Many genres of music casually celebrate drug and alcohol abuse. The stars are in a world of accessibility, with drugs and alcohol feeling like part of the job, as if it’s the way people are supposed to wind down after a show or get loose before their performance. This attitude is particularly prevalent in the world of hip hop, where references to “Molly” (MDMA, the pure form of “ecstasy”) are becoming commonplace and even considered “cool.” Musicians should not be role models, but it would be difficult to deny that they are just that to many impressionable young minds.
However, not all hip hop artists take this viewpoint, and some are actively fighting back against this glamorization of substance abuse.
The Pro-Drug Raps
The Fix points out some pro-drug—and specifically pro-Molly—lyrics that have become common in rap. One example comes from Kanye West, who raps “Something ’bout Mary she gone off that Molly/Now the whole party is melted like Dalí.” Other rappers, such as 2 Chainz, put out the same type of message, rapping, “Got your girl on Molly and we smokin’ loud and drinkin.’ ”
Even bigger stars such as Rihanna are pushing drugs, too. Rihanna’s example is particularly worrying (for reasons other than her superstar status) because it plays into the idea that those who live indulgently are somehow immune from consequences. “As we moonshine and Molly/Feel the warmth, we’ll never die,” she sings on her track “Diamonds.”
Being Real About Addiction
The problem with these messages is that they appear to go against one of the commonly stated goals of the lyrical element of rapping — “keeping it real.” Although this is obviously more of a catch phrase than a closely-held philosophy, it’s striking how little these songs capture the reality of a life of excess and drug abuse.
If music is supposed to convey the experiences of the artists, and hip hop artists in particular aim to present the reality of life complete with the grime and unpleasantness, then this approach seems very lacking. It doesn’t take much effort to list the stars who have lived this type of life and died tragically young (Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison, to name just a few).
And, if you consider those who’ve almost died, the number of names grows exponentially. If rappers are happy to speak about the challenges of growing up in the “hood,” conveying the reality of a lifetime of struggle and disadvantage, why are they so reluctant to come out and admit that MDMA and alcohol are steps on the road to ruin?
The Anti-Drug Rappers
Well, some do. One example is Joe Budden, who was once 12 years sober but ended up relapsing with MDMA and nearly headed toward self-destruction again. In an interview with Fox 5 News, Budden said: “I didn’t see a problem with the fact that maybe five days would go by without sleeping. I didn’t see a problem with the fact that maybe I was hallucinating at times. I didn’t see a problem with the fact that I just couldn’t get up and walk sometimes. It just altered your thinking process dramatically.”
Kendrick Lamar is another rapper standing up against the notion that drug abuse, alcoholism or referencing Molly is cool, finishing one of his recent videos with the mantra-in-the-making “Death to Molly.” His own experience with drugs and alcohol came from growing up in a house with young parents who partied and got drunk around him. These experiences inspired his debut single, which revolves around the impressively positive idea of finding the inner strength not to join in with people trying to drink “a swimming pool full of liquor.”
The Myth Of Sobriety Killing Creativity
There is a persistent myth that drug use is somehow beneficial to the creative process, but hip hop star Kid Cudi is proof this just isn’t true. He had already overcome his problem with cocaine, but ended up drinking more as a result, until his doctor told him that his liver was starting to show alcohol-related damage. He quit drinking too, and he claims this was a big benefit on the following tour. As well as being happier when he played shows, Cudi says he tapped back into his original creativity by writing an album clear-headed. “It reminded me of the power that comes from having a sober mind,” Cudi said. “The music benefits a great deal.”
High-profile producer Scott Storch also attests to the creative benefits of sobriety, claiming that “Things become more vivid and clear. It’s like muscle memory. It all comes back. Slowly but surely, my love came back for the music as well.” It seems that rather than impacting creativity, many high-profile artists and music professionals notice a benefit from sobriety.
The Fix traces the emerging trend for clean living in hip hop back to Eminem, who got clean from prescription drugs and detailed his struggles in his albums “Relapse” and “Recovery.” In addition to kick-starting the anti-drug trend (even wearing an AA pendant when collecting his Grammys in 2011), he also helped Joe Budden get clean.
This trend could be a very positive thing for hip hop, and consequently, the youths who look up to its stars. However, with many stars seemingly happy to stick a careless “Molly” reference into their lyrics with the desire to be “hip” to emerging trends, it’s ultimately unclear how much the messages will stick. One thing is certain: the more artists are willing to come out and tell their stories—the true stories—about drugs and alcohol and how they impacted their lives, the less the message that drugs like Molly are cool will be taken seriously.
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