The crazy thing about longtime artist manager and WeWorking founder Steve Lobel is that he isn’t crazy — he’s a maniac.
Rising to acclaim alongside hip-hop greats in Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Scott Storch, Jam Master Jay, Run DMC, Fat Joe, the late-Nipsey Hussle and many more, Lobel’s manic work ethic speaks for itself over the course of his 30-plus years in the industry.
“I’m a maniac in a good way,” he chuckled. “[Nipsey and I] were on tour once with Jay Rock and K-Dot [Kendrick Lamar]. It was a 49-city tour and Nip kept telling me he wanted to go home halfway through it. I told him ‘you start something, you finish it’ and he turned to me and said ‘man, you’re a f**king maniac’ and the name stuck from there.”
Growing up in the storied hip-hop city of New York, the Queens native was an entrepreneur before anything else. From raking leaves and shoveling snow to delivering newspapers and bussing tables, Lobel continuously finds success fueled by the flames of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. With years of business and management experience under his belt, his latest venture is a one-stop shop for the culture — combining a dispensary, cultivation, recording studio and hip-hop museum all into one.
“We feel like music and cannabis go together,” he said. “Instead of just making a full-blown dispensary, we felt like we could do something different to change the game. One thing about my career is that I like to do things differently — that people talk about that’s innovative and creative that could last forever.”
While hip-hop and herbs have been a duo long cherished within the culture, Lemonnade powered by WeedWorking in Van Nuys, California has become a hotspot and a home base for Lobel’s game-changing venture. For someone that doesn’t partake in the products he peddles, Lemonnade is more than just another California-based cultivation center — it’s a haven for hip-hop legacies both old and new.
“The way we wanted to structure the business was to have special meet and greets [with artists],” he elaborated. “We’ve had Dave East, Benny The Butcher, OhGeesy, DMC, Krayzie Bone, Conway The Machine and more come through. We’re just doing something unique and different to say that we were the first ever to do it — to change the game of cannabis experiences. Seeing both new artists and legacy artists that want to pull up and check out the museum has been amazing to see. All walks of life come through. [The business] was built on experiences. A lot of people don’t understand what a grow looks like, and a lot of people have never been inside of a recording studio.”
In his mission to create something completely “unique” for hip-hop fans and cannabis users, the business’ museum aspect is quite the conversation point. Collecting a plethora of promotional items over the course of his career — along with artists stopping by to donate items of their own — Lobel conjured fragments of hip-hop history through his own experiences all on the fly, saying he “freestyled” the museum as it came to fruition.
The museum is complemented by a real, functional recording studio complete with an engineer, live instruments, and all the equipment needed to make music on the spot. The studio boasts a raised DJ stage for live events and meet-and-greets, as the space is able to be rented out for anyone who is interested. Lobel even revealed that Lil’ Cease, Layzie Bone and the legendary Snow have recorded a few tracks in the Lemonnade booth.
“I’ve never put a museum together. Back then, people thought I was a hoarder or something, but I always envisioned having something like this [a museum]. You just gotta come and see it for yourself.”
Opening in April of this year, the museum is quintessentially Lobel — divulging that “everything in the museum is a little bit of me.” Showcasing items like Eazy E’s iconic NWA jacket, DMX’s Ruff Ryders hat, Nipsey Hussle’s first-ever shoe with Pony and much more, every piece of history is connected to a QR Code that tells the backstory behind the display.
While innovative in concept, this isn’t Lobel’s first stint working around cannabis. As a key player in the partnership group that opened the first-ever flagship Cookies store in Maywood, California — which started Cookies’ cannabis empire — Lobel and legendary producer Scott Storch also teamed up to open The Heavenly Center — a treatment center in Studio City, California that specializes in drug and alcohol abuse recovery through cannabis. Heading up a program called “Cali Clean,” Lobel and Storch use music as a therapeutic tool in effort to help those struggling with addiction.
“Music is therapy, music is everything. I come from all types of genres. I love Van Halen, Frank Sinatra, Luther Vandross… I love Run DMC’s ‘Raising Hell,‘ Jay-Z, Megan Thee Stallion, Roddy Ricch, Russ… just all types of music. Music inspires me in every facet of my life.”
As Lobel continues to make his mark within the cannabis industry, he also strives to bolster his efforts as “the middleman” or “plug” for years to come. With plans to create a WeWorking line of cannabis strains, the industry veteran is not afraid to take up new talents amid the rapid growth of his business. With dispensaries in California, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Colorado, Puerto Rico and many more to come, Lobel also looks to feature more cultivation processes within his business model — touting a fully functional 10-acre grow lot in Santa Barbara.
“We’re just growing and growing,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot in this process. I don’t smoke, but I’m going to be coming out with my own strains soon, and my first one’s going to launch sometime next year. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I’m trying to lock down different states with different dispensaries. I’m the middleman, I’m the connector, the plug — which is more valuable than anything.”
With over three decades worth of game, Lobel is not only a man of his word, but a man of integrity — unforgetting of his roots, down to earth at his core and stays humble throughout it all. Striving to leave a legacy making hip-hop’s rich history accessible for our generation, his life’s work isn’t about making money or becoming more famous, it’s about the experiences he displays for those in pursuit of their own dreams.
“Live for something, build a legacy and keep your word,” he said. “Have some type of integrity, morals, principles, loyalty and just do it for fun. Sometimes, you make bad decisions or the right decisions, but as long as you learn from those decisions — and learn from experience — the sky’s the limit for you.”