Hip-Hop Culture Fueling a Drug Epidemic
By: Dominick Wojtas
“I wake up/ I throw up/ I feel like I’m dead,” Lil Xan voiced in a melodic, melancholic, yet ironically cool tone.
Lil Xan is just one face in a clan of young musicians categorized as “Soundcloud rappers.”
However, the term “Soundcloud rap” is an extreme generalization.
Soundcloud is the go-to platform for up and coming artists to host their tracks and make them public to the world.
The platform contains music of virtually every genre, yet the term “Soundcloud rap” has been discriminately linked to the most recent subcategory of rap to blow up: sad rap.
Also referred to as “emo rap,” the tracks listed under this genre feature depressive lyrics, revealing the artist’s internal anguish. This is nothing new, for music has historically been an artist’s melodious catharsis.
However, a certain element encompassing the genre is dangerous and in many cases, deadly.
The issue rather niche to this particular wave of hip-hop is it’s blatant linkage to the prescription benzodiazepine and its most commonly known drug, Xanax.
Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert, who is twenty-three, is considered a stepfather of the movement. In one of his hit singles, he goes on to say, “She say I’m insane, yeah/ I might blow my brain out / Xanny, help the pain, yeah/ Please, Xanny, make it go away.”
Xanny is the hero in this particular verse, however, this hero is a false prophet and behind its mask, its villainous nature emerges.
This song has littered over the air, yet we ignore the fact that Uzi may be standing on death’s doorstep anxious to knock, taking Xanax to numb his harrowing mental state.
In late 2017, Lil Peep, a twenty-one-year-old rapper from Long Island, died overdosing on Xanax and Fentanyl.
“I used to wanna kill myself/ Came up, still wanna kill myself,” Peep rapped on “OMFG,” a popular track on his mixtape Hellboy from 2016.
The day before his death, Peep posted a photo on Instagram of his torso captioned “When I die you’ll love me.” His cries were authentic, however, a difficult issue to tackle is sorting these cries of despair as legitimate warning shots, or just a marketing ploy.
Certain artists have even gone on to glorify this deadly element featured so often in their music. In the recent past Lil Pump, a major player in the Soundcloud rap community, celebrated one million followers on Instagram with a cake fashioned as a Xanax tablet.
The false mitigation proposed by this scene coupled with social media’s power of supremely open viewability stirs great concern with me.
Countless studies have shown that music influences our mood, thoughts, and actions; Humans are impressionable.
We let music passively sink into our brains, not fully conscious of the extent its dark themes may have on us.
This detrimental effect resonates even greater within children, as their reasoning capability is not yet fully developed. They will emulate what their senses provide to them as well as what they filter in as “cool.” When depression and loneliness come to the front line of popular music, this reaction to stimuli could be as dangerous as the drug itself.
In 2017, 91 people a day died from opioid overdoses in the U.S alone.
Currently, in the U.K, a “fake” Xanax epidemic is taking hold of the country. Shady ingredients sourced from the dark web are being drawn together to form a pill that mimics the effects of Xanax, it’s addictive personality and all.
Is society to blame? At least partially, yes.
“In society today there is a lot more pressure on young people to have a certain social status,” says Emily, an 18-year-old photography student living in London, wrestling an addiction to benzos.
Leading the youth to understand the trivial nature of social media is crucial. It is also imperative that we wade popular culture away from this trend of self-harm.
We need to bring less detrimental coping mechanisms into the light.
Artists should make fervent efforts to refrain from destructive drug use and voice that drugs are not the answer. Fads may die out, but addiction lives on…#leavexanaxin2017.