Drugs are cool. Or at least, that’s what the numbers say.
In 2017 Atlanta rap star Future and his trap music wonderland delivered “Mask Off,” a pill-popping, on wax celebration that marked the highest-charting single of his career. “Mask Off” shot to No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and certified multi-platinum in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Sweden. It received diamond certification in France. As a top-charting record, it needed no lyrical substance, though — just substance abuse, which is notoriously laced into the chorus’ repetition: “Percocets, Molly, Percocets/ Percocets, Molly, Percocets.”
Leading up to this moment, Fewtch had already cooked up a hotbed of singles and projects that trap lovers in both the supply and demand market could delight in. “Codeine Crazy,” “Perkys Calling,” Dirty Sprite and Purple Reign name only a handful reigning supreme over club, radio and aux cord play in recent years. “Move That Dope” of 2014 even earned him a BET Hip Hop Awards Best Club Banger accolade.
But by no means is the 34-year-old pharmaceutical phenomenon the only culprit to blame for the druggie’s seat at rap’s cool kids' table as of late. Juicy J’s Stay Trippy of 2013 kept Styrofoam cups filled to the brim with the infamous purple drank. A$AP Rocky helped wave in a “Purple Swag” trend from an album titled none other than Deep Purple. And it seemed that nearly everyone wanted a buzz from the new girl on the block, Molly, with Tyga’s “Molly” record, Trinidad James’s “Pop A Molly,” and Lil Durk’s “Molly Girl.” The prescription bottles rolled over to other genres as well, discreetly slipping into R&B hits such as The Weeknd’s “Party Monster,” and other times making a flashier appearance in titles like Chris Brown’s “Pills & Automobiles.”
There’s no shock, then, that 2017 awakened a baby boom of rainbow-haired, face-tattooed, trippy-vibed newbies, party-favored into rap careers by way of Xanax and Percocets. Their drug enthusiasm is a badge of honor worn proudly on their rap monikers like Lil Pump, SmokePurpp, Trippie Redd and Lil Xan. Their pre-developed SoundCloud discographies are even more shameless. And while young, fleeting fans adore them for stimulating endorphins and keeping the turn-up alive, their rise to cultural influence and Hollywood acclaim is deadlier than ever.
I got designer from head to my toe/ I'm on the Xan, and my b**ch on that coke/ I got Givenchy all over my coat/ I'm off that X, and I just poured a 4 – “Molly,” Lil Pump
Seventeen-year-old Miami rapper Lil Pump attempted to finally break away from SoundCloud stardom and climb through the music industry’s airtight doors. But this stride happened to be via an unwarranted J. Cole diss track, one of the earliest and most telling indicators of fame desperation. If Pump’s aim for Cole’s attention didn’t put him on the board, his “Gucci Gang” single would do it. The record jumped to No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and took the Internet by storm. Quite a feat for a record that simply repeats its title 53 times and boasts “lean (that) costs more than your rent” and a “b**ch (that) love to do cocaine.”
Another “Lil” prefixer of millennial rap, California’s Lil Xan also grew eminence behind his breakout single, “Betrayed,” an ode against drug abuse after suffering two years of addiction. Xan’s path to recovery and road to riches run parallel and symbolize his former struggle. Total Xanarchy, the title of his forthcoming debut album, and his “Inxanity” single are no mere spelling errors, but extensions of the narcotized lifestyle the 21-year-old once led. Disturbing doesn’t begin to describe the notion that someone would struggle with opioid addiction before even reaching the legal drinking age. But just as the music chart numbers reveal pop culture’s inclination toward this harrowing epidemic, numbers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health suggested the heightened demise of adolescents from drug use years ago.
According to the 2005 study, not only were teens abusing prescription drugs at a higher rate than other potent narcotics like cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and meth, but also children as young as 12 and 13 were choosing prescription drugs more popularly. These studies set the precedent for the current outbreak unfolding right before us, which saw teen overdose deaths spike 19 percent from 2014 to 2015 -- most carried out by opioid overuse, all aged 15 to 19.
We droppin' drugs in the champagne/ Cocaine on a week day/ Propane what I smoke/ You say you're rich but you're broke/ Damn, why the f**k you even spoke?/ Yeah, I think I'ma die, no joke/ Take a couple xans with the coke— “Nobody,” Lil Peep
Still, those numbers are just numbers until the death of someone like 21-year-old Gustav Åhr, famously known as Lil Peep, bring them to life. The Come Over When You’re Sober rapper passed away in November 2017 of a reported fentanyl overdose, reigniting debates about profound drug use glorification in the millennial age of hip hop. Toxicology reports later revealed that fentanyl was just one of over 10 tranquilizing substances discovered in his system, joining analgesics like hydrocodone, morphine-based hydromorphone and fast-acting painkiller oxymorphone. Peep’s ultimate cause of death was brought on by the poisonous hybrid effects of fentanyl and alprazolam, also known as generic-brand Xanax.
Fallen A$AP Mob founder and music executive A$AP Yams sadly reaped a similar fate. A deadly medley of narcotics, including opiates and benzodiazepine, led to Yams’s untimely death in 2015. He had formerly remained transparent about his struggle with drug addiction and admitted himself into a rehabilitation facility in 2014, a move toward recovery that no one saw ending in a deadly relapse for the 26-year-old. Especially not his mother, who now pleads with hip hop to crack down on drug addiction following the death of her baby boy. As the age of fatality from the lethal mixtures only grow younger, ghosts of overdose past served as a warning. The late chopped-and-screwed pioneer DJ Screw succumbed to codeine at age 29 in 2000, and UGK icon Pimp C was claimed by a sleep apnea and purple drank combination that ended his short 33 years of life in 2007. The interconnection of their deaths are eerily formidable coming from the mouth of A$AP Yams himself:
“I been outta rehab,” he responded to a Tumblr user inquiring about the length of his drug rehab stay. “My life was no joke. My drug use led to me suffering from seizures and having other sicknesses that Pimp C was diagnosed with prior to his death.”
Alone, the purple, syrupy mixture has been accused of nearly claiming the life of New Orleans beloved rap treasure and Young Money magnate Lil Wayne as well. Ask Weezy himself, whose allegedly stress-triggered seizures forced him into ICU in 2013, an early omen of other episodes he’d suffer in the years following. No, he hadn’t explicitly confirmed that his promethazine and codeine concoctions caused the episodes. Maybe the speculation was rooted in his confession that kicking the habit “ain't that easy — feels like death in your stomach when you stop doing that sh**,” or the reported three 16-ounce bottles of the promethazine and codeine concoction that he ingested in 2016 just hours before suffering a string of seizures midair on his private jet, resulting in two emergency landings.
Three years earlier, Wayne was held in intensive care for six days after suffering an epileptic trifecta in which three back-to-back seizures sunk his heart rate to 30 percent. “I could’ve died,” he revealed. Only once the drugs are done will he actually feel like dying, so says his “I Feel Like Dying” record. The track topped Complex’s 100 Best Lil Wayne Songs list ironically in the same year of his near-fatal hospital stint, praised for Wayne’s “floating at a delightfully psychedelic pitch, diving into codeine seas over Jonsin’s ethereal beat.”
Turned to a savage, pocket got fatter, she call me daddy/Smokin' that gas, gone off that Xanny, she on the powder…- “Money Longer,” Lil Uzi Vert
To argue that drugs are harmful, immoral, dangerous, deadly or any other common sense terms is redundant — at best. In this era, it’s the Perky, Xanny, Molly, Purple wave washing up millennial talent at rapid speed. But each generation’s sudden obsession with the “it” drugs and the rappers who love them exists as only part of the problem. There is power in numbers. So when fans rally behind artists that nurture drug culture under the guise of “free expression,” those same fans are no longer innocent bystanders but willing participants and enablers.
My fan base grows more and more everyday,why would I change my name when it's gotten me this far?im not tryna be a dick bro I'm just saying https://t.co/lmwJJUTwMm— LIL XAN (@lilxanfuhyobih) November 11, 2017
Bump your Uzi. Spin your Weezy mixtapes. Blaze up your Three 6 Mafia throwbacks. In doing so, the hope is that you learn to use vigilance of what artists are consuming in the music that you’re consuming, and the cash rewards those consumptions translate to up at the bigwigs’ offices of the music industry. One hit, one mix, and one powerful dosage of your favorite rapper’s favorite illicit drug is all it’s ever taken to risk it all. Yes, sex, misogyny, violence and other arguable hip hop vices are guilty of personal and social deterioration. But these ills can be protested, combated and remedied over time.
We Would love 2 stop .....— Uzi London 🌎☄️💕® (@LILUZIVERT) November 16, 2017
But Do You Really Care Cause We Been On Xanax All Fucking Year ..🕊🕊🕊🕊.
Rip Buddy I 100% Understand and I Don't Fault U 💔 ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;® pic.twitter.com/AYBvQCDcJy