First you hear a cool bass line, and then a strangled voice: "Roll another blunt."
Then a litany ensues that goes something like this: I was going to go clean my room, but then I got high. I was gonna pay my child support, but then I got high. I messed up my entire life because I got high. Now I'm sleeping on the sidewalk and I know why: Because I got high.
Afroman, the author and raspy-voiced singer of the lyrics, is the new sultan of sensimilla, the don of dope, the mogul of marijuana. His novelty rap song, "Because I Got High," shot up the charts when it was released in early July and has been hanging on all summer long.
On its surface, the giggling, backhand homage to chronic serves as a cautionary tale against the seductive, destructive appeal of the devil weed. On the other hand, don't expect it to be anybody's first choice as a public service message for anti-drug campaigns. It's just too full of blunt-edged humor; you can even hear what sounds like someone taking a toke in the background.
"It's one of the biggest reaction songs I've heard in the last few years," DC 101's program manager, Buddy Rizer, says of the record, which has been one of the top five requested songs on the Washington station since it landed July 6. Rizer says he can't think of another song that had hit so high, so fast. At its peak, "Because I Got High" was being requested by up to 200 callers daily -- as much as two-thirds of requests.
And this week the song was the greatest gainer in airplay on the Billboard Top 100, moving from 67 to 33 in its second week on the chart. The song is also on the soundtrack to the movie "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," the first feature film starring the oddball anti-hero cult figures, which opens Friday.
Afroman, aka Joseph Foreman, a former church drummer originally from East Palmdale in Los Angeles and now of Hattiesburg, Miss., believes the semi-autobiographical song -- and its shocking success -- is mad funny.
"I made this song in my garage," said the 27-year-old. "I just thought only my friends would play it and appreciate it.
"In my realistic scenario, it would blow up in the Southern states and sell maybe 100,000 copies underground. Lo and behold!" he said, sounding amazed -- and quite pleased. "I keep thinking I'll wake up in prison and realize this is a movie or something."
If it were a movie, it would be weird enough to knock the bowler off Foreman's afro'd head. A 25-year-old musician, once bummed out on marijuana, works in airport security to pay the bills. He records an album that gets lost among gangsta rap's popularity. Broke and battered, he moves to Mississippi to be near his dad. There his music earns a small but enthusiastic club following until one cannabis-choked song becomes a sensation. He hits the big time when a major studio -- let's say, Universal Records -- picks up his song and offers him an album deal.
Forget it. If it were a movie it would be a stretch. No wonder Afroman's giddy. Who'd have thought the kid expelled from junior high would be getting national attention.
He's much in demand these days, being sought after for interviews by everyone from Howard Stern to Time magazine.
Afroman's not sweating his popularity, though. He's happy to groove as he has been since long before "Sell Your Dope," his 1999 self-produced, independent debut. His music, then as now, is a laid-back "musical gumbo" of old-school rap, with basement-production resonance and gleefully dirty lyrics.
Besides the soundtrack, "Because I Got High" is also on his cheerfully mellow and fluently explicit second album, "The Good Times," alongside such songs as "Let's All Get Drunk" and "Tumbleweed," another song about marijuana -- this one an outright tribute.
Foreman's new CD will carry the parental warning sticker when it's released Tuesday.
Yeah, he said, he'd let his two children, ages 8 and 4, listen to the "The Good Times" when they're a little older. "And I'd explain to [them] there's a time and a place for everything."
Not that drug songs or musical tributes to Mary Jane are new territory. Back in their day, David Peel and the Lower East Side made no bones about singing "I Like Marijuana." Contemporary rap group Cypress Hill has made an entire career out of singing the praises of the drug; "Excuse me while I light my spliff," sang Jamaican legend Bob Marley; and Wyclef Jean sang a love to Mrs. Marie on his "Ecleftic" album last year.
So does Foreman still smoke pot?
"Not if you've got things to do," he says, "and I got lots of things to do."
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8184.)