|Born||May 25, 1951
|Alma mater||University of Illinois|
|Occupation||Editor of High Times magazine|
|Organization||High Times Freedom Fighters|
|Known for||Creating the Cannabis Cup and advocating personal cultivation of cannabis|
Steven Hager, is an American writer, journalist, filmmaker, and counterculture and cannabis activist, he was born May 25, 1951, in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. He is the son of Lowell P. Hager and Francis Erea Hager.
Early life and career
While a student in junior high, he established his first publication, the Cap'n Crunch Courier, a humor xerox zine that was given away free. Two years later, while a student at Urbana High School, he created The Tin Whistle, a monthly newspaper that was eventually distributed in four high schools in Central Illinois. One of his friends, Jim Wilson, became the first black elected Senior Class President at Urbana High. Wilson was later banned from the football team, even though he had been the starting end and place kicker because of his association with Hager. Hager briefly visited Haight-Ashbury in 1968, and the following year he attended the first Woodstock festival. He obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater (Playwriting), and a Masters of Science in Journalism, both from the University of Illinois.
After graduation, Hager moved to New York City, worked for a number of magazines before becoming a reporter for the New York Daily News. During this time, he began researching the hip hop movement of the South Bronx. His first article on the subculture was published on the cover of the Village Voice and was the first time the words "hip hop" appeared in the Village Voice . Hager based his article on interviews with Afrika Bambaataa, founder of the Zulu Nation, and one of the three original hip hop DJs (the others being Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash). Hager sold his original story Beat Street to Harry Belafonte, and the film with the same name was distributed by Orion Pictures. In 1984, St. Martins' Press released his book, Hip Hop, the first history of rap music, break dancing and graffiti art. (In 2012, an ebook version was published at www.smashwords.com.) Hager followed that book with "Art After Midnight," an examination of the New York club scene and its influence on artists, primarily Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. (The entire text of Art After Midnight (including the much-quoted Basquiat interview) was reprinted in The Octopus Conspiracy and Other Vignettes of the Counterculture: From Hippies to High Times to Hip-Hop and Beyond as well as Adventures in the Counterculture.)
Career with High Times
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In 1988, Hager was hired as editor of High Times magazine. He is most famous for removing hard drugs (e.g., cocaine and heroin) from the magazine, and concentrating on advocating personal cultivation of cannabis. Hager became the first editor in the world to publish and promote the work of hemp activist Jack Herer. Hager also created the Cannabis Cup, a cannabis awards ceremony held every Thanksgiving in Amsterdam, and The Freedom Fighters, the first hemp legalization group. The High Times Freedom Fighters were famous for dressing up in Colonial outifts and organizing hemp rallies across America. One rally, The Boston Freedom Rally, quickly became the largest political event in the country, drawing an audience of over 100,000 to the Boston Common. Hager created a garage-rock revival band called the Soul Assassins. The band played many of the rallies. Their biggest show was opening for the Butthole Surfers in front of 50,000 people in Washington, DC. During this time, Hager asked his friend from high school, Jim Wilson, to become a columnist for the magazine. Wilson became known as Chef Ra and contributed a cooking-with-pot article in every magazine for 15 years. Chef Ra was also a member of the High Times Freedom Fighters and became the featured speaker at many of the rallies.
In September, 1991, Hager wrote an article in High Times titled "Heritage of Stone," a comprehensive analysis of the John F. Kennedy assassination that has been widely circulated on the internet as a definitive article on the subject. Judge Jim Garrison cited it as "the best magazine article ever written on the subject." The article indicated Kennedy was likely murdered because of his growing opposition to the Vietnam War, and implicated J. Edgar Hoover and Allen Dulles in the cover-up.
In the 1990s, Hager turned the membership list of the Freedom Fighters over to NORML, and began concentrating on creating events that advocated the environmental benefits of hemp while also demonstrating the spiritual uses of cannabis. The World Hemp Expo Extravaganja, or Whee! Festivals, were held in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, New York, and Ohio. Unfortunately, most of the promoters who held Whee! festivals found themselves subject to intense law enforcement efforts to shut down their venues. The primary focus of Whee! was a silent, Sunday, sunset meditation for peace in the drug war. During this period, Hager began promoting 420 as a central ceremony in the Cannabis Cup and the Whee festivals. Because of this, he was contacted by the Waldos, the inventors of 420, and became the first person to interview the Waldos.
Hager learned to shoot and edit video and started documenting all research on videotape. Over the past 15 years he has produced several feature documentaries and assembled one of the world's largest archives of cannabis-related video. Documentaries Hager has produced include: "Let Freedom Ring," "Secrets of the Dutch Grow Masters," "The Cannabis Cup," "Saint Stephen," "The Tom Forcade Story," and "The 20th Cannabis Cup." In 2002 he directed the video shoot that was later released as Live in Amsterdam (Fishbone album). In 2004, he wrote most of the narration for a/k/a Tommy Chong and also appears in the film. Hager also appears in Episode #12 ("Pittsburgh") of the Showtime TV show Weeds, playing himself at an event modeled on the Cannabis Cup.
In 1997, Hager created the Counterculture Hall of Fame as part of the ceremonies at the Cannabis Cup. The first inductee was Bob Marley. In 2011, Johnny Griggs, the founder of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, was inducted.
Hager's most recent book, The Octopus Conspiracy and Other Vignettes of the Counterculture: From Hippies to High Times to Hip-Hop and Beyond, was published by Trine Day. The book is a collection of magazine articles and previous books by Hager, and the chapter "Nomenclature of an Octopus Cabal" theorizes that a network of secret societies manufactures war for profit and social control. In 2007, he produced a reality television show based around his job at High Times magazine. Hager appears in the 2013 documentary, The 420 Documentary, and provides the history of the phrase and its ceremonial use, as well as his role in spreading awareness on the spiritual aspects of cannabis.
- Hip-Hop Journalists Host Round Table Panel Discussion by Clover Hope -- Raquel Cepeda, former editor-in-chief of Russell Simmon’s One World magazine and editor of the book And It Don't Stop: The Best Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, mentioned a piece by writer Steven Hager called “Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip-Hop,” as the first time the term “Hip-Hop” was coined in a major article. The article is reprinted in her book.
- Hager, Steven. Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti. St Martin's Press, 1984 (out of print).
- Hager, Steven. Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene. St. Martin's Press, 1986 (out of print).
- Hager, Steven. Adventures in the Counterculture: From Hip Hop to High Times. High Times Books, 2002.