The polarizing Steven Hager has been involved with some of the countries largest cultural movements by way of his forward thinking and eye for development. Whether it's influencing the massively popular High Times magazine or conceptualizing the legendary Cannabis Cup, Steve's affinity for what he defines as "real culture" has inspired an entire generation.
Aside from his contributions to cannabis culture, Steven has also produced several books in a wide variety of topics ranging from the birth of hip hop to the Kennedy assassination. He is a multi-faceted man that does whatever he wants, when he wants.
Prox: You have quite the affinity for Counterculture in general. Why is this movement so important to you and what does it symbolize? How has it contributed to your intellectual and spiritual growth?
Steven: It’s not really the counterculture, but real culture. The other stuff is the fake culture. My research has concentrated on exposing the war for profit hoodwink driving our economy since WWI. I’ve written groundbreaking books on the CIA assassination of JFK and the radical republican assassination of Lincoln. I was the first to write about hip hop, and, in fact, helped coin the term, and was the first to profile Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf as important artists. Funny how the mainstream media ignores me entirely. So I’ve blazed trails in both arts and politics.
Prox: Why do you think the underground substance movements have remained so ardent and tight knit? How does publications like High Times contribute to the strength of these communities?
Steven: Haven’t read High Times in years. Lost interest when it became a magazine solely about marijuana. For 25 years, I edited a general interest magazine that broke important stories about culture and politics. I am turned off by the greed driving the current cannabis scene.
Prox: The Cannabis Cup is now a time honored tradition and is a staple of the community. Why do you think it has survived for so long? Did you have any fears that this type of competition would lead to conflict within the culture?
Steven: The event no longer resembles what I was doing. In fact, it was after I founded the Cup that I felt a responsibility to study the ceremonial history of cannabis, which led me to the Scythians, the true origins of the holy grail myth. I was a journalist, but the biggest story of my life involved how the holy grail was really about the substance inside the golden cup, which was cannabis mixed with hot milk.
Prox: As cannabis becomes more and more legal, what do you think will happen to small independent growers once it’s a fully corporatized industry? Do you think it’s possible for these grass-roots operations to survive?
Steven: I expect the finest cannabis will be grown by small independent operators with connections to the counterculture, while Monsanto buys up all the strain rights and dominates the commercial landscape.
Prox: Another concern that people seem to have is that corporatization could lead to blends being tampered with and modified to become harmful and physically addictive. Do you think this is a legitimate concern?
Steven: I will always seek cannabis grown by committed organic farmers that I know, and will never support corporate cannabis. Hopefully, others will join me.
Prox: Your first book Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti is quite groundbreaking. What was it about hip hop that attracted you to the genre back then and how did the movement influence your artistic and musical tastes?
Steven: I moved to NYC because my girl friend was an artist and wanted to live there. She introduced me to Calvin Tompkins and I began covering the art scene as a journalist. I was at a show called “New York/New Wave” when I saw a NYC subway train titled Break painted by Futura 2000. Kurtis Blow’s single The Breaks had just been released. Looking at that photo, I realized there was a connection between the graffiti movement and the rap music movement, and nobody was writing about it. As a journalist fresh out of graduate school, I realized immediately this was a major scoop worthy of my constant devotion and it put me on the hop hip trail for several years, and I followed that with Art After Midnight which is a groundbreaking book itself.
Prox: Favorite Hobbies?
Steven: I do what I want. There’s only one rule: don’t hurt anybody. I don’t separate hobbies from life. It’s all the same thing. I work in many art forms: I write songs, I write books, I paint pictures. I have an extremely improvisational lifestyle and do whatever I want all day long.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, business people, creatives or intellectuals?
Steven: My biggest influences include the Beats, Louis Ferdinand Celine, the Merry Pranksters, Jasper Grootveld, John Cage, The Finchley Boys, Wavy Gravy, Stephen Gaskin, Antony Sutton.
Prox: Tips for aspiring authors and cannabis enthusiasts?
Steven: The less you do, the higher you get.
Prox: Information on upcoming projects and releases?
Steven: Temple Dragon Band NYC 420, Tompkins Square Park, April 20th, 2017 3-7 PM.
You can learn more about Steven and purchase his books, here.
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