Mental Health Guest Posts

Hip Hop and Addiction [Part 3]

‘I am a prisoner / locked up behind Xanax bars’. - Lil Wayne


Hip-hop artists have also long expressed battles with addiction in their music.

Lil Wayne, notorious for his codeine-induced lyrics, in his track, ‘I Feel Like Dying’, drops lines such as,

‘I am a prisoner / locked up behind Xanax bars’.

Those lyrics are not hollow hyperbole either. Lil’ Wayne has suffered through multiple health scares and hospitalization, as well as publically admitting his addiction to codeine. Ironically, the rappers that have become synonymous with drug glorification have actually been crying out for help all this time.

Similarly, DMX’s long history with addiction and drug abuse is almost as famous as his music. The music video of ‘Slippin’, a self-empowering track where he exposes his past failures and demons, eerily prophesied his recent hospitalization. The video, released in 1998, begins with X being carried into an ambulance and resuscitated. Fast-forward to 2016, in what is becoming a frighteningly common occurrence for many celebrities; he was found unconscious in a hotel room and rushed to hospital.

Luckily, X survived but he continues to go through legal troubles and is currently in rehab. Evidently X is an artist who has been through a multitude of suffering, and while his musical career peaked and troughed, there was always his simultaneous public struggle with addiction, alcoholism and mental illness.

Or as he puts it, he was ‘possessed by the darker side’.

Both artists public confession of suffering from addiction was hardly a shock. Neither was their consequential downfall. So my question is, when they were at the peak of their powers, were the artists ignoring their mental health or were we?

The examples of Lil’ Wayne and DMX raises concern over a currently relevant artist like Future, whose music is dripping with references of his recreational use of lean. The Atlanta native is prominent for creating hypnotic melodies while rapping about a plethora of prescription medicine that should not be taken together. Concealed between his drug-infested raps are the occasional cries for help. In ‘Codeine Crazy’, he sings,

‘I’m an addict and I can’t even hide it’.

It has reached the point where the public eye has begun to recognize that Future’s music might not actually be a celebration of his drug use, like it seems to be at an initial glance. In reality, he is painting a bleak picture of him spiraling down the cataclysmic road of addiction. Social media, in its typically brutal fashion, has mocked this trend in Future’s music, with various memes about people partying and turning up to Future’s suffering sprawled all over the internet.

Rap has undergone another changing narrative where there now seem to be more drug users than drug dealers, but as Future’s indulgent raps dominate today’s charts, they are hauntingly similar to Lil’ Wayne, who had a similar work ethic and drug use in his heyday of the mid 2000’s.

I’ll say it again. Is Future ignoring his apparent substance abuse, or are we?

Skeptics might shed light on the fact that in an interview with Clique in 2016, Future claimed that he was not an addict. The trivialization of mental illness might be an aspect we might have to be wary of in the future, no pun intended, but I feel its appropriate to take the rapper’s words with a pinch of salt in that specific interview.

It may very well be the case that Future’s drug use is heavily hyperbolic in his music and he does not suffer from substance abuse. However, although glorifying drugs is bringing him cheques, at the time of the interview he was also facing a nightmare custody battle for his only child. I am purely speculating, but it is a possibility that it influenced his response, as he might not have wanted anything to be used against him if he was an addict. Moreover, Future has recently begun to address the anguish and pain in his records caused by his past relationships.

Playing devil’s advocate, say if even if he has exaggerated his drug use to sell records, would it be a complete surprise if you were to wake up in the coming weeks and find news of Future checking into rehab? From history, it seems we only really take notice when it is too late.

My point is, addiction is a debilitating disease, which can cripple both the artists’ career and more importantly, their health. Hip-hop, an art form notorious for promoting drug culture, has as many episodes of artists falling victim to the perils of substance abuse.

Written by Ali Humayun

Liked this? Take a look at these:

A Rap State of Mind: Hip Hop and Mental Health [Part 1]

Hip Hop and Depression [Part 2]

Hip Hop and Survivor’s Guild [Part 4]

Hip Hop, Self-Empowerment, and the Law of Attraction

Beyond The Bars


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