“I didn’t want to just sell accessories, I wanted to figure out how to make that tie into the community.”
This is hardly the first time that Marquis Neal has appeared in these pages. A respected man about the Greater Boston hip-hop scene for years, he’s managed major Boston talent including top MC Dutch ReBelle, and also put in work as a producer and promoter with the Boston-based company New Era of New England, or N.E.O.N.E. (pronounced “anyone”), which cut its teeth hosting the popular party and showcase the Pull Up.
Neal is still highly visible in the music world, local and beyond, and indeed he has to be, since that’s his major inroad toward success in his latest venture, Lifted Smoking Goods. Damn near everyone on planet hip-hop (like most other genres, save for Christian rock) needs a never ending supply of materials to smoke with, and that’s where he’s maneuvering.
We met up with Neal at the recent BCW press kickoff event to ask the scholarship recipient about his current paper chase.
What is the mission right now?
Honestly, I started Lifted Smoking Goods because I feel like New England is a place that champions its own, and if I can provide something of quality, they will champion me—the same way they do their sports teams, the same way they do anything else. But I wanted to make sure I did it the right way.
And what’s the right way?
I feel like our purpose is to help people. I’ve known that for a while, but it’s something that we’re really starting to lean into.
This is a major undertaking, manufacturing something like rolling papers and everything else you’re getting into. How did it start?
I wanted to start a brand, a business, a clothing brand, something like that. And it started with clothing, but I realized that I don’t love clothing as much as other people do.
And that’s how much you love weed?
I was gonna get to that. I went to California, and Nipsey Hussle had just passed. I went to his vigil and it affected me. I had met him a couple of times and even hosted a show with him. So I rolled around California while I was out there, I was inspired, going to the Cookies store and other spots, and I realized how much I love weed. I really, really like cannabis, and I don’t really like fashion.
Cannabis had been legal in Massachusetts for years at that point but we still didn’t have too many legal dispensaries. Unlike Cali, where there are five on the same street. So I came back and was like, I’m gonna do it, I’m going to open a dispensary, but I realized very fast why they hadn’t opened yet. And then I realized, in a gold rush, you sell pitchforks.
And where’d it go from there?
I didn’t want to just sell accessories, I wanted to figure out how to make that tie into the community, and the easiest way was to donate a portion of the profits back into the community, and to have it be a part of Dorchester, where I’m from.
I was also in the EforAll accelerator in Lynn, shout out to everyone there. If you’re a business, they can definitely help you figure out where you are and where you need to go. That’s why I applied, because we had been focused on curating and throwing events before the pandemic hit, and we couldn’t do events, so I had to really figure out where I was going to go with my business. They fought me on becoming more of a product-based business, and look at where we are now.
Where can people get the products?
What’s the most popular product so far? We’ve been seeing the cones around at cannabis events.
There’s no flagship, but the tray is the baby (it lights up).
Do you promise not to sell Lifted to a multimillion-dollar company tomorrow?
For the right percentage, but no, ha, I’m not looking to sell.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.