Riding along with Berner automatically makes you a Bay Area favorite, but Stinje actually hails from Russia. Moving to America at the age of 7 and growing up in the Bay Area, it was at age 16 when he fell in love with music. Specifically, producing and making beats. Read more…
While many may know him to be Berner’s right-hand man in both music and their booming Cookies dispensaries and clothing lines, the West Coast rapper actually has bars. Most recently, he unleashed his Wild Life project, giving fans a taste of the heat to come. From promoting nightclubs in Hollywood to opening for Berner at his Cookies Christmas party, Stinje describes music as his biggest passion.
Why should people fuck w/ you?
I keep it real, I’m relatable. I know a lot of other rappers talk about shit and overexaggerate. Not everything is true, but every lyric I say is pretty true to a certain extent. It’s okay to exaggerate a little bit, but everything’s authentic. I have a song where I talk about “fuck the meter maids.” It’s kind of comical, I don’t take myself too serious.
What are meter maids?
You know the people that give you parking tickets?
Omg, fuck them!
Exactly, that’s relatable. Everyone hates meter maids. I got my car towed when I was club promoting. The streets signs are confusing. “No parking midnight Sunday.” You’re like “wait, is it Saturday or Sunday?” They towed me.
I feel like Berner is slept-on.
Berner has a cult following. A lot of fans, he’s got 1.1M followers on Instagram. People who know him really fuck with him. A lot of people may not know him because he doesn’t get ton of radio play, but he doesn’t really want that. He doesn’t wanna be that guy who has a hit single, then you don’t hear from him again. 35 albums and he keeps putting music out. His die hard fans love it. Whenever he has shows, people come. We do nationwide tours. Go to a place like Salt Lake city, it’ll be a sold-out crowd. 4,000 people will show up. New York, Boston, Houston, everywhere!
I went to the Cookies Christmas show in SF. Talk about opening for Berner.
The way it started with me rapping, we went to Canada and none of the other openers were able to get across the border. Kool John lost his passport, other artists had priors. Canada will not fuck with you if you have anything on your record, they won’t let you in. Berner’s like “bro I dont wanna just go on there, I need someone to open for me.” I only had one song out called “Kinda Famous.” At Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver, I went out there and the crowd actually responded really well to me.
From then on, I booked a few shows on my own. Did the Blunt World Festival in Tracy a couple times. Then Bern was trying to sell tickets for the Cookie Christmas party, it wasn’t sold out yet. He’s like “should I let you perform? If you could sell 300 tickets, I’ll let you perform.” Sold the right amount of tickets and he let me perform. It’s been amazing. I proved myself. Did the show, didn’t rap over my lyrics.
A lot of rappers don’t do that! Rapped just the beat and me on the mic. It was one of my first shows, I killed it. I came out, threw a bunch of weed out in the crowd, got the people hyped. It was a quick 10 minute set.
That was the first time you performed?
No the first time was in Canada, but the first time in front of a big crowd like that. At least 2,000 people.
I remember you ripped your shirt! How were you feeling?
You saw that! That was my wild animal, the wildlife. I eat the blueberries then rip the shirt off. Berner actually got mad at me. When we were leaving, he said “why would you rip your shirt off in front of an audience which is mostly all men?” I thought about it, he’s like “you shouldn’t do that.” I’m like “ah, maybe you’re right.”
That’s so funny Berner said that.
So I stopped ripping the shirt off. He’s just hating.
Is he hating or supporting you?
He’s my best friend. We’re like brothers, so he’ll hate on me like a brother would. He’ll tease me, but he’s a big supporter.
How much is Berner smoking a day?
Bern smokes a good amount. He’s definitely a pothead. He has to smoke all day, but he doesn’t smoke super crazy. He’ll take a joint, smoke half of it, put it out. He’s like a weed snob, so he’ll roll up some other strain, take a couple puffs, put it out. But he ends up having so much weed in his house, he’s a weed hoarder. It ends up accumulating. He forgets about it, it starts to rot.
You don’t smoke that much, what’s it like being around that lifestyle?
I used to be a pothead, started smoking weed when I was 12. By the time I was 21, I decided to cut back. Now I’ll smoke every once in a while. I don’t smoke everyday. On special occasions I’ll smoke, but won’t smoke all that much. I smoked when we were at Logic’s house just yesterday actually.
What inspired your new album Wild Life?
I love animals. We’re all that squirrel trying to get a nut. I relate to animals. I like looking at animals on TV. I live in the inner city streets, you see raccoons, squirrels, pigeons, etc. I don’t know why, but I trip out on animals. It’s probably the best album cover ever, shout out to Photo Doctors. Shemp does all of Berner’s artwork, done a bunch of Mac Dre covers. He’s a legend in the Bay.
Do you feel pressure to be crazy all the time?
People expect me to act a certain way when they meet me. Because Bern always trolls me on his IG, I get recognized quite a bit. Sometimes people will try to troll me too. It can be off-putting because you don’t know me like that. Don’t talk to me like you know me. [laughs] It’s never really bad, people are always super supportive. They’ll ask where’s the OG at. I say in my song “if you see me in traffic, you better holla at me. I got the Stinje OG giveaway for free.” Generally when I have some, I’ll give free weed to people.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I love making music. I don’t even care about this being necessarily a career because I have so many other ways to make money, like through the weed industry. I don’t depend on it. I make money here and there. I do music production. I get placements on TV shows, done beats for Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Dish Nation.
That’s a nice check!
It’s actually not bad, just a nice passive income. This, sometimes people will buy beats, will pay for a feature. It’s nice when you get it. It’s a blessing but I’m not gonna rely on it. I’ll work with anybody if they’re talented. This chick hit me up, I thought she was a pretty dope artist. She wanted to collaborate so I did a verse for her. Just did it on the strength. I do it for the passion of the music. That’s when I’m happiest, when I can work on something.
You troll a lot. How do you get people to take you seriously?
That’s the thing, people don’t know what’s true and what’s not true. They’re not sure if I really had an album out. With social media, people believe anything. I was assuming that people know I’m joking, but sometimes people don’t know if I’m serious or joking. I’ve toned down on the trolling to be honest. I do funny little things here and there, but I don’t troll that much. People in my circle started trolling way too much. It got annoying, they started trolling me. I felt like I started it and had to set an example. Trying to keep it as real as possible, but the trolling is definitely getting out of hand. Everyone’s clout-chasing, it’s unfortunate.
What can we expect next music wise?
I’m working on a second project, this one’s a little more serious. Doing less joking.
Is there a name?
The first one’s Wild Life, so I’m thinking Life is Wild as a sophomore album. I wanted to actually talk more because my childhood was very difficult. I was born in Russia. The reason I came to America was because of what happened in Chernobyl, there was a power plant meltdown back in Ukraine. There’s actually a show on HBO about it called Chernobyl, I was just watching episode 2. The power plant exploded, I lived maybe 150 miles away from there. A lot of radiation came over to our city.
As a kid, I was very sick. Swollen lymph nodes, I had to live in the hospital. The doctor told my parents I was going to die if we didn’t move away. My parents had to pack everything up. My dad had a good life in Russia, he was a singer, did concerts, went on tour. We had to come to America. Here, he was just a taxi driver. As a kid, I was getting into trouble so he’d always make me feel bad. “Look I sacrificed my life to save you and you’re over here acting like an asshole.” I’d smoke weed, get into trouble, I was a bad kid. I was in a gang. I got jumped in a gang in San Francisco. Used to do all kinds of crazy shit, he sacrificed a lot for me.
Why didn’t your dad sing in the States?
When he came to America, he tried to do music. Was an opera singer for a little bit, he had a really great voice. He was a tenor in the opera. It just didn’t work out. You can’t make money here like you did in Russia. He ended up being a cab driver. Whenever I get to hit the stage — Berner knows I like to perform as a tribute to my dad. That’s why he lets me get up there and do my thing. Now, I try to carry on his legacy.
Talk about working on Berner’s projects.
I produced some of Berner’s biggest records I’ve done “Paradise” with Wiz Khalifa, Berner’s biggest song back in 2013. El Chivo album just came out, did some production on that. Did the song “Patient.” Helped out with The Jacka song on there. I was there when they did the “El Chivo” song with the band.
What was your reaction when The Jacka passed away?
It was crazy. I remember we were at Wiz’s house on New Years when it happened. We had got the news he got shot but didn’t know he had passed yet. We were hoping for the best. It was very sad. Jack was a cool ass dude.
“Glamorous Lifestyle” was my shit.
The funny thing is Berner was originally supposed to use that beat, it was a Traxamillion beat. But Berner didn’t feel like he could rap to it, so he passed and Jack ended up getting it. The very first song Berner and Jack did together was actually at my parents’ house, at my little studio. Was featured on Drought Season, the first collaborative album they did. The Berner and Jacka Project, I was the project manager of that whole album.
You’re on the business side.
Always done the backend things, yeah. Every album Bern puts out, I have some production on it. He has his other favorite producers (COZMO) but I’m always in there. Always submit my beats when I can, he fucks with me. We did a song together with Dirt Nasty, Berner and Freeman Claridge, it’s on Youtube. But he hasn’t featured me as a rapper on his album. Maybe because my genre is a little more joking around, he’s a little more serious.
That’s good you can admit that.
But maybe with the second project, he’ll see I’m a little more serious and consider me.
How much of a spike did ya’ll got when weed got legalized?
To be honest, it made things a lot harder. We were able to survive that, but a lot of people are having trouble because they make it so much harder. In order to get weed from the grow into the stores, there’s just so many more steps now. It’s a very big headache. We opened stores, we’re doing fine, but it’s not easy.
There’s so many now!
A lot of companies haven’t been able to go compliant. You need a compliant grow, test your weed, get the manifest, pay for packaging. There’s so much that goes into it. By the time it gets to the store, the margins aren’t even that great anymore. The excise tax, the government state’s charging so much money. You’ll go buy something for $20, they’ll be an extra $10 tax on top of that. We have to keep our prices low so it’s not that expensive for the consumer.
They’re starting to get it, working it out. We’re expanding Cookies like crazy. We have two stores in LA. Working on opening Cookies stores all around the country, even Canada, Amsterdam, and Spain. Our goal is for quality product to be out there. As Cookies, we focus on those finicky plants. With legalization, most dispensaries want to grow weed that yield a lot and will test high for THC. We went to Seattle, these guys are growing Green Crack and Blue Dream because each plant will produce hella pounds.
Some of these finicky strains are harder to grow and don’t produce as much flower. We as Cookies are taking the risk and doing the extra to make sure people smoke only the best, not just bullshit. We don’t want the weed in the street to turn into fucking Starbucks and super commercial where everything’s the same.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
In Sacramento, I was doing merch and a fan asked me to sign his forehead. That was fun. I’m like “hell yeah.” Fans will give me free weed, presents. Not that I need it, but it’s a nice gesture. It’s always dudes, I don’t know what it is. I’m getting of Berner fans I inherit, and very rarely is it girls. I wish it was more girls. My next album I gotta do a music video with my shirt off or something, get real sexual.
Who are you listening to?
I like to listen to everything. I like looking at the producer and the beat. As a producer, I’ve always thought the beat’s more important than the artist itself. I like Ronny J. He fucks with Lil Pump, he has big records. His sound is what rap’s going toward. We’ve had the very trap sound, we’re growing out of that. I listen to classic rap like Nas, Tupac. A lot of old school Bay Area shit like Jacka, E-40, B-Legit, even Messy Marv and San Quinn. I grew up on Cash Money, always bump the old Cash Money albums. Super influenced by Mannie Fresh. I like Lex Luger, he almost started the trap shit. Out of the new artists, I liked SchoolBoy Q’s new album.
Crash Talk is fire, what’s your favorite song?
I actually like “Tales.” “Floating” is a good turn up song.
3 things you need in the studio?
1) Good energy, creative people. I love vibing with other creative people. 2) Dope sounds. If I’m making a beat, I want dope samples. I’m a sample type producer. I’ll listen to old music to get motivated. I’ll sample them, flip them. I need my samples, it might almost be a cheat good. 3) Some girls shaking their butts in the studio, that’s always good motivation too.