. Basically, I was fighting a war on a dragon’s back. It felt like real ass life. I’m sliding down the dragon’s back, just me, in a loincloth with long hair and a big ass sword. I’m fighting all these people, and then I get to the end of the dragon. So I pull up on the head of the dragon, and it coils up and looks at me with these red beaming eyes. He opens his mouth hella wide. Mind you, it’s a big ass war going on on this dragon’s back.
LEVEN: Oh damn.
NA-KEL: So then I slide into the dragon’s mouth, and at that moment, I woke up. I saw the red beaming eyes for like 30 seconds outside the window of the room that I was in.
BUDDY: My bad, I lost service. What was the dream? I missed it.
NA-KEL: Alright. Basically, I had a dream that I was sliding down a dragon’s back. It was a big ass war going on, me and my tribe of people. It’s like some old shit, low-key. And I slid down the dragon’s back, fighting niggas until I got to the head of the dragon. The head of the dragon coiled up, and opened his mouth to eat me alive, and I woke up out of my sleep. I could see the dragon’s red beaming eyes outside the window.
BUDDY: No way.
NA-KEL: I feel like I might’ve time traveled or reality traveled before.
NECHAMKIN: What do you mean by that?
NA-KEL: This one time I was on a skate trip in Germany for Adidas. I had a dream that my girlfriend was at my house, but she hadn’t met my parents or nothing yet so it was kinda sketchy. I was like, “What the fuck?” My girlfriend got up and walked to the kitchen where my parents was at, and I was tripping. I wasn’t taking girls to my house or nothing like that. That was not a thing. So I went to go stop my girlfriend from going in there, and then my grandma had called my name, but at this point in time my grandma had already passed away. So I had a deep ass conversation with my grandma, and then I woke up like, “Where the fuck am I at?” I was hella confused, and then I realized that I was in Germany. On a skate trip.
BUDDY: I be having crazy dreams sometimes. This one time I was just, like, high, breathing. You know, you gotta inhale through the nostrils, exhale through the mouth. Then I fell into this lucid daydream where I was completely somewhere else—a beach, a mountain. As I walked I could see footprints appearing in the sand, but I couldn’t see my feet or my legs. The tide was rushing. Then I snapped out of it.
LEVEN: I was in an Uber yesterday in some bad traffic going downtown, and I fell asleep in the Uber. I had one of the nicest, coziest, most peaceful dreams ever. A nice little happy place dream.
NECHAMKIN: The video is trippy in this Sgt. Pepper’s kind of way. It’s vintage. Are you nostalgic people?
LEVEN: It’s nostalgia from the future. It’s not on some retro shit but it definitely pays homage. We’re actually from the future.
BUDDY: We were really smoking real weed in the video—and a lot of it. It’s not no facade.
LEVEN: The intro’s only like 10 seconds, but we were in there shooting for like two to three hours chain smoking blunts.
BUDDY: Literally, it was like fifteen blunts amongst the three of us.
NA-KEL: We all left extremely high with a lot of stuff to do. Just dumb faded.
LEVEN: I was like, “Damn, I’m so faded, I can’t even act faded I’m so faded.”
NECHAMKIN: What do you think about the state of modern romance?
BUDDY: My girlfriend is weed. I be smoking weed. That’s my girlfriend.
LEVEN: Mary Jane.
NECHAMKIN: What do you do when you get the munchies?
NA-KEL: I don’t really like to eat that much, but you gotta eat. I like chocolate.
BUDDY: I used to go crazy in the studio when I’d get high. We’d get pizza, pasta. I’m a big Italiano at heart.
BUDDY: Have y’all been to that hibachi truck on Sunset? It’s like a food truck, niggas in there, you can see them chopping the meat up at the window. Filet mignon, salmon, fried rice—they got everything. It’s right in front of Playhouse. Hey, Ced [Buddy’s DJ, Cedric], is Playhouse on Sunset or Hollywood?
NA-KEL: Baby Ced!
BUDDY: We’re leaving LAX—we literally on Melrose and La Brea right now. This is as LA as it gets. I’m pulling up to my house and I’m so excited.
LEVEN: Welcome back.
CEDRIC: Alright so I should give you cash for the weed?
LEVEN: Let’s link up later and smoke. I’ll holler at y’all.
BUDDY: I’m back like that. See y’all later man.