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The Progression of Drug Glorification in Hip-Hop History

October 24, 2018 - - 0 Comments

Hip Hop

There are few genres of music that have a more substantial impact on society right now than rap music or hip hop. The heavy beats, the fast-flowing rhymes, and the challenging lyrical subjects provide listeners with an insight into the mind of these musicians and their struggles with a variety of problems, including trauma, addiction, alcohol, opiates, and even PTSD.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency by many rappers – no matter their success level – to glorify drug use and to sing the praises of various substances. Groups like Cyprus Hill and rappers like Dr. Dre openly discuss their love of smoking marijuana while other rappers have glorified selling drugs or even the use of heavier drugs like heroin as a way of dealing with anxiety.

Sadly, this tendency in rap music has influenced listeners to experiment with various substances, like cocaine, lean, benzos, and opioids. And these wild experiments have left generations of children hooked to drugs with severe mental-health issues and depression problems. This trend in rap is something that has been there since the very beginning of the genre.

Why Drug References are Very Common in Rap Songs

Drug HustleRappers are often talented individuals who come from challenging walks of life. For example, many come from low-income neighborhoods where drug use is merely a part of life. Crime and hustling were often seen as a way of getting out of these areas and as one of the few ways that those from such poor areas (no matter what their race) could rise to higher levels of success.

Therefore, it’s not shocking that even early rappers spoke of drugs in positive ways. However, the early days of hip hop were nowhere near as saturated with drug references as modern rap music. For example, a study of drug references in rap songs found that just 11 percent of rap songs from 1979 to 1984 contained any references to drugs at all.

By the late 1980s, those references jumped to about 19 percent. During this time, rap progressed from early party music (as heard on songs such as “Rappers’ Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang) to tackle more serious subjects. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released a song called “The Message,” which detailed the problems of the ghetto and the African American experience. It did not glorify drugs but discussed their use in horrifying ways.

Due to the influence of this song, groups such as Public Enemy in the late 80s and early 90s took on a socially-conscious role. The group came out hard against drugs – believing that they damaged the lives of too many African Americans – and tried to fight against their influence. Even more aggressive groups, like N.W.A., who promoted a “gangsta” lifestyle had songs like “Dopeman” that came out against drugs.

And as the drug epidemic continued to spread and the federal government worked to fight against it – usually ineffectively – rappers continued to add drug references to their music. After all, the idea of “writing what you know” applies to music, and many rappers were either involved in using drugs, had sold drugs in the past, or continued criminal behaviors after finding music success.

References Change With the Times

Hip Hop Boom BoxAs a result of cultural changes, a whopping 69 percent of all rap songs by 1993 mentioned drugs in one way or another. While many of these references were negative or condemning drug use, many were not. In fact, the same study mentioned above stated that about 77 percent of all rap songs between 2005-2008 contained references to substance use, whether positive or negative.

In the early days, references to alcohol and “having a good time” were standard on the party rap songs. However, the influence of Schoolly D on the genre turned things harsher. Schoolly D was an independent rapper who’s stripped-down style focused on vocals, beats, and not much else. His lyrics glamorized the criminal lifestyle and talked about scoring drugs, using drugs, prostituting women, and much more. As a result of this influence, drugs were discussed in more depth by other rappers.

While marijuana remained an early staple for many rappers (with some – like Snoop Dogg – turning it almost into a joke), harder-edged artists discussed stronger substances. Early underground innovator Esham brought horror movie elements into his lyrics and focused more on hallucinogenics, like acid. While rarer than songs about heroin or benzodiazepines, a glut of copycat artists followed suit and tried to follow Esham’s influence.

But as substance abuse spread throughout the rap community, a more significant number of more talented musicians started talking about the adverse effects in more depth. For example, Eminem used songs like “Drug Ballad” to discuss the influence substances had on his life. Similar songs like “I Feel Like Dying” by Lil Wayne pursued similar topics.

Drug UseAnd even more joke-oriented songs like “Because I Got High” by Afroman discuss the negative influences of drug addiction. In fact, this song – in spite of its silly production and presentation – does describe how drugs can ruin a person’s life. These problems start minor – the narrator was going to clean his room but got high instead – and progresses to him failing out of high school, getting fired from his legit job, selling drugs, and losing his whole paycheck to child support due to drug addiction.

Clearly, the rap music community understood how drugs were affecting it and those around them. Overdoses started taking the lives of promising talent, like Mac Miller, and drug-based warfare was breaking out among rappers. For example, the lives of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. were taken in gang-related shootings related to feuds and drug-related crimes.

In spite of these problems, songs like “Purple Pills,” “L$D,” “Ten Crack Commandments,” “P*ssy, Money, Weed,” “Move That Dope,” “Ride Wit Me,” “Smoke Again,” and “Get Em High” continued to praise drug abuse and glamorize it in ways that inspired many listeners to investigate drugs for themselves and to fall into abusive lifestyles.

Many rappers weren’t trying to influence the lives of their listeners in this way negatively. In fact, many would claim – understandably – that they were rapping about their lives and what they knew. And some would point to songs that painted drugs negatively and claim that they were an attempt to balance the record on drug abuse. However, these songs likely had a little influence in preventing drug abuse.

The Many Anti-Drug Rap Songs Don’t Have the Same ResultDrug Abuse in Hip Hop

Throughout this article, various anti-drug songs have been touched on and, while it is clear that rappers do positively intend them, they don’t have the same effect as songs glamorizing drugs. Take the album “Enter the 36 Chambers” by the Wu-Tang Clan as an example. Widely considered a masterpiece of the genre, it contains songs like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Tearz” that detail the dangers of ghetto living and drug use in particular.

However, these two slower and more serious songs (while praised by critics of the form) are not as memorable to the general public as songs like “Method Man” or “Da Mystery of Chessboxin.” On these songs, the band name-drops the use of “meth” which, strangely, is not methamphetamine but marijuana. And at various points, the band members not only openly discussed using drugs but continued selling drugs as they became huge. Unfortunately, leaving the drug culture that had helped the band succeed was not as easy as they had hoped.

For example, rapper Method Man claims that early in the band’s career, he was forced to sell drugs during interviews to make ends meet. This period was mostly before the success of their debut album (and his later solo albums) but showcases the tight grip that drugs and drug dealing have on the rap music and drug culture community and those in it. Even during his early stages of success, Method was stuck dealing drugs and committing crimes, though he later – happily – retired from such actions.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency among those in the genre to aim for having a “harder” sound or a more “street” life. Authenticity is critical in the style and rappers who strive for more positive messages are often lambasted by similar artists as phony or cheesy. The progression of Tupac Shakur is an excellent example of how this culture affected the life of a talented artist.

Early in his career, Shakur was primarily a background singer and dancer for the party-funk-rap group Digital Underground. After breaking off for a solo career, the young Shakur wanted to gain respect in the community, so he started breaking the law, doing and selling drugs, and behaving dangerously as a way of increasing his credibility as a rapper. Unfortunately, as most people know – and as was already mentioned earlier – Shakur died young due to these behaviors.


The real danger here is not just to the artists who make up rap and hip-hop but to the millions of listeners influenced by their work. Though it is impossible to get an accurate count, it is likely that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of listeners turned to drugs due to rap. Especially with the modern influence of Lean, Molly and other prescription drugs rampantly glorified by today’s new generation of rappers. So if you or somebody else you know has succumbed to drugs among rap culture, you need to get help right away.

Getting Help Requires a Serious Commitment Hip Hop Positivity

The sad truth is that many rappers – such as Mac Miller and Lil Peep – never get the help that they need to beat their drug addiction. Thankfully, you don’t have to follow in their footsteps but can achieve independence from substance abuse. One of the best ways to achieve that success is through the use of high-quality dual-diagnosis and the 12 step method.

Dual-diagnosis is a treatment method that focuses on every element of your substance abuse. For example, it will manage the physical aspect of addiction, including the withdrawal symptoms that make life so difficult. Withdrawal medications and detox will provide you with the help you need to get drugs out of your system and to live a happier and healthier life.

When paired with behavioral adjustment, psychological counseling, and physical-health treatments, dual-diagnosis can beat addiction at its source. Behavioral modification is necessary because so much of substance abuse is based on falling into predictable patterns of behavior. It isn’t uncommon for people to use drugs only because they feel like they have to and to struggle to break that pattern.

Thankfully, dual-diagnosis and other mental-health treatment methods can beat those behaviors and teach you better coping mechanisms. Just as importantly, you can learn how to spot your emotional triggers – events or actions that cause you to abuse drugs – and find ways to avoid those actions and to stay happy, healthy, and drug-free for the rest of your life.

Let Us Know If You Need Dual-Diagnosis

So if you or somebody you know is addicted to benzodiazepines, Xanax, heroin, opiates, or even alcohol and they can’t escape the negative influence, please don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more. Our expert professionals will assess your detox, rehab, and dual-diagnosis needs and will work hard to provide you with the physical and mental health help that you need to beat substance abuse.

For example, our professionals can provide you with the detox you need to advance your recovery success. During this period, they will also give you nutritional advice, help you exercise, and perform other healing methods to improve your overall health. Just as importantly, they will assess your mental health to break the patterns of behavior that lead to addiction.

If you call us now, you can get a free consolation with an expert counselor who will listen to what you have to say and work to improve your condition. They can tell you everything that you need to know about substance abuse, the mental health problems that influence it, and the ways that you can beat it forever with the use of high-quality dual diagnosis and 12 step treatment methods.

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