A rundown of the rap world's favorite drugs
Drug culture isn't relegated exclusively to rock, obviously. For its part, the rap game is equally loaded with drug references of all kinds, from Promethazine and DMT to LSD and PCP, and likewise addled with its own cautionary tales and fatalities. While there's nothing as concrete to suggest that drugs are integral to making rap music, if nothing else, they have certainly served as one of the many muses. Keep reading for a compendium of drugs and rap and a rundown of where the two converge.
Lean (aka sizzurp, purple drank, Texas Tea) Lean is more than just an activity; it's a way of life, a way to view the world. So it's not surprising that the subgenre that was born from its use was a radically different way to approach music making. Houston's DJ Screw invented chopping and screwing -- slowing and chopping sequences of music while repeating some parts -- as a way to capture the slowed-down essence of the Dirty South. The practice of drinking lean spread throughout the country in 2000, when Three 6 Mafia released the hit single "Sippin' on Some Syrup." Its danger was revealed when DJ Screw died from mixing alcohol and lean just months later. Pimp C and Big Moe, a DJ Screw protege, also died from the drug. Recently, the drug has become fashionable again with rappers like Lil' Wayne, A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz and Drake writing about lean or being photographed with telling Styrofoam cups in their hands.
Cocaine (aka white girl, bird, blow, snow, yayo) Rap's relationship throughout the '90s with cocaine was probably closer tied to its sale than its use, and while selling drugs is still a fashionable topic in rap, usage is probably more prevalent as subject matter today. Andre Nickatina was one of the first rappers to bring massive cocaine use to the mainstream with his song "Ayo for Yayo." Other modern rappers especially love to reference the drug as a glamorous, high-class status symbol. Cocaine has been referenced by countless MCs in positive and negative lights with regard to recreation and business.
MDMA (aka ecstasy, E, molly, X, thizz) MDMA, the ultimate club drug, has found a growing audience in the rap world. But the drug permeated rap culture far earlier, around the turn of the century, with references made by Eminem in "Drug Ballad," Mac Dre in "Thizzelle Dance," Missy Elliott in "X-tasy" and 50 Cent on "In Da Club." No rapper better captures the high-energy, free-love spirit of ecstasy better than Danny Brown on tracks like "Molly Ringwald," "Piss Test" and "Blueberry." Even Jay-Z (who says he's never done the drug) mentioned in "Empire State of Mind" that the ecstasy would have you feeling like a champion.
DMT (aka deemsters, Dimitri, spice) DMT is a hallucinogen known for inciting strong, lucid hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. It is a naturally occurring substance in the human brain and has been theorized to play a part in dreaming and near-death experiences. Ab-Soul has been the recent champion of this mind-expanding drug with his psychedelic single "Pineal Gland," in which he says, "This ain't hookah/Hit this shit a few times, you might see the future." But DMT has been mentioned before in rap, most notably by bohemian prophet Jay Electronica with the song "Dimethyltryptamine," which, though it doesn't mention DMT explicitly (except for the title), strings together surreal imagery in a dreamlike manner. He also mentions DMT in the songs "Glass Everywhere" and "The Pledge."
LSD (aka acid, tabs, doses, lucy) The union of acid and rap has recently made waves with breakout artist Chance the Rapper's new Acid Rap mixtape. While the name Acid Rap is a reference to the British jazz fusion, Acid jazz, the tape also has a psychedelic streak and contains several references to the drug. In reality, a dark subgenre called "acid rap," which led to horrorcore, was invented in the early '90s by Detroit rapper Esham. Other rappers who have mentioned LSD in their music are Eminem, Kid Cudi and Tech N9ne.
Mushrooms (aka magic mushrooms, shrooms, boomers, caps, mushies) Not much has been made of mushrooms in hip-hop thus far. The closest thing to replicating the 'shroom experience is probably Cunninlynguists' A Piece of Strange, which, though it doesn't explicitly hail the drug as an influence, does capture some of the strangeness of a mushroom trip. Without trying copy the aesthetic, mushrooms have also been mentioned in lyrics by Eminem, particularly "My Fault," where Eminem tries to coach himself through an acquaintance's overexposure to 'shrooms, Xzibit and Big Baby Gandhi.
PCP (aka angel dust, wet, leak, embalming fluid, sherm) PCP and rap were famously linked in 2002 when a little known rapper named Big Lurch allegedly murdered and partially cannibalized his roommate, Tynisha Ysais, while high on PCP. Indeed, PCP stories never seem to end happily; Joe Budden, also once a PCP user, has a friend who was sentenced to thirty years in prison for killing his girlfriend while high. Fortunately, it's tough to glamorize PCP, and even when it is glamorized in a sense, there is always that air of death and decay present. The rap group that has best characterized the drug has been the Leak Bros with their 2004 album, Waterworld, which was conceived as a drug-fueled theme park for PCP users. Other rap acts to include PCP references in their rhymes are Big L, Tech N9ne and the Wu-Tang Clan.
Pharmaceuticals Prescription drugs like Aderrall and Xanax have gained popularity recently probably in part to their increase in legitimate (and often semi-legitimate use) to combat the growing epidemics of depression, ADHD and anxiety. Rap, which in the last decade has grown to cater to the suburban audience that can afford these drugs, has adapted to that trend. Rappers like Danny Brown and Lil' Wayne have helped usher rap into this world of drug abuse effectively by conveying its dark side along with the recreational aspects. Abuse of pharmaceutical drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, Valium and Vicodin also nearly killed Eminem.
Bath Salts (aka Bliss, Cloud Nine, Lunar Wave, Meow Meow) Bath salts are a new phenomenon, and nobody from the police department to the rap community really knows how to react. Flatbush Zombies seem to be influenced by the zombie-like behavior that bath salts have been known to induce, but they seem to be more attracted to the cannibalistic aesthetic than the drug itself. The A$AP Mob did a song called "Bath Salts" with Flatbush Zombies, and RiFF RaFF has done a song called "Bath Salts," too. A minor stir was also caused last year when Demi Lovato threw a couple X-Factor rappers offstage for mentioning bath salts.
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