We Need to Talk About Drugs and Hip-Hop

Hip-hop has been synonymous with drug use since its inception. That’s because most hip-hop artists like to look like they’re living the “thug life” they rap about. Snoop Dogg and other artists have glorified smoking marijuana, and the references to drug use haven’t stopped there.

Famous Hip-Hop Lyrics Glamorizing Drug Usage

If you listen to rap and hip-hop long enough, you’ll hear references to using, selling, and even dying from drugs. And when it’s got a catchy beat, the message is often lost until someone looks up the lyrics. By then, they usually don’t really care if it’s glamorizing drugs.

Some of the most famous lyrics include:

“Purple Pills” by D12: “Speed, ‘shrooms, down the valiums / even smoke weed out of vacuums.”

“Move That Dope” by Future: “Young enough to still sell dope, but old enough that I knows better \ When they sayin’ it’s 42 for that white powder, I knows better.”

“Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd: The song is referencing cocaine and how it offers a numbing feeling.

“Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill: “It’s all over when I go out drinking \ Oh, making my mind slow.”

“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg: “So we gonna smoke a ounce to this/ Sippin’ on gin and juice, laid back”

“Pass That Dutch” by Missy Elliott: A reference to passing a blunt or a marijuana cigarette.

“Ecstasy” by Bone Thugs N Harmony: “As you can see I took the pill (took the pill), right to the house \ Grab a shot of liquor and pop pop popped it in my mouth”

The list goes on and on, and it’s not something that shows any signs of stopping.

How Drug Lyrics Can Affect Fans

Musicians are influential. People listen to music as a way to escape. And as they escape into the world that the musician has created, the emphasis of the lyrics connects more and more with the listeners.

Suddenly, you’re singing along. You might see the success of the musician and believe that if they’re happy, there must be something to the lyrics that they’re singing about.

It’s kind of similar to affirmations. Except, instead of a positive phrase, you’re repeating references to drugs and alcohol. Over time, these lyrics might make you view drugs and alcohol as normal. 

Peer Pressure and How Drug Use is Increased with Hip-Hop Music

The hip-hop audience isn’t just adults. According to a 2018 survey, 48 percent of 16-19 year olds say hip-hop is their favorite music genre. When this age group makes decisions, it’s been shown that they usually ignore the risks of decisions to focus on the potential reward. That makes these messages especially risky for them. When you’re exposed to lyrics glamorizing drugs and alcohol and your decision-making process minimizes danger, it’s easy to be tempted to experiment for yourself. 

How Artists Can Address the Issue

Artists don’t just rap about drugs. Sometimes, they use them. We all can name rappers who have spoken openly about drug use. Lil Wayne. Snoop Dogg. DMX. Kid Cudi. T.I. There have been plenty of artists who have died due to drug use and abuse. It’s been a media focus for years, and many within the music industry are tired of losing amazing artists to depression, drug addiction, and suicide.

Young rappers have seen what it’s doing to the scene as well as to fans who get caught up in the messages of the lyrics. It’s causing many of them to speak out. The lyrics focus now on depression and drug addiction as opposed to glorifying the use of drugs. It’s their way of doing what they can to pull the focus off of using and abusing.

During the 2018 Grammys, several artists decided to focus heavily on mental health. Logic, with the help of DJ Khalid and Alessia Cara, even performed a hit song called “1-800-273-8255.” This song title is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline so that everyone knows where they can get help when they are struggling.

Unfortunately, it is often the hip-hop and rap musicians that struggle the most – and that’s because of the genre as well as the inner city environments where many of them grow up. In economically depressed areas like these, selling drugs is often the quickest way to make a buck.

The good news is that the artists who have been able to recognize their addictions and who have turned their lives around are outspoken. They talk heavily about drug addiction and the warning signs. They’re walking advertisements of why drug usage is dangerous, and many have stories of how they were sentenced to prison or almost died.

Some of these artists include TI, Lil Boosie, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and DMC. When well-known names in the industry publicly discuss their battles with substance abuse, it allows people to realize that it’s okay to ask for help.

Although drugs and hip-hop have become synonymous, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. As many artists have had to struggle with addiction, they have focused their lyrics on recovery, instead of addiction. This trend helps offer hope to fans who are struggling with mental health and addiction, instead of normalizing drug use.


Billboard.com – 15 Best Songs About Drugs

MindTools.com – Using Affirmations

Statista.com – Favorite Music Genres in the U.S.

DrugAbuse.gov – Why Does Peer Pressure Influence Teens To Try Drugs?

LATimes.com – Young rappers are getting honest about doing battle with depression, drug addiction and suicide

Dr. Harshi Shingra

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