Rappers glorify drugs in their music

By Peter Zemeske

Drugs and music have typically had a close relationship with one another. This relationship started as early as 1930 when it was depicted in the film “International House,” in which marijuana and jazz are juxtaposed with one another, but may have existed before then. Many rappers and hip-hop artists have continued in this tradition by promoting the use of many dangerous and potentially fatal recreational drugs in their music to the detriment of listeners and themselves.

The term “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” was first put onto the world-stage by LIFE Magazine in their Oct. 17, 1969, issue, though similar mantras existed before. The article addressed the hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s, and the term was used in a rather derogatory sense. The phrase became a war cry for youth who wanted to rebel against the traditional American dream and has found life in almost every popular movement in music starting with psychedelic rock, punk, grunge and, most recently, hip-hop.

Drugs became a common lyrical topic among hip-hop artists in the early 1990s, starting with Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg all referencing marijuana. Marijuana and other drugs quickly became a main talking point; only four songs in the early 1980s referred to drug use, which ramped up to a whopping 45 percent of all hip-hop songs by the mid-1990s, according to Genius. Rap’s go-to drug switched from marijuana to cocaine in the late 1990s, with rappers like Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. glamorizing the narcotic. Rappers’ favorite drug switched again in the early 2000s from cocaine to “lean,” a dangerous mix of Sprite, hard candy and cough syrup containing codeine. Codeine is an opioid found in prescription-strength cough syrup and causes dizziness, blurred vision and temporary memory loss. Rappers such as Soulja Boy and Lil Wayne included bars about the drug and survived to tell the tale, but others weren’t so lucky. American rappers DJ Screw and Pimp C died of codeine overdoses in 2000 and 2007, respectively. Modern day rappers have now moved onto an equally dangerous substance: prescription medications like Xanax and percocet. Xanax is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and is abused to achieve a subdued effect; percocet is a pain medication used for similar reasons. Big-name rappers like Eminem and Future have included drugs like these in their songs. A young rapper from California even created his moniker around the pill: Lil Xan. This recent wave hasn’t come without its unfortunate casualties; emo rapper Lil Peep died in November 2017 due to an overdose of Xanax and fentanyl, which is a drug commonly cut with cocaine. Most recently, Mac Miller passed away in September 2018 due to an overdose of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol.

Since drugs have become an apparent mainstay in the hip-hop/rap genre, the dangers of recreational drug use need to be addressed more than ever. Both creators and fans alike have fallen victim to overdoses of all kinds of prescription and street drugs. Because of these dangerous messages, hip-hop and rap need a revitalization of their association with drugs and fast.