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My experiences with cannabis started in college. I had been exposed to it earlier because there was growing, smoking, and selling around me, but I was removed from it. I just knew it was happening. I only started smoking when I moved to Charlotte. That’s where I was exposed to it as a fun, “I’m going to a Lil Wayne concert”-experience.

I really believe cannabis changes you. It enhances you, or shows you you.

But it really became medicinal for me. To be transparent, at the time I was taking anxiety and ADD medication. I didn’t like medicine. I’ve always been kind of anti-pharmaceutical, but when I started smoking, I was like, Well, this is nice. It never put me down. So it became my anxiety medication, really. And the more familiar I got with the plant, the more my relationship with it grew. It became recreational, and a creative, productive part of my day. I really believe cannabis changes you. It enhances you, or shows you you.

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I’ve moved around a lot, but I’m originally from Virginia. A town called Newport News, also known as “Bad News.” Allen Iverson and Michael Vick are from there, and across the river were Pharrell and Missy. I was there until I left for college at 17, and then I bounced around a lot and eventually landed here.

I always knew I wanted to leave Virginia. Virginia’s beautiful, but I always felt like, Well, what am I going to do here? There are only four paths of life here, and I believe there’s more out there. My dad moved around a lot and I was always inspired by that. He left home early and I wanted to do the same thing.

After college, I was a nomad for about three years.

I went to Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. I was not in the Culinary Program, though. I was around it and immersed in it, but I was there for business. It was an opportunity that allowed me to leave home, so I jumped on it. I got a scholarship and I left.

After college, I was a nomad for about three years. I moved all over the place. I was working as a brand ambassador on different campaigns for Coke, Nike, Reebok—you name it. Once I found out I could travel with it, that was a wrap. I was like, People are going on tour to do this? To talk to people? I started working gigs all over the country. Concerts, conferences, different activations for different brands. I loved all of them. That’s why I do what I do now.

Moving to Brooklyn was completely random. I came to do a gig for three days and then I just didn’t leave.

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Moving to Brooklyn was completely random. I came to do a gig for three days, got booked for three more weeks, and then I just didn’t leave. Shortly after that, I got hooked up with a job that turned into a two-year contract to do athletic programming in New York for The North Face. So I never left.

I co-founded Rage and Release, a conscious lifestyle community, four years ago. Thai, the creator, and I curate experiences focused on fitness and wellness and feeding the mind, body, and spirit. So, that might look like our running community, or our Da Bang Bang food programming, which I’m really happy we have. Everything is really rooted in wellness and movement.

We met while I was working at Red Bull and doing these fitness and sports projects—mainly around basketball. The first time we hung out he told me about Rage and Release. He whipped out his notebook and told me all his ideas about what he wanted to do. They were big ideas, and we had a lot of synergy in the way we wanted to see things, not only in New York, but just period.

There’s a moment in every experience for the plant to be present.

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Thai is the visionary, creative and conceptual force behind Rage and Release, and I’m an integrator, system builder, community builder, and activator. I’m really big on production and execution. Together, we’re a dynamic duo.

Our running community meets twice a week. We have people from all over the city and all walks of life. We’ve had people in their late 50s pull up. It’s a very beautiful, diverse community. Mostly women, but a lot of strong men, too. If you took a picture, we look like New York—we’re such a melting pot. But we are united in the fact that we are using our bodies to run.

People smoke before our runs. We actually have a pre-run cypher every workout, even our Thursday workouts which are more focused on strength and mobility. Honestly, there’s a moment in every experience for the plant to be present. So whether it’s pre-run cyphers or a smoke break or just a shared moment, it’s kind of like communion for us, really. It’s always there. It’s naturally threaded through everything that we do. And I feel like that’s how it also is in our lives. It’s an active piece of my day to day, our day to day, and our programming.

Outside of cannabis, it was food that really helped us become more bonded as friends and business partners.

A big part of my friendship with Thai is really rooted in food. Outside of cannabis, it was food that really helped us become more bonded as friends and business partners. We were always eating. And not just eating, but having our own bang bangs, going to eat this and then going to eat that. That’s what it is: enjoying different cuisines in one sitting. We did a lot of that naturally.

One day, we were like, “What if we just did this ourselves?” Thai was like, “Kenny, you know all these people. You know the game. We love food. We have so many creative ideas as vegetarians that we don’t see.” To be honest, I find vegetarian food boring most of the time, which was always very frustrating for me. So we were like, “What if we create what we want to see?”

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Da Bang Bang is a vegetarian experience where we take two local chefs and pair them together. For our first one, we paired a Dominican-Mexican type of cuisine with a Ghanaian woman who works with plantains in such innovative ways. So these two minds came together and we hosted a four-course meal in our home. That’s how it started. Every single experience is set up like that, though not in our home anymore, thank goodness.

It’s always plant-based spins on either traditional dishes or ingredients that are really key in those cultures and then the chefs take them and present them in their way. It’s a showcase, really, and a storytelling moment for these chefs to introduce themselves to a new community of people.

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I’m not vegan; I’m flexitarian, and that’s because of all the work we do with chefs. I always eat whatever they’re creating. I don’t want to put them in a box. Like, if you’re really good at making Kobe beef, I’m going to try your beef. I’m not a stickler about that stuff.

For me, it’s more about eating to heal and fuel my body, and if that means I have fish one day, then it’s cool. I primarily eat plant-based, nine times out of 10. But every once in a while I’ll have a pescatarian menu. I feel when I do those things, that there is some consciousness to it. I know the source of where the meat is coming from. I know exactly who purveyed it, whose hands are making it, how they prepared it. So I’m looking at it as more of an art versus, Oh, I’m about to eat this cow.

I will say, I try not to eat pork too much or lamb. Last time I had lamb, I felt sick. So moderation is also key. If I go to a tasting and it’s a little beef, it’s not going to affect me. But if you’re trying to give me like 12 courses of meat, it’s not going to look good. I might feel it the next day or that night.

Threaded organically, cannabis can enhance your experience and just awaken your senses, but it should never take over the food.

We work really closely with the chefs to create the menus and we challenge them to think out of the box. Most of them are not vegetarian chefs. We talk to them about different textures and things that we’re looking to bring out of it. Instead of it being like Top Chef where they’re going head to head, it’s a beautiful, natural fusion where you end up seeing natural threads between the food. It’s matchmaking, almost.

Last year, our 4/20 experience was semi-infused. We had an infused polenta, which was amazing. Proud of that one. That’s one of my career achievements. But we don’t typically infuse the food because it is so overpowering. The food should be the focal point at the table. You want to enjoy it. Threaded organically, cannabis can enhance your experience and just awaken your senses, but it should never take over the food. Maybe it can help you finish all the food, though, because we serve a lot.

A lot of people don’t know how to work with infusions. It becomes overly dosed or they don’t actually do the process correctly so you’re not getting anything. But we do offer an infused avocado oil that is really good. If our chefs are interested, we work with them on how to use it. There’s a science to cannabis, so we try to keep that part very simple and just focus on the food.

The pandemic was kind to us, in a way, and a time for us to really rise up and offer more of what we do, but a little bolder.

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The pandemic was an oddly precious time for us, in that a lot of the stuff that we do became even more relevant. Wellness became more top of mind. People were looking to be outside. Even though there were restrictions around gatherings, we did it safely and we made a space where people could connect with other people and do so in a way that was going to take care of them and their health, not only physically, but also mentally. So that was huge. Our community grew organically during that time. And then introducing the food during that time was a little unconventional, I’ll say, but because we had that relationship with our community, it wasn’t weird for us to start the supper club.

Our first dinner, the one that was in our house, was very small. It was based around what we could do under pandemic restrictions, but also around offering people a refreshing way to connect with others, to do something new, to get out of the house, and also take care of their bodies. So the pandemic was kind to us, in a way, and a time for us to really rise up and offer more of what we do, but a little bolder. We really focused on what people needed during this time, as well as what we needed. It helped both ways. That’s why we created this space: We need it too, and we know we’re not alone in that. So it’s a collective effort to heal inside out.

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[Mushrooms] show you yourself in such a beautiful and gentle way.

We include psilocybin in a lot of the things that we do with Rage and Release. We say everything is nature’s tools. Shrooms are also a huge part of my own medicine. My personal journey with them started with microdosing in 2020, and has become more ritualistic. Twice a month, it’s a time for me to not only self-reflect and be creative, but also set intentions. It’s a huge lift for my anxiety. I just really want to put that out there, because mushrooms are a powerful healing tool. I think they show you yourself in such a beautiful and gentle way, and also expands your horizons. I think it’s empowering.

With Rage and Release, we focus on education and our personal experiences with mushrooms, not just getting high. What are you taking from this? Why are you using this? What is your relationship? What are you trying to achieve? It’s not forced on anyone, but it is something that we do offer.

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I got burnt out during the pandemic. That burnout was a lesson that was gifted to me through my pandemic experiences to bring me to where I am now and really kick me out of my comfort zone. My team at my day job was let go. I ended up holding down the whole country for my company. I mentally was going through it, but at the same time, it forced me to pivot into doing the things that made me happy, and consciously taking better care of myself.

That comes back to the idea behind Rage and Release, where you take these not so great circumstances and experiences and then transform them into something beautiful, so that you can keep going and help the next person. It gave me the confidence to leave my job. Professionally, I’ve created more out of the pandemic than I ever had before. And the work has been beautiful because it’s raw and it’s been more fulfilling.

If you’ve been broke, homeless, whatever, there’s always another side. Regardless of your circumstances, even in the darkest times. I hope other people can take some glimmer of hope from that.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Kenisha White photographed by Ryan Duffin in Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.