“Cocaine is a helluva drug!” And apparently, so is Fentanyl. We’re here again, mourning yet another young soul lost to a suspected opioid overdose: Lil Peep.
Peep, 21, was an influential rapper with a social fan base of 2 million+ followers. He is most popular for using his music and social media platforms to glorify the ever trending culture of self-medicating to treat depression. Eerily his final moments on social media were captions like, “...I don't let people help me but I need help but not when I have my pills but that's temporary one day maybe I won't die young and I'll be happy?" and “When I die you’ll love me.” Peep was found dead in his tour bus with Xanax, loose weed and an unknown tan powder. Cops have unveiled their investigation to reveal Fentanyl as the primary culprit in his untimely death. Fatal fentanyl overdoses have risen 540 percent in just three years, a stat way higher than many previously suspected. Even a small amount of Fentanyl, a drug commonly used to treat severe and ongoing cancer pain, can lead to death. It’s heartbreaking enough to know Peep’s “supply” was laced with Fentanyl, but it’s even more devastating to watch another life snuffed out due to a toxic mix of drug abuse and untreated mental illness.
We’re all outraged by Peep’s death as we should be, but many of us are sadly not surprised since the number of similar occurrences are significantly growing. The opioid epidemic has dramatically worsened and its victims are from every demographic you can imagine. With today’s new definition of cool including being a “depressed druggy,” fatal overdoes are claiming even more young lives. There's been an outpour of outrage and now people are demanding for something to be done. Fingers are being pointed in every direction, from Trump to Pete Rock. Many are blaming "old heads" for this current generation’s addiction to illegal drugs. Yet, all of this has me thinking: how is it more anyone’s fault than our own and why are we only holding others accountable for the new wave drug abuse crisis sweeping the nation?
The way I remember it, music and culture used to glorify dealers not users. Getting high off your own supply was a big NO-NO. Yet, nowadays young people are celebrating self-medicating with hard drugs and POSTING pics of it, like status symbols, to brag. And those images are usually accompanied by captions that look more like desperate cries for help thinly camouflaged with hashtags. It’s all LIT, fun, and games until half the XXL freshman class is ODing on opioid cocktails in the name of “doing it for the culture.”
How mad were we about the Kenneka Jenkins case? People were fully committed to the idea someone edited hotel surveillance footage of this young girl in an elaborate diabolical scheme instead of simply accepting she was likely just hanging out with friends and partaking in today's party culture which includes binge drinking and drug use. In Jenkins case, we were ready to aggressively point the finger at a fictitious boogeyman rather than look in the mirror. And when it comes to pointing the finger at real boogeymen to blame when getting lit goes left, we don’t have to look further than Trump.
What was once categorized and therefore neglected as a problem for poor people of color, is now a widespread epidemic. White people across the economic spectrum are increasingly affected by opioid abuse. And these days popping pills and sipping lean is sung about in pop music just as often as it's rhymed about by your favorite trap rapper. Since opioid use is no longer just a problem in Black communities, more people are actively seeking to hold Trump accountable for the drug crisis. A month ago, Trump vowed to put forth more “effort” to combat the opioid epidemic. But said efforts have received criticism by many because his plan doesn’t come with any serious funding. While I fully believe we need to hold our political leaders accountable during this drug crisis, I’m not a firm believer in 45. I also believe we’re doing a lot of pointing fingers at everyone else and avoiding the simple fact that we aren’t taking responsibility for our actions.
I got sucked into a viral social media war between Pete Rock and Waka Flocka. While reading the comments I couldn’t help but chuckle over folks actually arguing and defending synthetic drug use over "real" drugs. While, Waka Flocka wasn’t the best person to make an example of for what this generation is bringing to the hip-hop table, Pete Rock certainly had a point (in his sea of grammatical errors, sorry Pete!). Ultimately, Rock felt older generations didn’t outwardly push the use of illegal drugs in their music and refused to give these new kids credit for their alleged "genius.” A back and forth squabble between the two got a lot of attention because Waka literally blamed prior generations for normalizing the abuse of illegal drugs. But with every suburb and 'hood now affected by the use of illegal substances, to say it's our predecessor’s fault for not properly educating us is literally the silliest opinion I’ve ever read. When are we going to finally start pointing the finger at ourselves?
The music and culture we consume glorifies consuming hard drugs and we buy into it daily yet we’re blaming everyone else for not doing more about it. Who do you think would have a bigger influence on a young teen, Trump and Pete Rock or The Weeknd and Lil Uzi Vert?
It worries me how incorrigible music and social media is to kids nowadays. Obviously, Trump has a lot of broken promises floating around his presidency and although he acknowledged the crisis people will complain until they start seeing results. Declaring the issue, a "Public Health Emergency," is a start to open eyes, but I think those closer to the core need to put forth real effort to put a stop to this self-medicating drug culture. How can we see results until we stop buying into the images and lyrics we have trending? How can we blame old heads when Katy Perry and Future are blatantly pushing drug use in their hooks?
Lil Peep and ASAP Yams are just two recent reminders this isn’t something to take lightly. We know 21-year-olds don’t know everything (although they act like they do) but they know enough to avoid red flags or repeat history. Opioid overdose rates are at an all-time high so let’s stop playing the blame game and pointing the finger and everyone else and let’s start holding ourselves accountable for the ways we help encourage and spread a dangerous drug epidemic that no amount of likes or comments is worth.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
(Photos from left: John Ricard/BET/Getty Images for BET, Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Balmain)