As the uncertainty of 2020 COVID shutdowns gripped Anchorage, Juan Cruzaley found comfort in the “essential” industry of Cannabis. Now in his third year as a budtender with Uncle Herb’s, Cruzaley had found his stride at the company’s Boniface location. Last December, Cruzaley’s work was recognized by Anchorage Press readers who dubbed him the city’s Best Budtender.
Obviously, you’re super at home in Anchorage, but you spent your early childhood out in western Alaska, right?
Yeah, so I grew up in Sand Point – which is all the way out in the Aleutian Chain.
Oh wow! What was it like growing up all of the way out there?
It’s kind of like growing up in the Valley but way smaller. I’d spend a lot of time with my cousins and riding four-wheelers. One half of my family is Mexican and one half is Aleut, so I still have a lot of family out there. I like making a joke with my wife where I ask her what she wants for dinner. She usually replies ‘you pick’ and I always answer ‘not Yup’ik, I’m Aleut.’
Get right out of here with those dad jokes (laughs).
I know, right?
When you’re not making terrible puns, we heard that you’re spitting some bars in the studio.
Yeah, I’ve been rapping since like 2014 under the name J-Cruu. I actually just did my second ever performance in December at Williwaw. It was rad because I got to perform with my buddy, Cody Banks, when we opened for [Bay-area rapper] P-Lo. It’s crazy to think people paid like $40 to go to the show and a lot of them didn’t even stay for the main act.
That’s awesome! What is the Alaska hip-hop scene like?
There’s always been a big scene, but it’s been a little bit underground. I think we have to be our own promoters and fight a bit more for it than rappers outside [of Alaska].
As an artist, does Cannabis play a role in your creativity?
It helps and it doesn’t. Sometimes, I’ll smoke and I won’t be able to do anything but chill. Other times, I can smoke and write three songs, or even go to the studio and smoke before I walk in, and then we do five, six songs in a night. Sometimes, smoking sends me down rabbit holes creatively and I can write some solid tracks.
Where can we hear your music?
I’m on SoundCloud under J-Cruu, but I’ll be jumping on Spotify here in the next couple of months.
What are you toking on these days?
I’ve been smoking a lot of Side Piece by Tanana Herb Company, but I also grow a few plants myself and have been working on flowering some Punch Breath I got from Scorpion Grass clones.