Those lyrics above were once spit by Redman in his song ‘Whateva Man”. They referred to Branson, the Harlemite pictured above. Moreso, they referred to the size of weed sacks that he allegedly sold. Also known as Branson B, Branson is credited as the man who allegedly ran a robust Cannabis trade in Harlem, a business so successful that his very name “Branson’s” became to uptown weed what McDonalds is to hamburgers. Like Micky D’s, Branson’s was the name to trust when it was time to burn.
I’d first heard about Branson’s on one of Redman’s earlier records. I think the first time I actually partook in some Branson’s was up up at Grant’s Tomb, a public memorial and park in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan that hosted a weekly African themed gathering that many young Hip Hop cats like myself would attend without fail. If my memory serves me correct, Alamo, the Brand Nubian dj had a fonta rolled up and our group formed a smoke cipher. During the better half of the ’90’s, Branson’s was another brand that fit right along the others, Versace, Cristal, Rolex, Girbaud, you already know. It soon became a requirement, a badge of rapper street cred, for lyricists to name drop. The G.O.A.T. himself, Notorious B.I.G. blessed his rhymes with tales of copping some Branson’s before scooping up some honeys, or before he and the crew went to war with them rival crews. It’s been a while though, since I’ve heard Branson’s mentioned. I even remember someone asking someone post 9/11 if Branson’s was still in business or, like other historic Harlem landmarks, had fallen victim to gentrification. “I think they’re still around” the other replied, “or at least, that’s what I heard.”
Fab Five Freddy just hipped me to this recent Forbes magazine article entitled ‘Hip Hop’s Unofficial Sommelier‘, in which nothing is mentioned of Branson’s alleged former trade, but a great deal of how he has become Harlem’s official Sommelier – a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, commonly working in fine restaurants, who specializes in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching.
The piece describes how Branson was “the man who introduced Cristal, Dom Perignon and a number of other pricey brands to his friends Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace and Sean “Diddy” Combs in the late 1980s. Within a few years, that suggestion sprouted into hip-hop’s full-fledged obsession with champagne. Branson is widely credited with starting the craze, and his name has been mentioned in more than 60 songs over the past two decades.” And how, after he traveled in 2004 to France’s Champagne region to hand pick his own grapes, decided to take his brand to the next level by launching his own champagne ‘Guy Charlemagne Selected By Branson B’ in 2005. The product was so dope that it “earned high marks from Wine Spectator, which gave the blanc de blancs a coveted 91 rating, praising its “subtle length on the finish” and its “fine balance and intensity.”
Rappers haven’t yet name dropped Branson’s new blend. It’d be a shame if they didn’t. I’ma have to cop me a bottle, just to sample dude’s elixir. I tend to prefer Veuve Clicquot myself, but if Guy Charlemagne Selected By Branson B. is all that, like how Wine Spectator is claiming, I’ll lead the charge in giving the brother good publicity.