Mainstream hip hop. Known for a myriad of things, its greatest claim to fame for many, has been the injection of “culture.” Women, money, materialism, and at times good morals and thought provoking sentiments are all key interests for hip hop artists. Yet, there is a subject so subliminally stated and virtually acknowledged that not many have spoken up about it, until now. Yes, some individuals have suggested that mainstream hip hop aided in the potency of drug culture, but until the passing of emo-rapper Lil Peep, I had never witnessed such an immediate outburst.
Peep reportedly posted a video stating “El Paso. I took six Xanax and I was lit. I’m good, I’m not sick. I’mma see y’all tonight.” As most of you may know, Lil Peep was found deceased at the budding age of 21 from an alleged drug overdose. Xanax? Maybe. Fentanyl? Not sure. However, what we do know is that a short life was lived and it came to halt via substance abuse.
A truly elemental matter is arising; the accessible and digestible influence of drugs in the hip hop realm. We’ve all seen the weed, the coke, the needles, etc, but we’ve mostly become societally desensitized by it. So I will ask, is this acceptable? Is it forgiving to see such noteworthy tangibles and think that this is not somehow influencing our generations? As a barefaced disclaimer I will note: these are generalizations and do not represent the whole hip-hop industry. These are strictly what-if comments and are strictly to probe conversation.
I cannot say I haven’t used a “drug” before, but I also cannot say I haven’t thought “this is what I’m supposed to do” while trying. There are many places to retrieve such ideas from; mainstream music often being one of them. I am not attesting that hip hop is a heinous musical outlet but rather that it is instrumental and impactful. Millions of eyes and ears resonate with the foundations of hip hop. Making drug culture popular will inevitably affect our youth.
Hip Hop began as a soap box designed to converse about disparate issues. Granted drug culture has been prominent in hip hop since the early 80s, but at some point we switched from a business minded drug chat to an abusive user one. Selling drugs and stacking paper is a thing of the past, as we now rap about “gettin’ high all week without you / popping pills, thinking about you.” Generation Z is constantly assailed with stimuli from social media, unrealistic standards, and a multitude of ways to “escape” emotion. Drugs are just another form of this stimuli and the current normalization of drug abuse in Hip Hop teaches another method of desensitization.
We all have a purpose and beyond that, a voice. Influencers such as Wiz Khalifa have taken to vocalizing these exact sentiments in hopes of change. While much of this drug content is for “show business” it is not safe to instill this idea of drug usage onto our people. Nothing about this can be objective and controlled. Peep’s soul was so gifted and talented, yet overcome by this vice. So, talented and gifted audience; be vigilant and astute, pausing in between your actions, because it may seem innocent now but the actions you take today can truly affect your tomorrow.
Written by Brittni Alahmar