The Pot issue 2011
Morning's first light
From Kenya to the Katakombz, Phat Kat smokes beats like blunts
Published: November 2, 2011
Ronnie Watts is a rapper, not your average line cook lyricist — not even close. His fans know him as Phat Kat, and so do most of your favorite rappers. Soaring under the radar, Phat Kat has maintained a reputation for murdering microphones for more than a decade. He's Detroit through and through. Collaborations with the prodigious producer J Dilla and Slum Village embossed his name on the slate of rapper's rappers. His more current cuts — produced by Black Milk, Nick Speed, Jake One and, recently over beats by an 18-year-old kid from London called Agor — keep him incredibly close to the top of that list.
Sharing a track with Phat Kat is a hard task, and it's sometimes just not in the best interest of lesser emcees. He's got it like that. He doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke cigs. He can't be found popping bottles in a booth in the back of the club, after hours. His hustle is too tough. His mind is too sharp. Dude is up at the ass-crack of dawn every day, even on tour. Devoted to a disciplined regimen, Watts is a highly remarkable — and more often than not remarkably high — rapper
Heavily blunted. Stoned. Weeded. Faded.
Watts subscribes to a set of early-riser rituals. At 6:30 in the morning, the alarm clock wakes him. Soon after he washes up, a pungent and familiar fragrance permeates his apartment in downtown Detroit.
The source of the earthy-sweet aroma is an open glass jar, like a bulk-sized pickle jar but with a lid that buckles to the side, like the Grolsch beer bottle. And much like the taste and smell of any green-bottled Dutch pilsner, the smell from his jar has a skunky waft.
Before long, his fingers are busy breaking up buds of top-grade marijuana, which Watts has plenty of. His fingers are sticky.
Listening to instrumental hip-hop beats with a pack of RAW brand double-wide rolling papers at the ready, Watts reverts to muscle memory and twists up a joint, lickity-split, the first spliff of the day is sparked.
Then it's off to the gym, and it's not even 7 in the morning.
Yes, you could say Ronnie Watts is a seasoned herbologist: a connoisseur of the chronic. But he's most definitely not your average stoner.
"Ritualistic is one way to put it," says Watts. "I've always gotten up early. And I've been enjoying a little weed in the morning for a minute. But a couple years ago, I shot a video, and when I saw myself, I was like, 'Damn, man, you gotta get your ass in that gym.' It got folded into the routine."
Regular weed smokers are split on the pre-workout puff. Some get paranoid, thinking that everyone in the gym probably knows they're stoned and thinks they look weird on the elliptical. Others say they get freaked out once their heart starts beating very hard, because you can really feel the sonic resonance of its pounding in your chest. Then there are those who say that with an increased heart rate and more intense breathing rhythm, the high is multiplied or takes on a different nuance altogether.
When Watts is back home from the gym, showered and whatnot, it's time for the morning's second smoke session.
"That's right around 9:30," he says. "Between then and noon, I get pretty much all the day's business taken care of: calls, e-mails, all that. The rest of the day is all mine. When I finish the last bit of business, yeah, it might be time to roll something up."
Pot has a rich history as being used as a social sacrament. Long before "Phat Kat," when Ronnie was around 15, he and a handful of cousins packed into an uncle's van. His uncle sat in the front and put a flame to a blunt and it was passed around.
"When it came to me, I hit it. I didn't mind it. But I didn't really get it. It made me laugh a lot, so that was fun. But it wasn't till a few years later that it really hit me, like, damn — I am in love with Mary Jane."
Watts says he must have been about 18 years old when it became apparent that he was to be a devoted consumer of the sweet green leaf.
"I was sitting up in bed, listening to either EPMD or Big Daddy Kane. I had a record cover on my lap and used it to break up and sort out the weed. Probably had some Zig-Zags. I had this joint, started smoking it and was really listening to this music — like, really listening to it — listening to every little part. Focusing in on them one at a time. I went deep into the music, smoking that joint. It hit me. I was all about it."
And the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
"The weed's gotten a whole lot better since then, but I'm still that guy who's smoking with friends and there's music on in the background and I hear something, or at least I think I hear something, and it gets me, and then I want to rewind it and see if it's something only I heard or if everyone can hear it. Did ya'll hear that sound right there? Right there! Hear that? Yeah, man. That shit's crazy right there."
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