By 2015, East Bay rapper Bully Wiz was regularly dropping fresh singles and showing up to rock various stages with his version of Latin Trap. On the side, he had partnered with Tone Loc and was selling a potent THC drinkable called Tree Lean.
One of Bully Wiz’s top vendors was Juan Quesada, who ran a prop 215 weed delivery company along with a team of guys who called themselves the Backpack Boyz. Bully Wiz, Quesada, and the Boyz started to move together, with Bully doing music events and the Backpack Boyz setting up tables outside of the venue. That, plus the years of hustle and hard work, has made the brand recognizable up and down the state of California.
In 2020 and 2021 the Backpack Boyz opened three dispensaries in LA and San Diego. They’ve just opened a clothing shop in Oakland. They drop new strains weekly. And their social media following includes an enthusiastic fanbase that shows up in person whenever the Backpack Boyz crew is in town.
Bully Wiz now sits atop two empires: one, a successful weed brand in the biggest market in the world, and two, a decade-plus music career and a growing catalogue representing boundary-pushing Bay Area Latin Trap.
Visit Hollyweed talked with Bully Wiz to learn more about where he came from and what he has on the horizon. What’s instantly noticeable is his down to earth, chill vibe and his social, outgoing nature. It turns out that everything he’s done as an artist and as a businessman has been about real hustle and dedication to the work and the culture. And true to his goal from the jump, he’s putting his hometown of Pittsburg on the map.
But before he was a Backpack Boy, he was the Wiz from the Bully.
Part 1: Becoming Bully Wiz
Don Nelciano grew up in Cali’s East Bay Area in a small town called Pittsburg. He was raised by his conservative El Salvadorian parents, who had emigrated to California. Bully Wiz says he was raised in a strict household by a mother who “ruled with an iron fist.”
As a kid, Bully was put in talent shows where he sang popular Spanish songs. His parents weren’t about rap, however, which was eventually all Bully was interested in. As a teenager, he absorbed West Coast rap including artists like Mac Dre, E40, Tupac, and Westside Connection. He started writing his own lyrics and rapping them on top of his favorite songs. By the time he was a teenager, he was coming up with his own material entirely.
His first forays into recording music were all about forming a sound that represented the local Pittsburg-Antioch scene. He hooked up with other local artists and started to learn the ropes of recording music.
One thing he took note of back then was how the realest rappers repping the streets were relying on robberies to fund their art. A teenage Bully Wiz started to get into some trouble.
“I started doing a bunch of robberies funding my music, funding beats, paying for all of that stuff, and the next thing you know I get caught up in a big, big case,” Bully said.
Since he was a minor at the time, he got two strikes and spent five years imprisoned by the California Youth Authority. When certain tattoos made him a target, he found himself doing a lot of time in solitary.
Being isolated, alone, and bored, he turned to reading.
“To me, my way out was the movies. I call books movies because I’ll start reading a book and the next thing you know I’ll start picturing what I’m reading and seeing exactly what’s going on, imagining everything,” he said. “Every book is a movie, if you read it correctly,” he said.
In lockup, he dove deeper into his writing and rap.
“I started writing a lot of my lyrics in there. I wrote a lot of songs,” he said.
“That was basically my therapy during those five years of being incarcerated,” Bully said.
When he got out at 21, he got in touch with is former idol Mac Dre, and it led to doing a record together.
“I tapped in with some of my guys that I was in jail with, and they put me on with his people. They’re all from the same neighborhood, so I ended up being able to do a song with him.”
Thinking that this would launch his career, Bully Wiz was shocked by Mac Dre’s sudden murder in 2015.
“My dream kind of got shattered after that,” he said.
But his motivation for his craft remained, and he was driven to create music that represented his hometown.
” I wasn’t even trying to be a rapper. I’m from Pittsburg, from West Boulevard, which is called the Bully. At the time, we didn’t have anybody to rep our hood,” he said.
” I wanted the Bully to have someone doing something for the Bully. I didn’t even care if nobody else knew it, I just wanted Pittsburg to know,” he said.
After getting out of jail, he worked multiple jobs to fund his music, and at the same time he went to college. Being a prolific reader, he sailed through and earned a double degree in Computer Science.
“I’ve got two strikes but at the same time I got two degrees in IT. I never got into the field because I was blacklisted due to my two strikes and just getting out of jail.”
He dropped an album of 21 songs called Nothin to It but To Do It. At the time he was known as Deleterious.
While appearing on another artist’s track, he was feeling his newly anointed comp sci degrees. He felt like he was a computer wiz from the Bully, so he shouted himself out as Bully Wiz. The name ended up getting used in the album credits, and it stuck.
His career as a Bay Area rapper took off from there.
In 2014, he dropped a handful of singles with Tone Loc’s Thizz Latin Records under Goldtoes Entertainment’s Thizz Music. He continued to work with Goldtoes and GT Digital until 2016.
From 2016-2021 he put out his music independently without a label. During that time his singles featured collabs with and appearances by other hot artists from the Bay and Detroit scenes. Starting in 2021, he contracted with Atlantic’s Breakthrough Records, and he’s working on a new cache of music.
He’s kept his work intendent and self-funded on purpose, but these days he sees himself growing and gaining even more momentum as he works on his first full length album in decades.
He says his style is hard to pin down, which is how he likes it. His sound is a fusion of a lot of different regions, cultures, and musical styles.
“I’m unique. I’m in my own category,” Bully Wiz says.
His latest work, much of which was recorded during coronavirus, is taking on a new sound, he says. “It doesn’t sound the same. It sounds more Spanish. It’s a fusion of my type of rap with reggaeton type of vibes, with a Dembo feeling.”
He’s also come to realize that he’s aligning himself more with the Spanish language side of Latin trap music, noting that some of his most popular singles are those sung in Spanish.
He says that breaking into Latin music genres is tough because they “are not about that Latin Trap.”
“They’re trying to outcast it, kind of like how rap was outcasted in the 70s and 80s,” he said.
“It’s gonna get out and it’s gonna blow up. If you vibe to it, if you listen to it, you’re going to get a feeling from it.”
“The goal is to become big,” he says “I love this music I just want to be able to do it forever. I feel like Spanish might be my lane because I don’t feel like anybody’s in my category. I don’t have any competition.”
Lately, even as Backpack Boyz have blown up in the state, Bully Wiz is as committed as ever to his music.
“I feel like I’m very close. I feel like I’m almost there. I gotta keep scratching at it and it’ll break through,” Bully Wiz said.
Just recently, he contracted with Atlantic’s Breakthrough Records for some A&R support. He has big ambitions for his future.
“Hopefully that Breakthrough Records is a sign,” he said.
Part II. Becoming the Backpack Boyz
Doing shows, recording songs, and networking with other artists, Bully Wiz had made a name for himself on the local scene in the mid twenty-teens and was doing more and more festival shows. On the side, he and artist/entrepreneur/cannabis advocate Tone Loc were pushing a Prop 215 brand of potent drinkable THC shots called Tree Lean, getting them on dispensary shelves and selling them directly to people at shows.
A dude from the Bully reached out to Bully Wiz saying he had some guys who wanted to purchase it. Caustiously, Bully met up with Juan Quesada and his crew, and found they wanted to purchase not a few bottles but entire cases. Quesada was selling top-shelf weed products throughout the Bay Area and they were sure, he said, they could push Tree Lean. Bully Wiz was impressed.
“You’re with me, you’re team Tree Lean, you’re team Bully Wiz,” he remembers thinking, cementing their working relationship.
“The whole connection between me and Juan, it was a friendship from the gate,” Bully Wiz said.
When a deal for Tree Lean with a shady dispensary went south, Quesada was told he wasn’t going to get paid for a large sale, he called on Bully Wiz for backup. Bully showed up immediately with a crew of guys who made sure all accounts were paid up, smoothing over any trouble. The experience created a bond between Bully Wiz and Juan Quesada.
“I had his back,” Bully Wiz said. “It made us close. We bonded over that. That’s my boy, he’s got my back,” Bully Wiz said.
Quesada’s crew started to show up regularly at Bully Wiz’s events, which Bully Wiz was down for, considering that they brought the good stuff. “They always had the hottest shit. You name it, they had it,” Bully Wiz said. “I would always be more than happy to have them with me because it’s a good look for me, it’s a good look for them we’re all making money and we’re all happy,” Bully Wiz said.
The guys wondered if they could tag along with Bully Wiz whenever he was at an event.
“I was like fuck yeah, let’s do it. I got more people rocking with me. The team is getting bigger. Let’s go!” he said.
Quesada’s team realized they needed a name. They came up with Backpack Boyz because they were always on the go.
“They established themselves as the Backpack Boyz. Next thing you know they’re setting up tables at all my events, selling tree and Tree Lean.”
They eventually ditched the Tree Lean and focused instead on weed. Quesada had a natural ability at creating social media content, and their following was getting wider and wider.
“He got big. People were blowing his page up. It was a great experience watching that, and seeing it grow to where it is now. It’s amazing, it’s crazy,” Bully Wiz said.
At a certain point Bully Wiz was leading two lives: one as a rapper and trapper, and one as a full-time, tax-paying employee in the service industry. He scored a good above-the-table job and was offered a promotion. He had to make a decision about what he wanted to do.
Quesada had nothing but big ambitions for Backpack Boyz, based entirely on his hard work and obsessive drive. Bully Wiz was similar in his approach. “He knows that I’m a go-getter. That’s probably what drew him to me,” Bully Wiz said.
Quesada saw his friend on the full-time grind and made him an offer: come join the Backpack Boyz full time and help him build a successful brand. Bully Wiz remembers Quesada encouraging him. “C’mon, Bully, let me take you out of this working environment, 9-to-5 type shit, let’s do this full time. Work with me, grow with me, just watch,” Quesada told him.
Bully Wiz quit his job. “That’s when I officially became a Backpack Boy.”
The brand’s success is based on the tight relationship that Quesada and Bully Wiz have developed in the years since. From the start, Bully Wiz says, “I was with Juan. I got his back no matter what. What he does, I’m with him. He knows that. That’s my bro,” Bully Wiz said.
As he continues to build on his legacy as a rapper, Bully Wiz has incorporated the Backpack Boyz life into his music. “I see myself saying Backpack Boyz a lot, one way or another, in a lot of my music now,” he says.
Being part of the Backpack Boyz, Bully Wiz said, has helped him grow as an artist as well. “It helps that Backpack Boyz is established, they’re known. They have that reputation of being for the streets, for the people,” Bully Wiz said.
These days, he says, “It’s not just Bully Wiz, it’s Bully Wiz from the Backpack Boyz. It has opened a lot of doors. I love it. I think it’s amazing,” he said.