Glamourisation of Drug Usage in Rap Music

The relationship of music and drug usage dates back to the early 1900’s. First open acknowledgement of usage of cannabis was done by jazz musicians. Most of them still show up on documentaries and confess that cannabis made them more creative while causing no health related issues. Later, the rappers shared the same stance. It should be noted that throughout the previous century usage of cannabis was advocated by the music genres dominated by African Americans. I emphasize on that point not to exhibit racism but, on the contrary, to show that the representation of cannabis is of minor danger for society. The term marijuana, the Spanish equivalent of cannabis, was purposefully popularized in order to discriminate against Mexicans and African Americans. The plant was demonized under the administration of Harry Anslinger in order to establish institutionalized racism and have an excuse to exert violence on minorities. Therefore, rappers of the late twentieth century were not glorifying usage of the drug (that was medically proven to be not addictive and to have no harm to specific age groups) as much as they were exerting protest against discrimination and injustice conducted on governmental level. 

The real trouble begins with the mentions of highly addictive substances in popular culture. The earliest ones I know are My Fault (1999) by Eminem, in which he sings about giving mushrooms to someone and their bad consequences in a sarcastic manner, and Purple Hills (2001) by D12, in which they sing about their experience after taking pills. 

In modern days we can hear a lot of mentions of a wider variety of dangerous prescription drugs or psychedelics. And not just mentions but glorifications. The most popular examples that came to my mind are Lil Pump (Gucci Gang) and his abuse of cocaine and lean (slang for a mixture of codeine and promethazine based cough syrup and soda which is highly dangerous for liver and nervous system); ASAP Rocky in his song LSD confessing his love to an addictive psychedelic; Future (Mask Off) basically putting percocets (strong prescription painkiller) and molly (form of illegal psychedelic MDMA); Travis Scott’s chorus of the Antidote saying “popping pills is all we know”. These are only the most popular examples from rap music of the last years that I am familiar with. 

Gucci Gang – Lil Pump
ASAP Rocky – LSD
Future – Mask Off

The examples above have nothing similar to the ones from the 80’s and 90’s. Most importantly, the rappers I have mentioned above have no cause to do so other than their hedonistic drives. They rap about substance abuse as of something through which to find beauty and leisure. The old-school cannabis advocates, on the other hand, were doing so as an escape from their daily struggles and as a protest against the system unjust towards the minorities. I am in no way defending any kind of drug use, although one has no harm in its right use and was used as a tool of oppression, while the others are proven to be highly addictive and dangerous. Context in which the aforementioned rappers use those substances only shows that they are not really artists, as they do not manage to find inspiration in a sober state of mind. 

The other important issue is the message sent by those songs. We don’t need to buy CD’s anymore, there is almost every single song on Spotify or Apple Music only a few finger movements away. With such availability the lyrics of the songs spread wider. In the eyes of a teenager that grows up with rap like I did, it would seem normal to buy prescription drugs off black market and abuse them. The rappers like Lil Pump do not even realize their negative impact on youth. However, not all of the modern rappers are like that. There are the conscious lyricists that try to set a positive example, the ones like Hopsin, Logic, J Cole, Joyner Lucas. Even Eminem, whom I mentioned before as the one to have a negative effect, has been setting a very positive example as he has been sober for the last twelve years. These rappers view drug abuse as an issue, touch other serious subjects as gun violence, discrimination, poverty and unmotivated youth. Therefore, there are the ones who are fighting a good fight, although they are not as popular yet. 

Friends – J Cole
Ill Mind of Hopsin 5 – Hopsin


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