Celebrity cannabis brands have become so common they comprise their own genre of the industry. However, that's not to say they're all worth smoking. Most of these brands aren't really brands at all, and simply slap a celebrity moniker on a jar of white label flower (weed that is bought from another brand or grow then rebranded and sold). These kinds of celebrity brands function more as a way to capitalize off mediocre bud using a celebrity's image than anything else.
Shavo Odadjian, bassist of the iconic 2000s metal band System Of A Down, had something else in mind when he founded his cannabis brand 22Red. With a hands-on, cannasseur approach to strain development and product execution, he's setting a precedent for quality in a market that desperately needs it.
Odadjian's journey with cannabis began before his years with System Of A Down, his late-90s/mid-2000s metal band that garnered three number one albums, a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2006, and 40 million albums sold worldwide.
His first experience with cannabis occured, fittingly, at a rock show. “When I first smoked I was at a Guns and Roses/Metallica concert at the Rose Bowl,” Odadjian told Weedmaps. “I had never gotten high before and all these people were smoking in front of me, so I jokingly said hey man pass it!"
He continued, “I was just joking and trying to be funny with the guys I was with because none of us had ever smoked, but then they passed it to me. So it was kind of like that moment of truth. I took the hit, and nothing really happened. I was totally cool. Then a year or two later I started playing with System and smoking a lot.”
Touring the world with System Of A Down, Odadjian met famed strain hunter Arjan Roskam, who inspired him to hone his impeccable taste and collect genetics from all over the world, ultimately leading to the philosophy behind 22Red's diverse array of strains.
“I was at this strain hunters thing doing a harvest tasting with them at a High Times event in Amsterdam,” he said. “So I actually got to smoke the White Widow with the creator of White Widow, Arjan Roskam, and those guys kind of took me under their wing. You know how there are wine connoisseurs? Well I was starting to become a weed connoisseur. Instead of getting a couple ounces from these guys, I asked for a little bit of every strain they had. So the connoisseurship started right there, and through that I had the idea for 22Red in 2017.”
22Red is now in three states — California, Nevada and Arizona — with lines of flower, prerolls, vapes, and concentrates (coming soon). Speaking from personal experience as a cannabis journalist who has tried like every weed brand ever, 22Red consistently has some of the best genetics and highest quality buds I've seen in any brand, celebrity or not.
“Through my years I've learned it's best to get involved in something you're naturally good at, then practice. Then you'll be really good at it,” laughed Odadjian. “So even starting from scratch, it was something I knew I was good at. I knew my taste buds. And now we're in three states and there's not one bad review.”
Shavo Odadjian's favorite weed
What does it take to turn Odadjian's head? “Each strain that we approve and start growing is something special. It has to be special or I'd rather not have it in our roster. If it's going to make our roster it needs to be something that is nowhere else. It should be smoked at certain times, or smoked a certain way, or offers a certain flavor. You know what I mean? It's got to be something I can talk about.”
Alongside 22Red, here are the weed brands Shavo Odadjian can't live without.
Originals Factory and Weed Shop
“Well I pretty much only smoke 22Red, but I really love Originals,” said Odadjian. “They have really good flower.” Originals Factory and Weed Shop is an East LA institution, part dispensary, part grow operation. “They actually grow some of our stuff out there,” he said.
Founded in 2006, the pre-ICO collective is family owned and operated, and the flower for their corresponding Originals line is grown onsite by a team with over 100 years of joint experience.
“I also like Jungle Boys,” said Odadjian. Jungle Boys is one of the biggest brands in the industry, a collective of cultivators who started a humble grow in 2006, and have ballooned to a powerhouse with dispensaries, merch, and of course, next level weed. “They're really dope,” he said. “Super fire.”
Nature's Lab Extracts
“For concentrates, I really love Nature's Lab. They have really incredible stuff.” Nature's Lab Extracts is a boutique extraction company who gained notoriety by pioneering their stellar “sauce,” an extract that is a 50/50 blend of THC-A crystals and terpenes known as “Half High” terpene full-spectrum extract. Founded by Marcus Moates and Ross Normal, they specialize in small batch extracts like sauce, shatter and crumble.
“Marcus is amazing,” said Odadjian. “He's actually helping consult for our 22Red concentrates. He also helped with our vape pens and tinctures, because when I find someone that's as good as he is, I'm gonna make that a team member 100%.”
Last but not least, 22Red of course. When asked about his favorite of 22Red's current product lineup, Odadjian had this to say: “I love our vapes because they're really natural, steam derived, convenient, and great for work. I especially love the sativa Kinetic vape for the daytime because it's like having a coffee.”
He continued, “I'm also ridiculously pleased with our CBD tinctures. We include 3000 milligrams of CBD instead of 1000 milligrams like most CBD tinctures, so they actually affect you. They're not a placebo like 95% of the tinctures out there right now. And they ship nationwide.”
“Then for flower, we've been utilizing something really, really incredible. It's called So Delicious. It comes from the Gelato family but it's not a common Gelato at all. It's a cut I found a long time ago that we've curated and made better throughout the years. It was one of our first that became one of our best. It's a 40/60 indica, so it keeps you there and doesn't make you fall asleep, but has a super relaxing body high. It's just delicious and beautiful. You can't look at it and say it's not beautiful. And when you taste it, it's just as delicious as it sounds.”
Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps