There’s no longer a reasonable doubt that Jay-Z is now a player in the cannabis industry.
The company’s flagship product is the “OG Handroll,” a 1.5-gram joint rolled by “highly trained artisans,” the company says, that use a technique Monogram developed over a year. The joint is made with small-batch flower and is supposed to burn like a premium cigar. And it retails for nearly twice as much at $50.
Monogram’s cannabis strains—named No. 88, No. 96, No. 70 and No. 01 and developed by veteran grower DeAndre “De” Watson —come in three strengths: “light,” “medium” and “heavy.”
Michael Auerbach, the founder and chairman of Subversive Capital Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that announced a deal to acquire Jay-Z’s Monogram and California cannabis company Caliva last month, says Jay-Z is not just a front man for the brand.
“He’s a real executive, he’s not some ancillary ambassador who says something nice about us once a year,” says Auerbach. “He’s the tip of our spear who’s building out our house of brands, like he has done with Aces of Spades and D’Ussé.”
In 2019, Jay joined Caliva as its chief brand strategist, where he developed Monogram. In November 2020, Auerbach’s SPAC announced a deal to acquire Caliva and Monogram, which was a joint venture between Jay-Z and Caliva, and Left Coast Ventures, which owns musician cannabis brands like Marley Natural and Carlos Santana’s Mirayo. The new name for Auerbach’s company is “The Parent Co.” It raised $575 million when it went public on Canada’s microcap stock exchange NEO last summer.
The name “The Parent Co.,” which Jay came up with, might sound like a joke, but Auerbach says its serious.
“We are looking at building the first 100-year company in cannabis, and he was looking at it in the same way,” says Auerbach. “What does the first 100-year company in this industry look like? How do we create a generational company that will dominate the industry globally? And ‘The Parent Co.’ is a meta name that represents what we’re trying to do.”
The all-stock deal to acquire Jay-Z’s 50% of Monogram has not closed yet, but he is supposed to receive 5 million shares in The Parent Co. and the right to 1 million more. The Parent Co. also struck an exclusive agreement with Jay’s Roc Nation to become its cannabis brand partner. The deal, which will pay Roc Nation $25 million in stock after the transaction closes and $7.5 million each year, gives The Parent Co. access and rights to Roc Nation’s roster of artists and athletes.
Auerbach says the “pipeline of artists and athletes” under Roc Nation, including Rihanna, will play a crucial role in the development of future brands.
In addition to developing brands and business strategy, Jay will also lead the company’s social justice program. The venture fund has been seeded $10 million and the company will give 2% of its net income each year in order to invest in Black and other minority-owned cannabis business.
To be sure, this is only Jay-Z’s latest business venture. In 2019, he became the first hip-hop artist turned billionaire. Jay-Z, who grew up in the Marcy housing projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, built a fortune thanks to his music catalog—he’s amassed 14 No. 1 albums and 22 Grammy awards—and also owns Armand de Brignac champagne and part of D’Ussé cognac, not to mention his music streaming platform Tidal, Roc Nation and sizable stakes in companies like Uber and Robinhood.
Warren Buffett once said about Jay: “For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from.”
Auerbach describes Jay succinctly: “He’s a hands-on creative genius.”
For The Parent Co., Monogram is just the first brand out of Jay-Z’s head and there’s more to come. In the world of celebrity-built brands, Auerbach says the strategy around Monogram is more Casamigos—George Clooney’s tequila company that Diageo bought for $1 billion—and less Martha Stewart CBD.
“My preference is for celebrities to associate with brands instead of name brands after themselves. There’s no way I’d drink it if it were called ‘Casa Clooney’—people would think it’s crap, people would think it’s a gimmick,” says Auerbach. “Many people don’t know Ace of Spades is Jay-Z’s champagne company, but it’s the fastest-growing champagne company.”
As for what Jay-Z thinks about it all, in a statement, he said Monogram is here to celebrate craft cannabis.
“Cannabis has been around for thousands of years, yet it is still an industry whose legacy of skilled craftmanship is often overlooked,” said Jay. “I created Monogram to give cannabis the respect it deserves by showcasing the tremendous hard work, time and care that go into crafting a superior smoke. . . . We’re just getting started.”