There has always been an issue of drugs amongst the hip-hop community, but as of 2018, there has been an increase in its awareness. There has been a switch on the role of drugs in music currently, compared to a decade ago. In past years, rappers played the role of the drug dealer. Artist like, Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, and T.I. all had lyrics based around being a drug dealer. Nowadays, artists play the role of the addict, and because of that, there has been a large emergence of drug use and addiction amongst the hip-hop community. Whether it be the artist themselves, or the fans and followers of them, drug addiction is very prevalent.
Drug use has become the focal point of a lot of the younger hip-hop artists’ music currently. Most commonly, popular artist like Migos, Lil’ Pump, and 21 Savage refer to smoking marijuana, drinking “lean”, and popping prescription pills in the majority of their songs. Unfortunately, with hip-hop being the most popular music genre in the world currently, they do not realize that they have an entire generation of kids that listen and look up to them. With the glorification of those drugs, this makes kids feel more open to trying them, almost making it an, ok thing to do. Therefore, many kids try them and get hooked.
Kanye West had, one of the most noticed cases, because he’s so publicly known. During the months of April and May, Kanye West began a promotional run in which he was announcing a list of albums that were going to be released from his label, G.O.O.D. Music. This promotional run involved social media interaction, an hour-long interview with hip-hops biggest radio show host, Charlamagne Tha God, and most importantly, a trip to the TMZ offices. During his trip to TMZ, he refers to his time at the hospital. He was facing an addiction to opioids, which is a form of pain medication. Some very important information to take from this is that he said after he tried to quit taking it for two days, he ended up in the hospital. This is important because, it’s a perfect representation of those who are currently addicted, but cannot quit easily because their body has adjusted to the drug.
The hip-hop community had to suffer from a tragic loss of a very influential artist on September 7th, 2018. Mac Miller had struggled with drug addiction for the better part of his career and it was apparent in his lyrics. His most recent album Swimming, which released just a few weeks prior to his passing, share some of those lyrics which display his battle with drug addiction. To casual music listeners, it’s easy to breeze by this as the music is more so in the background while they are doing other activities. To more serious listeners, some of his lyrics were alarming. An example of this is in his song, “Perfect Circle / God Speed” from his 2015 album GO:OD AM. He is opening up to the listeners about how bad his addiction has become and almost creates a post-life message to his friends. This particular song is eerie, considering he was addressing how close he felt to overdosing and that ended up being the cause of death.
With all of the bad instances of drug use in the hip hop community, J. Cole had decided to take another stance on the issue when he offered the world his most recent album, KOD. This album is an acronym to three different titles; Kill Our Demons, King Overdosed, and Kids on Drugs.
Thematically, KOD addressed many forms of addiction. In the song “FRIENDS”, J. Cole speaks on drug addiction. One of the most impactful lines are toward the end of his verse where he says, “I understand this message is not the coolest to say, but if you down to try it I know of a better way, meditate… don’t medicate”. This line directly targets those who use drugs to cope with their emotions. The amount of importance of a stance on drug addiction from someone of J. Cole’s position in hip-hop is incredibly important. He is in the top tier, or one of the front runners when people think about current hip-hop. Also, regarding the death of his peer Mac Miller, J. Cole has since extended his hand in hopes to help others who shared the same battle with addiction.
More people of higher stature in hip-hop need to make similar efforts as J. Cole in assisting the community with the struggle against drug addiction. More people with higher influence fighting against drug addiction could save lives. Unfortunately, the only way that moves people now is if someone in the community loses their life.