The contributions of hip-hop culture to English vocabulary are too numerous to count.
From “hood” and “crib,” to “bling” and “kicks,” the terms are so common that we don’t even think about their origin anymore.
One more lasting contribution to our language: the term “O.G.”
It’s commonly used as a synonym for “old school.” Many of those who think about the term’s origin associate it with the 1980s and 90s rappers, even though it’s an old-school phrase that predates Ice-T by several decades.
Others, though, primarily associate the term “OG” with weed, as in OG Kush and Fire OG.
The origin and meaning of OG don’t really matter, of course, while you’re savoring a bowl of primo OG Kush. But the story behind it — and in reality, there are multiple stories — might be fun to talk about during your next smoke sesh.
Let’s dig into the subject.
Where Does The Term “OG” Come From?
It dates back to Los Angeles street gangs of the early 1970s.
Gang members of that time say that “OG” stood for “Original Gangster Crips,”  a way to refer to the Crips who were a dominant street gang at the time. OG was said to be shorthand for “we’re the first” and was usually attached to affiliates of the Crips. For example, OG Eastside referred to the Eastside Crips.
Over time, the meaning changed slightly as the gangs grew larger. OG became a respectful way to refer to older members of the Crips, and it developed into such a common term that even the Bloods — the Crips’ mortal enemies — began using the term for their own tenured leaders as well.
As the Crips expanded throughout America during the 1980s, they took the term OG with them. And that’s how it eventually found its way into rap music and hip-hop culture.
Rap and the Term “OG”
Many people mistakenly believe that Ice-T was the one who first came up with the term “OG.” As you’ve learned, that’s not the case. However, his hit 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster (and its title track, which hit #7 in the U.S.) catapulted the term into popular usage far beyond the gang world.
Since then, OG has been said to be shorthand for both “Original Gangster” and the street term “Original Gangsta.” It’s been commonly used in rap lyrics up to the current day, by artists as varied as Jay-Z and Kr$na. Needless to say, its use now goes far beyond music and is ordinarily used as a synonym for the original, the best, or simply old school.
Sports fans often call Michael Jordan the OG in basketball (although we’d nominate Bill Russell for that honor); social media users might say the OG influencer is Kim Kardashian. And people around the globe are likely to call the founders of their companies and organizations, and even the people who made their hobbies popular, the “OG.”
With all that said, what does OG have to do with weed strains? Glad you asked.
Weed and “OG”
The best known “OG strain,” of course, is OG Kush. And there are several theories on where the name came from.
LA Cannabis Cultivators
Here’s the theory that makes the most sense.
Two OG cannabis growers (see what we did there?) named Matt Berger and Josh D (full name Josh Del Rosso) say they grew a strain called Kush in the early 1990s, in a Los Angeles house that they shared. Berger had originally cultivated the strain before he moved to LA.
Kush was a huge hit, selling for $8,000 per pound by the mid-90s — but other growers tried to capitalize on its popularity, selling their own weed that they also called Kush. To make their brand stand out, Berger and Josh D renamed it, OG Kush, with the OG standing for “original.”
The West Coast hip-hop community loved OG Kush, with rappers like Snoop Dogg and B-Real among the celebrities who sang its praises. It wasn’t long before OG Kush was the must-have strain throughout Southern California and beyond.
There’s another version of that story, in which members of the hip-hop group Cyprus Hill claim that they’re the ones who started calling California Kush “OG.” That claim is backed up by DNA Genetics, the company that first developed OG Kush strains for sale.
“Ocean Grown” Weed
This theory may be apocryphal, but it’s been repeated so often that many believe that it’s gospel.
The story involves a grower from the Northern California coast who was well-known for his potent Afghani kush strains. He met a stranger one day and they started talking. After a while, the stranger pulled out some weed and packed a bowl to share, still unaware of what the grower did for a living.
The grower recognized the weed — it was one of his strains. However, the guy with the baggie bragged about his stash, saying he knew from its aroma that it was mountain-grown bud.
Not wanting to make the stranger feel bad, the grower didn’t say that it was weed that he’d grown. Instead, he supposedly just said something like “Nope, that’s ocean-grown weed.”
We’re not sure how an isolated conversation during a random encounter could have created a revered weed term, but we’re just the messenger here. Word is that coastal growers allegedly started using the term for their product and it stuck.
Are All OG Strains Similar?
Most have characteristics in common, but “OG” isn’t a guarantee of specific effects, flavors, or aromas. There’s no government registry for weed strains, so growers are free to call their strains whatever they’d like.
However, there are generally-accepted naming conventions in the cannabis world, and a family of strains usually carries the name of at least one of its genetic parents. So the vast majority of OG strains are descended from OG Kush, which is considered a “backbone strain” and remains immensely popular.
OG Kush is a hybrid that generally leans sativa, high in THC content with uplifting cerebral effects, and a moderate-to-strong body stone. It’s also highly valued for the medicinal benefits it provides.
Some of the best-known OG strains with OG Kush parentage don’t have the same profile, though.
Fire OG, for example, is an indica-dominant hybrid that provides a more relaxed high, probably because it’s a cross with San Fernando Valley OG Kush. Skywalker OG is another indica-dominant variety with Blueberry and Mazar parentage, high in THC but delivering a mellower effect.
And strains like Bubba Kush and GSC are also considered to be “OG,” even though the term isn’t in the name that’s commonly used for them. Bubba Kush is reportedly a cross of OG Kush and Northern Lights and it’s a strain that will knock you out for the count. GSC is a cross of OG Kush and Durban Poison and its euphoric relaxation is legendary.
In short, every OG strain has its unique qualities. Why not try them all and discover their properties for yourself?
What Does OG Mean When Talking About Weed: FAQ
Q: I always heard that “OG” was short for “overgrow.”
A: That’s a less-likely theory. Proponents say that OG stands for Overgrow.com, a website where people swapped seeds and cultivation ideas — and also called for an “overgrow” of the government, whatever that means. Overgrow.com wasn’t online until 1999 and OG Kush was around well before then, so the story is unlikely to be true.
Q: Where did the OG Kush strain come from?
A: There are several theories about that, too, and Berger has never said what he thinks the original parentage of his strain was. Some say OG Kush is a cross of a Dutch Kush cultivar and a California strain, some believe it’s a descendant of Afghani Kush, and still, others claim it’s a hybrid created by crossing a Pakastani Kush landrace strain with Lemon Thai and Chemdawg. It’s an argument that will never be resolved.